NPL SA 2023: The winners and losers from Round 5
Throughout the 2023 NPL SA season, Front Page Football looks at each week's big winners and losers from the action-packed South Australian top flight. Below are our picks from round five.
Adelaide Comets midfielder Nathan Andijanto under intense scrutiny from Campbelltown City opponents on Saturday. (Adam Butler/@8zerokms)
Adelaide United's embarrassment of riches
With the A-League Men pausing for the international break, Adelaide United Youth fielded a relatively full-strength side against Sturt, a rarity. Airton Andrioli's starting line-up was missing 2022 regulars Nestory Irankunda and Luka Jovanovic. But it still included Ethan Alagich, Luke Duzel, Asad Kasumovic, Panashe Madanha, Bernardo, and Jonny Yull.
The Young Reds' quality was evident early, with Giuseppe Bovalina's aggressive, attacking play from right back and Jonny Yull's thunderbolt giving their side a two-goal lead inside the first 15 minutes. Sturt halved the deficit through Samed Altundag, but Bernardo restored his side's two-goal cushion shortly after the break.
Adelaide United's depth saw proven starters in Fabian Talladira, Musa Toure, and Nathan Amanatidis settling with roles off the bench. But that did not deter them, with the latter sealing the result with his side's fourth goal. Andrioli will not have the luxury of depth at his disposal every week. But he can be confident that when his charges are called up to A-League or international level, their understudies will be more than capable of playing their part.
James Temelkovski's ever-expanding goalscoring arsenal
Coming into round five, James Temelkovski had already made his presence felt upon returning to the NPL SA, scoring in each of his four league games and recording five goals. To stop the Metro Stars, West Adelaide needed to stop the striker's scoring streak, which worked early.
Temelkovski's first chance of the match came in the middle of the first half, the striker placing it slightly wide before seeing another strong effort parried out for a corner. Unstoppable shots have been Temelkovski's trademark in the early days of season 2023. But the forward got his head on a Nicholas Pedicini cross to give his side the lead heading into halftime.
Temelkovski added another string to his bow late in the game, stepping up to take a free-kick - usually, Hamish Gow's role at T.K. Shutter Reserve - with his powerful effort leaving Hellas goalkeeper Jackson O'Donnell rooted to his spot. Metro's star striker now has seven goals in five league appearances, with a third of the competition unable to find the answer to keeping his name off the scoring list.
Modbury's never say die attitude
Just like their last season in the NPL SA in 2020, the Modbury Jets are yet again conceding heavily. Unlike the season that saw them relegated, the 2023 iteration of the Jets refuses to accept defeat without a fight.
The first two rounds of season 2023 saw Maurice Natale's side claw back deficits to earn a pair of hard-fought draws before they claimed their first victory and subsequent defeat in the next two weeks. So when Modbury went two goals down to South Adelaide in the first 30 minutes of their round five encounter, it was no surprise when they brought the game level only five minutes after halftime.
It would have been a mental challenge for Modbury to go behind again in the 65th minute, but the Jets kept fighting. This time they found two more goals to win a seven-goal thriller. Modbury may not be the most defensively secure team. But with their attacking talent and resilience, no side should rest on a lead against Natale's charges.
Aladin Irabona's luck from the penalty spot
Aladin Irabona is one of South Australia's most assured penalty-takers. Adelaide City's 2022 South Australian treble was punctuated by the forward stepping up and converting each spot kick he was entrusted with. This fact made what happened in round five even more shocking.
With Adelaide Olympic and Adelaide City level at one goal apiece and the referee awarding the visitors a penalty, no one raised an eyebrow when Irabona stepped up. Irabona's penalty beat goalkeeper Callum Nissen, who turned around to pick the ball out of his net, only to find it comically rebound off his leg and back towards City's forward after it struck the post.
Noticing his penalty miss its intended target, Irabona rushed to convert the follow-up, only to completely mishit the ball harmlessly wide for a goal kick, concluding one of the most bizarre penalty misses you will ever see. Unable to believe his rotten luck, Irabona was visibly distraught. But he would have felt even worse when full-time arrived with the score still level and the two sides sharing the points.
FK Beograd's costly goalkeeping errors
Desperate for a league victory since their last one in round two, FK Beograd would have been over the moon to go two goals up against Croydon with 15 minutes left in round five. That's when it all started going wrong for the home side.
Beograd goalkeeper Nikola Jokic made an ill-advised decision to come out of his box to dispossess Kristos Stefanopoulos, bringing him down as the last man and getting sent off. Jamie Signorello was brought on to replace Jokic. Despite the subsequent free kick not being converted, Croydon did not stop attacking.
Travis Dodd's men earned a penalty which Andre Carle converted. But as the game entered injury time, they appeared to fall short. That was until Vianne Kurikwimana's hopeful volley caused confusion between Signorello and defender Jared Clark, which saw the ball eventually make its way into the back of the net via a deflection, the visitors stealing a point that looked dead and buried only a quarter of an hour earlier.
Adelaide Comets unable to respond to Campbelltown's pressure
Like in previous years, the Adelaide Comets and Campbelltown City are two sides expected to make the Finals Series. When two of last year's semi-finalists clashed on Saturday afternoon, it was clear which side was a couple of steps ahead of their opposition.
Campbelltown City controlled the game from the first minute, with only Comets' backline preventing the damage. Campbelltown's suffocating press ensured their goalkeeper Alex Woodlands was untested heading into halftime. The Red Devils also found themselves scoreless heading into the break. But Michael Matricciani's side looked far more comfortable than the hosts.
The theme continued into the second half; this time, Comets could not keep the ball out of their net, with captain Ryan Yates turning it in for an own goal while attempting to block Antoni Trimboli's effort. Despite going behind, Comets could not muster a fluid attack through Campbelltown's relentless midfield and ended the match disappointed not to have genuinely tested their highly fancied opposition.
Click here to read our NPL SA winners and losers from Round 4!