NPL SA 2023: The winners and losers from Round 9
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 nine.
Tempers flared in Newton as Yohei Matsumoto received an early red card for his kick-out after Musa Toure's challenge. (Ken Carter)
Luka Chikwuba stakes his claim at Modbury
Modbury's promotion to the NPL saw them add a foray of players to their squad. One of the less talked about names was Luka Chikwuba, a squad player from champions Adelaide City. Chikwuba's time at Modbury began in the Reserves. But after making his senior debut with a goal off the bench in round eight, the forward earned a starting berth against Sturt on ANZAC Day.
Hamish McCabe opened the scoring for the home side in the 27th minute. But five minutes later, the forward turned provider. The beneficiary of his blistering form was Chikwuba, who latched onto McCabe's cross to make it two goals in as many weeks. More impressively, during injury time in the first half, Chikwuba competed against former Adelaide United defender Michael Marrone and forced an error from his experienced opponent to double his tally and ice the game heading into halftime.
With the game all but over and Chikwuba seemingly picking up an injury, the forward was substituted in the 62nd minute after an impressive performance. Starting over promising teammate Cooper Wegener was an exceptional feat. With the form Chikwuba has found, it will likely see him retain that spot, should he be fit to play this weekend.
Temelkovski breaks "goal drought" in style
Despite finding himself on the end of some promising chances, MetroStars' top scorer James Temelkovski did not find the back of the net in his previous three outings. Coming up against an inconsistent Adelaide Olympic side that leaks goals, Temelkovski was always likely to put an end to his dry spell in front of goals.
Temelkovski's teammate Christian D'Angelo opened the scoring for Metro. But just over 10 minutes later, the forward found himself on the end of a perfect Austin Ayoubi cross to double his team's lead, ending his goalscoring drought. When it rains, it pours. Olympic found that out the hard way right after experienced defender Kristi Vangjeli was sent off for taking out Temelkovski as the last man in the 43rd minute.
Temelkovski proceeded to nonchalantly smash home his second goal from the resulting free-kick before completing his hat-trick in the second minute of injury time to send both teams into halftime with the game as good as over. The striker will want to continue piling on the goals when his side visits the struggling Sturt Lions on Saturday.
Josh Smith's trust is repaid
After being kept scoreless and without a shot on target in round eight by Adelaide United Youth, FK Beograd coach Josh Smith swung the axe with his selection for the clash against Adelaide City. Donny Pollock, Damian Ljujic, Ninko Beric, and Jamie Signorello replaced Yusuf Ahmed, Massimo Falco, Paul Radice, and Nikola Jokic. Despite a disappointing start to the game, which saw Beograd concede and captain Josh Mori miss a penalty, the home side rallied after halftime. The players retained from last week's starting lineup made the difference.
Winger Micah Lea'alafa spectacularly volleyed Adam Leombruno's corner into Dakota Ochsenham's top corner minutes after the restart to bring the home side level. Midfielder Christian Sotira's goal was not long after, as he used his body smartly in the box to outfox his marker and slot his team ahead.
Josh Mori put his first-half demons behind him to complete a resounding comeback by tapping home his side's third goal. Josh Smith's brave selection calls saw the incoming players perform solidly. The ones he retained in the starting lineup after a disappointing week made all the difference in the scoresheet against the champions. It was a significant victory for a new coach after a testing defeat.
Southern clubs falter
ANZAC Day was not kind to the Southern clubs, as both suffered disappointing defeats on the road. South Adelaide visited Regency Park to take on Croydon, a side that entered the round bottom of the table. Travis Dodd's Croydon scored three scrappy goals to ensure the Panthers replaced them in the relegation zone.
Meanwhile, Sturt, already in the relegation zone, visited the Modbury Jets and suffered a similar fate to their Southern counterparts. The Lions conceded three first-half goals, with even veteran Michael Marrone making an uncharacteristic error that led to the final goal.
South Adelaide and Sturt Lions got promoted together in 2020. They ended round nine of 2023 together again, this time in the NPL SA relegation zone, with two and one win, respectively, this season. Both sides need to start consistently picking up points to survive. While the Panthers host West Adelaide next in a match they expect to compete strongly for a win, the Lions host the rampaging MetroStars, where anything but a complete team performance will undoubtedly lead to more disappointment.
Champions in limbo
Having not picked up a league win since April 1, Adelaide City travelled to Frank Mitchell Park to take on FK Beograd. Josh Smith's side has also battled with inconsistency in 2023. It started well for the champions, as Paul Pezos' side hit the crossbar minutes after kick-off before opening the scoring in the seventh minute through Gus Williams.
When Dakota Ochsenham denied Josh Mori from the spot to send City to the break ahead, it felt like fortune favoured the visitors. But Adelaide City's defence could not stop the previously mentioned Lea'alafa volley in the 49th minute. After the scores were level, the floodgates opened.
City's backline began looking vulnerable. With only one recognised centre-back on the pitch, they got turned inside out twice, with two further Beograd goals completing a famous win. This loss, combined with other results around the league, saw Adelaide City finish the round outside the top six for what feels like the first time in a long time for the back-to-back champions. Their round ten fixture against Campbelltown has only become more critical.
Yohei Matsumoto's costly kick-out
Campbelltown City hosted Adelaide United Youth in a top-of-the-table clash in Newton. It all started perfectly for the hosts when Alex Mullen opened the scoring with a deflected shot past Ethan Cox in the eighth minute. Just seven minutes later, Ethan Alagich placed a strike into the top corner to bring the score level. But the game was turned on its head once again by a moment of madness in the 23rd minute.
Campbelltown winger Yohei Matsumoto was completing his defensive duties when he was fouled and brought to the ground by Musa Toure. Uncharacteristically, Matsumoto lashed out at the young forward with a kick-out after the challenge. Despite showing remorse, the assistant spotted the action and advised the referee that a red card was appropriate.
Minutes later, Campbelltown goalkeeper Matt Centofanti inexplicably allowed a mishit Luke Duzel shot to beat him, giving the Young Reds the lead. Campbelltown rallied and looked like the better side after halftime. But they could not find the back of the net again, a fact that may have been altered if they had 11 players on the pitch for the duration of the game.
Despite going close on multiple occasions, Campbelltown City could not find a goal after going down to ten men against Adelaide United Youth. (Ken Carter)
Click here to read our NPL SA winners and losers from Round 8!