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  • Writer's pictureAntonis Pagonis

NPL SA 2024: The winners and losers from Round 7

Throughout the 2024 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 7.

Front Page Football: Adelaide Croatia Raiders FK Beograd NPL SA

The Adelaide Croatia Raiders were triumphant in the resumption of the derby against FK Beograd. (Image: Pagonis Photography)


Winners


Cittadini and Nagamatsu combine to strike down Knights


MetroStars entered Round 7 after their Federation Cup defence was prematurely ended at the hands of Croydon. Danny Graystone's side had a point to prove, and Michael Cittadini wasted no time doing just that by applying a superb finish to a Lochlan Czapla cross in the seventh minute.


The second did not come until the 62nd minute, but when it did, it was a surefire contender for goal of the season. Michael Cittadini and Ren Nagamatsu performed their best impression of Jack Wilshere and Olivier Giroud, putting the Para Hills defence to the sword as the Arsenal duo did to Norwich 11 years ago.

Just over 15 minutes later, Nagamatsu was again the provider with a back post cross, picking out Cittadini, who completed his hat-trick weeks after also achieving that feat against Salisbury United in the Cup.


The pair went for a trifecta in the 86th minute after Nagamatsu cut the ball back to the winger in the box, but after his shot was saved, Cam Woodfin was there on the rebound to make it four. Deep in injury time, Nagamtsu recorded a well-deserved goal to cap off a masterful creative performance, again showing how much he has advanced his game since moving to South Australia.


Busasa inspires Croatia to derby delight


In the early days of the NPL SA season, Frank Busasa has proved that he is one of the players to watch. After making his impact against heavyweights such as MetroStars and Adelaide City, the young winger announced himself in the derby against FK Beograd, first settling Adelaide Croatia by winning a penalty that Katsuyoshi Kimishima duly converted.


Busasa's confident play on Croatia's right side forced a change for Beograd at left-back and set up the foundations for an eventual two-goal lead at half-time after the hosts' nervous start. That good work was undone when FK Beograd struck twice after the interval to shock most of the 2000-strong crowd into a rare silence.


The Croatian Sports Centre only had to wait two minutes before its next eruption when Busasa took advantage of a high Beograd backline. After being played in behind by Oliver Trimboli, the winger rounded Josh Kavenagh in goals to ensure the hosts took bragging rights in the first NPL SA derby between the two sides since 2015.


Busasa notably ran the length of the field to celebrate in front of the Beograd supporters, which will undoubtedly be duly noted for the return game. One thing is sure: the young winger has certainly announced himself as a big game player in his first NPL season.
Front Page Football: Frank Busasa Adelaide Croatia Raiders Stefan Matteo NPL SA

Frank Busasa (right) celebrating his derby winner against FK Beograd. (Image: Pagonis Photography)


Madanha's individual brilliance sinks the Panthers


The cancellation of the Central Coast Mariners' return flight to Australia, which resulted in the postponement of their A-League Men game against Adelaide United, dealt a minor blow to Wellington Phoenix's premiership hopes. Elsewhere, in South Australia, the fallout also impacted NPL SA side the South Adelaide Panthers. With no game to play over the weekend, several of Carl Veart's first-team players were loaned to Airton Andrioli for Sunday’s match against the Panthers.


Despite facing an incredibly strong side, the Panthers made life hard for their fancied opposition. Despite going down a goal before the break due to a long-range Luke Duzel strike, an Alex Rideout Olimpico brought South Adelaide level in the 55th minute, placing the pressure back on the Young Reds to find a winner.


Adelaide United's high line worked overtime to catch Jonathon Rideout offside on multiple occasions, but the individual brilliance of an attacking player eventually won the points.


Eyebrows were raised when Panashe Madanha seemingly began loading up on his weak foot. But the winger, who often finds himself as a fullback, picked out the top corner to ensure his star-studded side claimed all three points despite a gallant display from the visitors.
 

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Losers


Undermanned City fall to another defeat


Adelaide City were already stretched thin due to injuries, and red cards to Nicholas Bucco and Yared Abetew in the dying efforts of their side's Federation Cup loss against Adelaide Olympic only exacerbated the situation. Winless in the league since Round 2, coming up against the free-scoring Modbury Jets would always be a tall order.


Despite starting inexperienced players such as Luca Fabrizio, Lewis Killoh, and Isaac Martini out of necessity, City made a positive start away from home. However, reality soon struck for the visitors when Matt Mullen opened the scoring after heading home from a corner.


Set pieces were again City's undoing before the break when a wonderful Jordan O'Doherty free-kick allowed Francesco Schimizzi to glance in a second goal.


An inexperienced bench compounded the lack of confidence in a team that has yet to taste victory in a month, as Adelaide City fell to yet another defeat that leaves them 10th on the ladder.

Campbelltown capitulate against the Comets


The state's collective attention was undoubtedly on the Croatian Sports Centre on Saturday evening. Yet, just a few hours earlier, Campbelltown City hosted the Adelaide Comets in a battle between two of the NPL's heavyweights. It all started going wrong for the hosts when Connor Centofanti gave away a penalty for a tackle on Aladin Irabona. Alex Woodlands saved Roberto Fernandez Garrido's effort before seeing Anthony Mavrolambados tap in the opener regardless, foreshadowing what would become a long day for the Red Devils.


Fernandez Garrido got his goal 10 minutes later when a Campbelltown clearance fell to him in the box before the striker curled his effort beyond the goalkeeper's reach. Matters worsened for Campbelltown before the break when Josh Mori was sent off for retaliating to a strong challenge.


In many ways, the second half was almost a carbon copy of the first, and Allan Welsh got on the scoresheet as the Comets extended their lead to three goals. In the game's dying stages, the hosts were reduced to nine men after Alessio Melisi received his marching orders for a dangerous challenge while trying to chase down the ball. With the game's last touch, Nikolas Ikonomopoulos applied the finish on a well-delivered cross to complete a scoreline that sent shockwaves around the competition.

Front Page Football: Adelaide Comets NPL SA 2024

The Adelaide Comets stunned Campbelltown City away from home in Round 7 of the NPL SA season. (Image: Ken Carter)


Croydon's winless Olympic run continues


Croydon FC and Adelaide Olympic entered Round 7 buoyed by their respective Federation Cup victories, but both were desperate for an uptick in league form. A tight opening half hour saw both sides have their chances.


The hosts got the opportunity to draw first blood before the break when referee Andrew Kite sent Andre Carle to the spot after feeling that Arbi Mollas impeded the striker's ability to reach a Luke Klimek cross. Carle made no mistake from the spot and gave Travis Dodd's side the lead in the 35th minute. A Jaiden Diamantis free-kick five minutes later allowed Carle to double his side's lead heading into half-time. Croydon's two-goal advantage over Olympic put them in a strong position for a first victory in this fixture since September 2020.


Olympic have made a habit of giving themselves holes to climb out of. Marco Torriani, playing in a midfield role, dragged his side back into the game with a well-taken shot from the edge of the area seven minutes after the restart.


Polonia looked to defend their slender lead, but a Rastko Ljujic free-kick found Brian Habonimana, who rescued a point for Kristi Vangjeli's side while ensuring Croydon's near four-year winless run against Adelaide Olympic continued.
Front Page Football: Croydon FC Adelaide Olympic NPL SA 2024

Croydon FC squandered a two-goal lead as their winless run against Adelaide Olympic extended to six games. (Image: Pagonis Photography)


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