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The Weekend Neos Kosmos : 6 August 2016
SPORT 26 THE WEEKEND NEOS KOSMOS | SATURDAY 6 AUGUST 2016 DIGITAL.NEOSKOSMOS.COM Bentleigh Greens midfielder Kieran Dover in midweek FFA Cup action against Metro Stars opponent Liam Wooding. PHOTO: METRO STARS FACEBOOK. Red faces as A-League champions exit FFA Cup Bentleigh Greens pushed all the way in hard-earned Cup win GEORGE STOGIANNOU The round of 32 of the FFA Cup has marked the first appearance of the A-League in the national knockout competition, and a couple of them have departed unexpectedly. It was red faces for ALeague champions Adelaide United on Wednesday night in Brisbane when it suffered an embarrassing cup exit to part-time Queensland NPL club Redlands United FC. United's 2-1 loss followed hard on the heels of another A-League club's surprise exit when Central Coast Mariners were dumped out of the cup by an identical score against Victorian NPL side Green Gully the night before. In both these cup ties, the ALeague clubs were heading for 1-nil victories late in the game, only to be overrun by comebacks from the home team late in the game, raising a number of questions, including the relative fitness of A-League and NPL teams at this stage of the competition, and also reviving the question of a second tier national competition with promotion to the A-League. Arthur Papas' Green Gully side upstaged the visiting Mariners despite going behind to a 15th minute Powell goal. The Mariners could feel a little bit hard done by when they had a second goal ruled out by a contentious off-side decision. Instead Green Gully stuck to its task, and made it difficult for the full timers and reaped the benefits of keeping it tight when another contentious decision again went their way, allowing Daniel Jones to strike the ball into the legs of striker Liam Boland into the net for an 86th minute equaliser with Boland clearly off-side. But the game will long be remembered for Boland's wonderful 40-metre winner just minutes later. After the match, Boland said the FFA Cup was a great "opportunity to get your name out and play against some of the best teams and talent in Australia". "There's not that big a gap between the players; it's just from full-time training to part-time. If you put some of the players in the full-time environment I'm sure they'd be capable of doing in the ALeague." The following night, fans in Brisbane witnessed an even greater upset when reigning A-League champion Adelaide United fell to Queensland NPL team Redlands United, despite leading 1-nil from a 62nd minute Ryan Kitto goal. But it all went pear-shaped for the visitors when an injury time fumble from keeper Eugene Gale- kovic gifted Michael Lees the ball for the home team and he shot the ball into an empty net for an equaliser, followed just minutes later by an extra time winner to sub Paul O'Brien. In Adelaide the night before, another Adelaide team exited the cup when NPL side Metro Stars pushed Victorian champions Bentleigh Greens all the way to the penalty shootout. After leading the home team three times to goals from Lucas, Pilkington and an extra time goal to Ruthven, only for the Stars to peg them back three times, the Greens held their nerve to win the shootout 4-3 and stay alive in all competitions this season. On the same night as Bentleigh's triumph, Perth NPL club Floreat Athena was giving a good account of itself at home against Melbourne City, eventually bowing out 2-1 to an Anthony Caceras winner after Floreat's Kris Gale had cancelled out Fitzgerald's first half opener for the visiting A-League club. In the Hellenic derby in the nation's capital, home team Canberra Olympic progressed into the next round at the expense of Surfers Paradise Apollo thanks to the lone goal of the match to Olympic's Bernabo-Madrid who found the net in the 35th minute. Bentleigh could clinch Premier’s Plate in top of the table clash GEORGE STOGIANNOU Reigning NPL champion Bentleigh Greens looks poised to add the Premier's Plate to its trophy cabinet when it hosts Heidelberg United in a Rd 24 NPL 1 clash on Saturday night. With just three rounds remaining, the Greens lead the second-placed Bergers by seven points, and a win or even a draw will put them in an unassailable position to land the trophy they just missed out on to South Melbourne last season on goal difference. But first they'll have to get past an in-form Heidelberg United, which has won its last six matches and only lost once in the second half of the season, to overtake South Melbourne and occupy second spot. Heidelberg United coach George Katsakis believes tonight's game will be a match between "by far the two best teams in the league". Comparing the two teams' styles, Katsakis says: "We're a little bit more direct that what Bentleigh is, whereas Bentleigh's a little bit more patient and they get their rotations happening very well through the middle of the park, which is something we're going to have to combat. But of late the other strength we have, we're able to win games 1-nil or 2-1, the one goal difference. That's something we've changed to our game, because previously last year and the year before that we couldn't win those sort of games. Now we're grafting and holding on to those one goal difference games." Finishing in the top two means a much easier finals series route to the grand final. In effect, a side finishing in the top two only has to win one finals match to qualify directly for the grand final compared to the two wins required by the rest of the teams in the top six. "We're definitely going there to win three points," Katsakis says, "because in order for us to finish second, we need to win two of the last three, possibly all three of our remaining games. I don't think there's any room for a draw at the moment. We're going to have to go all out to win." A slip up by the Bergers at this late stage could give South Melbourne the chance to regain second spot, although Souths will have to overcome defensive frailties which have proven its downfall several times this season, including last week's surprise 3-1 home loss to struggling Avondale. This Sunday, Souths hosts traditional rival Melbourne Knights. The football continues on Monday night when Oakleigh Cannons hosts Green Gully in what could be a finals preview. Gully will be on a high after a great win in the FFA Cup to knockout Central Coast Mariners, and the visit will make Gully coach Arthur Papas' first return to his former club since his departure at the end of last season. Both teams will be looking to bounce back from defeats in the previous round. At the other end of the table, Northcote City will be fighting for its life when it visits Hume City on Saturday night, after last week's devastating 1-3 loss to Richmond. Northcote were 10 minutes away from clinching all three points having led from a Karvouniaris goal. But conceding three unanswered goals to Richmond in the last 10 minutes sent it back into the automatic relegation position. With a tough run home, its chances of survival look grim. In NPL 2E, Kingston City have drawn level with league leader Dandenong Thunder on points, thanks to Brunswick City's 1-nil win over Thunder last week. This Saturday, Brunswick City will be hoping to keep its excellent run going when it travels to Whittlesea Ranges whilst Kingston travels to Sunshine George Cross. Box Hill United is away to Melbourne City on Sunday afternoon. Meanwhile in Sydney, with just two rounds of the NPL season to go, a win to Sydney Olympic this Sunday at home against fourth placed Rockdale City Suns, will be enough to clinch a spot in the final five for fifth-placed Olympic.
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