A WARM Sydney afternoon saw the battle of the basement dwellers St. George FC and South Coast Wolves deliver a tremendous struggle as the home side fought bravely but went down by two goals at WIN Jubilee Stadium.
Not that table position meant a thing, with two evenly matched sides going for it as early as the 1’ minute with Chris Price testing home ‘keeper Dion Shaw.
Bruno Pivato won the ball and slipped a tricky pass to George Codrea whose dink over the top for Andreas Vais, on debut for the Saints, to attempt a volley home – sadly scuffing the shot as Daniel Collison gathered easily for the visitors.
Vais was at it again in the 11’ minute when his right foot shot deflected off Darcy Madden and into the side netting for a corner.
However, it was to be South Coast who hit the lead when Chris Gomez unluckily headed past Shaw in the 14’ minute to record an own goal to open the scoring in a pulsating opening quarter-hour.
Collison made a smart save at full stretch to his left from an angled Codrea shot in the 18’ minute as the game sprang to life, neither side able to master control of midfield for an extended period.
Costa Andricopoulos headed off the line from a shot-cum-cross as the Wolves upped the pressure a minute later with Shaw rooted to the spot in end to end football.
Michael Robinson was at the heart of the Wolves defence and stood solid as a rock as stand-in skipper Matt Bailey orchestrated the midfield.
How St. George would have loved that combination on the park.
Fielding an inexperienced squad and chasing the game they were always vulnerable to the counter and a quick Collison throw to Price on the left was slotted through to Ben Zucco, beating the high line of the Saints with a precision pass, to gallop through one on one with Shaw.
He slid the ball under the exposed ‘keeper to give the visitors a buffer in the 22’ minute, completing a sweeping move.
Zucco had been a last minute switch from the bench to the starting eleven prior to kick off, Zachary Mackenzie reverting to the substitutes
St. George battled back with Codrea sending one wide of the upright as the home side strove to gain the upper hand and get on the scoreboard however the early impetus was somewhat dampened by the second goal.
Pivato was spared the blushes when guilty of a glaring miss only to be adjudged correctly offside in the 35’ minute from 8-yards out.
South Coast were happy to concede ground and possession to pack their final third and hit on the break as by now they were controlling the game.
The half-time whistle wouldn’t come quickly enough for Spanoudakis’ inexperienced side so they could regroup from an unlucky but ultimately frustrating first 45’ minutes of football.
A long throw from substitute Hiraoki Kawasaki after the break to Ricky Zucco in the box had the visiting striker sending a bicycle kick narrowly wide of Shaw’s left-hand post, continuing where they left off before the interval.
It got worse for St. George when Djordje Degenak needed to be replaced in the 53’ minute by Nick Napoli after receiving the full effects of a bullet to the nether regions from Sam Matthews at close range.
It was time for the age old adage – "don’t rub ‘em son, count ‘em".
Saints captain Juan Chavez, returned from his honeymoon, joined the fray shortly after, replacing Pivato as the home team looked to add extra fire-power up front if they were to redeem anything from the encounter.
The nightmare continued with Chavez coming off second best from a close range clearance that left him prostrate on the ground. Collison kicked the ball out for the Saints skipper to receive treatment, the stretcher called but thankfully not required with the pocket dynamo able to resume after a spell on the sidelines in the 62’ minute.
Wolves sensing their second, and more importantly consecutive, win of the season closed shop allowing the Saints to come at them, the home side unable to break the resolute visiting defence but also feeling the effects of 120’ minutes against Sutherland Sharks in the Waratah Cup midweek.
Vais had a chance to reduce the deficit in the 68’ minute when put through by David Dascal only to see Collison pull off a tremendous save with his legs.
Apart from sporadic moments the second period never lived up to the first with chances few and far between and South Coast happy to preserve what they had.
Chavez came close late in the game with a looping header that never troubled Collison on it’s way over the bar but for all the effort the Saints couldn’t find a way through.
Both teams endured tough weeks as the Saints were knocked out of the Waratah Cup at the hands of Sydney Olympic while the Wolves went one step closer in being part of the inaugural FFA Cup by defeating the Sutherland Sharks in penalty shootouts.
Manny Spanoudakis, Saints’ coach admitted after the final whistle: “This is a tough league and that was a tough afternoon for us and we are obviously disappointed with the own goal and then a sucker punch counter-attack as we went forward catching us on the break.
“The unfortunately seems to be a common occurrence for us so far but there are no easy resolutions when you have an inexperienced team.
“When you are a newly promoted team you need to persevere, you need to retain self-belief as much as is possible because it is only round nine and nothing is won or lost at this stage. However we do need to learn and hopefully we will learn from these mistakes.”
Recently appointed Wolves coach Nahuel Arrarte had this to add: “It was a positive result today but obviously we set ourselves a few goals when we came in and we are working our way towards them.
“We are far from where we want to be from a football and playing perspective and although you can’t win pretty every week I am happy with the effort the boys are showing.”
It wasn’t a case of shutting up shop so much as possibly fatigue in the second half, Arrarte said.
“A two-nil score line is a very dodgy one to hold as you’ve seen many times over the years but we had a tough 120’ minutes midweek against Sutherland and a few of the guys were starting to feel that toward the middle of the second period, a few tired legs.
“We wanted to ensure we didn’t concede but at the same time we had a lot of young guys who played the Waratah Cup match and were starting to run out of juice a little.
“It was a tough battle out there and credit to St. George for making it so.”
St. George FC 0
South Coast Wolves 2 (Chris Gomez 14’ og, Ben Zucco 22’)
Sunday 11th May, 2014
WIN Jubilee Stadium, Kogarah
Referee: Adam Susz
Assistant Referees: Andrej Giev and Lee Corey
Fourth Official: Matthew McOrist
St. George FC: 1.Dion Shaw; 2.Costa Andricopoulos, 3.David Dascal, 7.Christopher Gomez, 10.Bruno Pivato (11.Juan Chavez © 58), 15.Djordje Degenak (8.Nick Napoli 53), 16.Jonathan Castano-Acero, 19.David Talevski, 23.George Codrea, 34.Andreas Vais, 35.Kiefer Dotti
Substitutes not Used: 5.Bill Tsanidis, 6.Mirko Jurilj, 21.Lucas North (G/K)
Yellow Cards: George Codrea 78, Christopher Gomez 83
Red Cards: Nil
South Coast Wolves: 1.Daniel Collison; 2.Jack Keating (11.Hiraoki Kawasaki 25), 4.Michael Robinson, 5.James Baldacchino, 7.Chris Price, 8.Matthew Bailey ©, 9.Peter Simonoski (25.Jordan Murray 74), 10.Ricky Zucco, 15.Darcy Madden, 21.Ben Zucco (6.Zachary Mackenzie 62), 22.Sam Matthew
Substitutes Not Used: 23.Mitch Del Turco, , 30.Thomas Hamilton (G/K)
Yellow Cards: Nil
Red Cards: Nil
3 – Sam Matthews (SCW)
2 – Matthew Bailey (SCW)
1 – Michael Robinson (SCW)
– By Micky Brock, National Premier Leagues NSW Mens 1 Reporter, at WIN Jubilee Stadium