For more than half the competition, the season is over, but for five PS4 National Premier Leagues NSW Men’s 1 sides, things are just starting to get interesting.
Blacktown City FC has proven itself to be the best side in the competition over the course of 22 rounds, but now it must do it again in the pressure cooker that is finals football.
For now, the Premiers can afford to relax, having earned the weekend off, but the next-best four teams, APIA Leichhardt Tigers FC, Bonnyrigg White Eagles FC, Sydney Olympic FC and South Coast Wolves FC, will do battle this Sunday.
A massive day of football at Lambert Park beckons as Olympic and Wolves play for the right to remain in the Finals Series, while APIA and Bonnyrigg will enter the arena to decide who faces Blacktown City FC next week for the right to go straight to the Grand Final.
Sydney Olympic FC v South Coast Wolves FC, Elimination Semi Final, 2.30 pm Sunday at Lambert Park
Sydney Olympic FC will be hopeful of extending its unbeaten run over South Coast Wolves FC – and indeed continue its fine vein of form in general – with another win on Sunday afternoon in the Elimination Semi Final.
Grant Lee’s side has recovered from a mid-season slump to finish the season with five straight wins and three consecutive clean sheets.
Dimitri Hatzimouratis has been lethal in front of goal in recent weeks, though he finished the home-and-away season in second place on Olympic’s scoring charts, with eight goals to Harris Gaitatzis’ 10.
South Coast Wolves looked nervy against recently relegated Marconi Stallions as they went on to win 2-0 on the last day of the season to secure finals football.
Jacob Timpano’s relatively young side’s late, late push to make the top-five was helped by Rockdale City Suns’ capitulation at the hands of fellow finalists Bonnyrigg White Eagles, but the Wolves took longer to put away the bottom-placed Stallions than Timpano would have liked.
Still, Jordan Murray continued his fine form in front of goal with his fourth goal of the season, while the stern Olympic defence will also have to be wary of Peter Simonoski, who finished the season with eight goals.
Tale of the Tape:
Round 1: Sydney Olympic 3 d South Coast Wolves 0
Round 12: South Coast Wolves 1 drew with Sydney Olympic 1
APIA Leichhardt Tigers FC v Bonnyrigg White Eagles FC, Preliminary Semi Final, 5.00 pm Sunday at Lambert Park
Bonnyrigg White Eagles don’t need to look too far back for a reminder of just how big the task at hand is this weekend.
The White Eagles were dealt a crushing 3-0 loss by a much sharper APIA Leichhardt Tigers FC only two weeks ago and Brian Brown will be under no illussions that his side will need to lift from that effort.
Encouragingly, they already have.
The White Eagles smashed Finals hopefuls Rockdale City Suns FC 4-0 in a dominant display last week, with Robert Younis back among the goals, to cap of what was overall a strong home-and-away season.
APIA, on the other hand, was pegged back twice in a thrilling 4-4 draw with Blacktown Spartans FC at Lambert Park.
The Tigers have struggled with injuries towards the end of the campaign, although their results have not been too badly affected, even with top-scorer Blake Powell being snatched up by A-League outfit Wellington Phoenix.
Adrian Ucchino, Franco Parisi and Nathan Elasi have stepped up in that department in his absence, and they’ll need to be on target to stop the White Eagles on Sunday.
Tale of the Tape:
Round 10: APIA Leichhardt Tigers 0 drew with Bonnyrigg White Eagles 0
Round 21: Bonnyrigg White Eagles 0 lost to APIA Leichhardt Tigers 3