The Marconi Stallions secured a spot in next weekend’s do or die elimination final against old foes APIA Leichhardt after defeating the Northbridge Bulls 3-1 at the Sydney United Sports Centre on Sunday.
The energetic Bulls opened scoring in the 14th minute through Stephan De Robillard, but Marconi were quick to respond with Nathan Millgate equalising in the 16th minute.
The Stallions then took the lead in the 68th minute through Brandon Vella and topped it off with a goal to substitute Martin Fernandez in the 2nd minute of injury time.
The win sees Marconi progress through to the finals in fourth position on the ladder, giving them one chance to move forward in the series, while Northbridge’s season has officially come to a close.
Marconi created a chance in the 12th minute but as Jesic received the ball on his attacking run, he cut it to the centre of the park where no Marconi player was able to get it
Northbridge opened the scoring in the 14th minute as a pacey forward run from Jonathan Maras saw De Robillard with a perfect opportunity.
He capitalised on the chance and let off a shot from a tight angle on the left near the goal line, sending the ball out of reach of Nenad Vekic in goal to get the hosts on the scoreboard.
Marconi were clearly fired up by conceding so early and kicked into action, pushing forward to create more attacking pressure.
Domenic Costanzo earned his side a corner in the 16th minute, giving the Stallions the opportunity they needed to equalise.
Costanzo’s corner kick met the head of a Northbridge defender, who guided the ball outside the 18-yard box and Brandon Vella ran forward to get on the end of the ball, sending a powerful strike towards goal.
As his ball was travelling towards the target, Millgate intercepted and sent it out of the path of Northbridge ‘keeper Levi Kaye, over the line and into the corner netting.
Marconi defender Zac Cairncross, who was making his return to the starting line up due to Roberto Speranza’s red card suspension, made his way off the field in just the 18th minute after an unfortunate hamstring injury.
Northbridge’s Jesper Webber came close to a goal in the 19th minute but after taking a few touches to get into position, Giorgio Speranza blocked his shot.
Christopher Hatfield came close in the 39th minute as he curled an effort from the 18-yard box towards the target but it was just wide.
Jesic came agonisingly close to taking the lead for the Stallions through a header in the 55th minute as Connor Evans sent a brilliant ball over the top to the captain in front of the goal.
Jesic timed himself perfectly to dive onto the ball and send a header towards the target but it skimmed the outside of the netting as it glided past the goal.
Marconi took the lead in the 68th minute through Vella.
Connor Evans whipped in a ball from the left flank to substitute Samuel Gulisano on the right.
Gulisano sent a ball into the centre in front of goal and Jesic attempted to get control of the ball but couldn’t, leaving Vella to jump on the opportunity and tap the lying ball into the net.
They came close again moments later as Vella played a ball to Jesic in front of goal, who let off a shot that was just wide of the target.
Substitute Martin Fernandez looked posed to secure another goal for the visitors in the 77th minute as Marko Jesic played him a beautiful ball he seamlessly ran onto, but his shot was comfortably saved by Kaye.
Northrbidge came close to an equaliser in the 82nd minute from a corner, but Marcus Sparacino’s effort flew over the crossbar.
Marconi put the icing on the cake in the 2nd minute of injury time with a third goal coming from Fernandez.
Costanzo made a forward run and sent the ball into the area to Fernandez, who calmly tapped home to finish up the match.
Marconi coach Peter Tsekenis, was pleased his side was able to get the job done and build momentum going into the finals,
“That was the main thing, making sure that we got a good result, then wherever we finished we prepare for finals football and we accomplished that and we’re looking forward to a home semi final against our arch-rivals APIA,” Tsekenis said.
After the suspension of Roberto Speranza and injury to Zach Cairncross left Marconi with only one regular central defender, Tsekenis touched on the depth of his squad to adjust to the situation and play out of their regular position, drawing on the depth of their bench.
“Throughout the year we’ve rotated some players, and in the preseason we tried players in certain positions to make sure that if something like that happened [Zach Cairncross going off injured], we were in a position where we can make a decision,” he explained.
“Everyone that steps into any position knows their role and what’s important.
“We’ll dust off and see where we’re at, and then we’ll pick a team to win the first semi.”
Northbridge Bulls Assistant Coach Kory Babbington, reflected on the progress and positives from the 2022 season.
“The last five weeks has been positive, where we had four weeks where we didn’t lose, which was good with three wins on the bounce,” he explained.
“Today, we competed for a large chunk of the match but it got away from us at the end.
“There will be a few kids progressing into the A-League set up, the senior team, so that’s always a positive for us.
“It’s about developing the players to that next level and also it’s tough lessons each week when you compete against teams like Marconi who are stacked with guys who have played A-League, or A-League league youth, and are seasoned semi-pros.
“In youth football, players don’t usually get punished for mistakes, they can get away with a lapse in concentration.
“When you’re playing these senior teams, you tend to get punished as a young team so you have to learn from that each week and bring in new players regularly.
“It’s a constant process and they have to gain that experience because we haven’t got older players in the middle of the park or in the spine of the team where they can just steady the ship when it gets tough.”
Northbridge Bulls FC 1 (De Robillard 14’)
Marconi Stallions FC 3 (Millgate 17’, Vella 68’, Fernandez 90+2)
Sydney United Sports Centre, Edensor Park
Sunday, 31st July, 2022
Referee: Rebecca Mackie
Assistant Referees: Emma Kocbek and Patrick Teleki
Fourth Official: Ivica Covic
Northbridge Bulls FC: 2. Charlie Ragg, 4. Anthony Sparacino (5. Anthony Krilic 72’), 6. Isaac Hover (7. Mason Wells 86’), 8. Jonathan Maras, 9. Diego Bonilla, 11. Stephan De Robilliard, 14. Rhys Youlley, 15. Eddie Caspers (21. Joel Bertolissio 75’), 16. Oliver Jones, 18. Jesper Webber (12. Marcus Sparacino 72’), 20. Levi Kaye
Substitutes Not Used: 33. Alexander Trajanoski, 40. Griffin Barry
Yellow Cards: De Robillard 35’
Red Cards: Nil
Marconi Stallions FC: 1. Nenad Vekic, 2. Nathan Millgate, 3. Giorgio Speranza, 6. Domenic Costanzo, 7. Christopher Hatfield (17. Martin Fernandez 69’), 8. Connor Evans, 10. Marko Jesic, 16. Liam Youlley, 19. Zach Cairncross (13. Samuel Gulisano 18’), 22. Taylor McDonald, 23. Brandon Vella
Substitutes Not Used: 9. Thomas James, 18. Adrian Valenti, 20. Dion Shaw, 35. Justin Vidic
Yellow Cards: Millgate 32’, Fernandez 76’
Red Cards: Nil