NWS Spirit secured a hard-fought 2-1 victory over Bulls Academy in Round 16 of the National Premier Leagues NSW Men’s competition on Saturday afternoon at Sydney United Sports Centre.
The visitors got on the board in the sixth minute with the first real chance of the game through a Richard Darko header.
Just minutes after going behind, the Bulls answered back with a well taken goal from Eddie Caspers, who picked out the top corner from long range.
After being held to a deadlock for nearly 80 minutes, Spirit finally got back into the lead through substitute Mitchell Davidson who neatly slotted the ball into the bottom corner.
Spirit held on for the win but were forced to work hard for it by a Bulls side that could’ve very nearly levelled the game in the second half.
It was a very calm and mellow start to the game with neither side showing aggression in attack and being happy to pass the ball around in anticipation of a wide run.
Spirit opened the scoring with the first real chance of the game just six minutes in, after Kota Odakura picked out an open Darko from a set-piece leaving him with a near-open header to get the visitors on the board.
Contrary to the slow start in attack for both sides, the Bulls answered back out of seemingly nothing as Caspers stunningly rifled home his effort from long distance.
The Spirit side was left with their hearts in their mouths when an attempted clearance from Chris Maruqes very nearly fell into the lap of an oncoming Ali Auglah, luckily for the visitors the keeper managed to recover and defuse the situation.
After another stale period of play from both sides, Spirit very nearly regained the lead as Jared Lum’s promising header just fizzled past the target.
Both sides finished off the half with an attacking mindset, producing the most entertaining period of the game as the seconds began to tick away.
The Bulls had claims for a penalty brushed off after Auglah went down in the area, whilst Alex Robinson came to his side’s rescue to deny a piercing half-volley from Luiz Lobo.
After a fast-paced end to the half the score was deadlocked at one apiece, leaving both teams with it all to play for the final 45 minutes.
The second half started in a very similar fashion to the first with both teams taking a while to stamp their mark on the game.
Spirit capitalised on the momentum built up from the final stage of the first half and looked the likelier of the two sides in attack whilst managing to hold off the counter-attack-heavy play from the Bulls.
The Bulls were put under the pump in defence as the game hit the hour mark with Robinson being forced to stop a powerful effort from Corey Kavanagh before defusing a barrage of corner attempts.
After surviving a tough period in defence, the Bulls evened out the attacking chances and utilised Rhys Youlley’s playmaking ability to create some dangerous chances.
The hosts came within inches of what could’ve been a match-winner when Auglah headed down a perfect ball to Anthony Krilic, who was narrowly denied of an open chance at the goal.
On the other side of that chance, a Spirit clearance sent Ollie Wiggin uncontested towards Robinson with a golden opportunity to seal the result.
Robinson bravely stood his ground and waited for Wiggin to take his chance which spectacularly denied with his outstretched foot.
The Bulls continued to fight back in attack and were very nearly rewarded after Mason Wells managed to pick out Lachlan McDonald at the back stick who saw his effort sail over the target.
With all the momentum in favour of the hosts, it was Spirit who managed to get back into the lead as Odakura set up Mitchell Davidson with a clear path through on goal.
Davidson calmly took his time and attempted to pick out the bottom corner, his shot scrapped Robinson’s fingertips and rolled in to seal the victory for Spirit.
After securing another crucial win, Spirit coach David Perkovic credited his side’s ability to create chances whilst holding out the Bulls’ attack.
“In the first half we didn’t have much field positioning, the game was being played in our half whether we had the ball, or they had the ball, we just didn’t threaten in behind enough and they had the confidence to press us,” he said.
“We were a bit more direct in the second half, I thought that worked because we created the better chances in the second half, they had some good chances as well, but I thought our team defended very valiantly… very pleased that we’ve got two wins on the trot and three in all competitions, hopefully, we can continue the run.”
Bulls coach Zeljko Kalac didn’t hide his frustration in his side’s lack of goals but remained hopeful that the results will begin to turn around.
“That sums up our season at the moment that’s what we get, as long as we keep playing this brand of football, keep producing and keep playing then hopefully it will turn… it is really frustrating because we play so well and we dominate a lot of matches, but we just can’t finish the games off,” he said.
“I don’t think they (Spirit) really created anything much, they had a few counter-attacks, I just think we have to keep growing and developing as players.”
Bulls FC Academy 1 (Caspers 11’)
NWS Spirit FC 2 (Darko 6’, Davidson 86’)
Saturday 20th May 2023
Sydney United Sports Centre
Referee: Jake Rose
Assistant Referees: Brodie Merchant and Amirhossein Hosnani
Fourth Official: Aaron Bloch
Bulls FC Academy: 30. Alexander Robinson, 3. Theph Theph (2. Anthony Krillic 58’), 7. Ali Auglah, 8. Mason Wells, 13. Jordan Ivanovic (10. Ayman Gulasi 58’), 19. Jesper Webber (14. Sunday Yona 69’), 21. Lachlan McDonald, 22. Edward Caspers, 32. Isaac Hover, 52. Rhys Youlley, 53. Joel Bertolissio
Unused subs: 40. Griffin Barry, 11. Steohan De Robillard, 23. Flynn Madden
NWS Spirit FC: 1. Christopher Marques, 3. Musashi Kokubo, 4. Kota Odakura, 6. Corey Kavanagh, 7. Richard Darko (2. Blake Ilitch 88’), 13. Simon Nicholas, 16. Kyle Shaw, 17. Matthew Cahill (11. Ollie Wiggin 63’), 20. Jared Lum, 21. Luiz Lobo (9. Mitchell Davidson 79’), 22. Abuzar Awaz (5. Jordan Gomez 63’)
Substitutes not used: 12. Jacob Madden, 18. Ederico Gagliano
Yellow cards: Nicholas 46’, Lum 55’
Red cards: nil
3: Richard Darko (NWS)
2: Jared Lum (NWS)
1: Rhys Youlley (BAFC)
By NPL NSW Men’s Reporter Dominic Criniti @DominicCriniti