NPL Men’s NNSW Round 20 Review: Azzurri, Olympic make statements in chase for title, finals

July 25th, 2022

 James Paras

Sproule Sports Focus

Match of the Round
Newcastle Olympic 3-0 Edgeworth FC

Newcastle Olympic secured a huge three points on Sunday afternoon as they downed Edgeworth to move into fifth spot as the race for the finals heats up.

Edgeworth and Olympic were sixth and seventh on the table respectively heading into the weekend and had their sights on leapfrogging fifth-placed Weston Workers, as they had the sizable task of table-toppers Charlestown Azzurri to overcome.

Edgeworth came into the match after consecutive victories last weekend, highlighted by handing Azzurri their first defeat of the season. While Olympic were looking to make it back-to-back wins.

Edgeworth defender Pat Wheeler was spared a potentially embarrassing moment in the opening exchanges after he got his foot to an Olympic cross that took a wicked deflection, almost causing an own goal but he was saved by the crossbar.

The match did not open up until the second half with Edgeworth looking destined to find the breakthrough in the 67th minute as a scintillating cross from Josh Rose eventually found teammate Will Bower with the ball at his feet at the mouth of the goal but his effort scurried away courtesy of a goal-line clearance.

That moment would prove a turning moment in the match with Olympic striker Jared Muller breaking the deadlock in the 70th minute.

Muller dispossessed Edgeworth’s Jackson Pereira on the edge of the Eagles’ penalty area and immediately let rip a curler that found the top left corner to give Olympic the lead.

It was one-way traffic from there as Malik Thom sliced through into Edgeworth’s penalty area and found the bottom right corner to make it two goals in as many minutes.

Olympic had all the running with a 2-0 advantage heading into the final 15 minutes and the result was put beyond doubt when Thom secured his brace just after the 80th minute with a tidy finish from a similar spot to his first.

The victory sees Olympic move to fifth spot on the table as Weston surrendered their spot after falling to Charlestown Azzurri in the other match on Sunday afternoon, while Edgeworth remains in the finals hunt in seventh spot.

Charlestown Azzurri 3-0 Weston Workers FC

Charlestown Azzurri flexed their muscles to defeat a spirited Weston Workers outfit and go three points clear at the top of the table on Sunday.

Azzurri were handed a wake-up call after suffering their first defeat of the campaign against Edgeworth last week, while Weston were flying high after collecting four consecutive wins to rocket up the table to fifth.

The match shaped as a crucial encounter for the visiting Bears as fellow finals hopefuls Edgeworth and Newcastle Olympic were also battling it out in hopes of securing a spot in the top five.

Weston were down on troops heading into the match due to illness and injury, as regulars Moustafa Mohammad and Zac Sneddon were unavailable and Zac Duggan was limited to just the opening half of the match.

Azzurri on the other hand had the likes of former Newcastle Jets Taylor Regan and Nigel Boogaard to lean on for guidance as they looked to steady the ship.

Azzurri landed the first blow just before the 20-minute mark as Matthew Tull was able to bundle the ball across the line after a corner caused chaos in Weston’s penalty area.

Charlestown extended their lead when Riley Smith found space at the edge of the penalty area and shot to beat Weston goalkeeper Jacob Zissis at his far post to put the hosts in the driver’s seat heading into half-time.

Smith again proved pivotal as he helped put the result beyond doubt as he found teammate Caleb Walz unmarked in the penalty area to hand Azzurri a three-goal buffer with 10 minutes left to play.

The goal was Walz’s first in the top grade, with the teenager joining Azzurri from Zone League Two club Bolwarra-Lorn over the summer.

The victory saw Azzurri go three points clear at the top of the table but with the heavy backlog of games to be played in the coming weeks there is still plenty of competition for this year’s final series.

Weston head coach Anthony Richards said his side may have been overawed by their star-studded opponents but they will take the loss as a lesson learned.

“We have had a couple of tough matches in a row now and [Charlestown] was certainly the toughest,” Richards said.

“[Charlestown] were well organised today and they have some good ex-A-League players to steer the ship around. We just didn’t come out with the intensity that we need to play with especially in the first half. Second half we were better.

“I think in the first half we were a bit star-struck, to be honest. We took our autograph books out there with us to be honest, looking for a couple of autographs… we had a few injuries but we just weren’t good enough on the day. [Charlestown] were too good for us and that’s why they’re on the top of the table.”

Charlestown Azzurri coach Graham Law said he was expecting a good performance from his side after losing last week and he was confident Azzurri have asserted themselves as a dominant side in this year’s competition.

“I was expecting a response from my side like that,” Law said.

“We made a couple of tactical changes today. Riley Smith moved to a deeper role and we moved Taylor Regan to a more advanced role and we created a few opportunities from it. You never want to lose a game but when you do it’s the reaction from it that is so important.

“[This performance] sets the marker. There would have been a few people after our loss wondering how we would respond and I think we signaled our intention today. It was tough conditions today and I think you will see the competition start to open up a bit as teams try to chase the top-five and competition points and I spotted that today from Weston. It was interesting.”

The matches between Lambton Jaffas and Cooks Hill United and Lake Macquarie City against Adamstown Rosebud were postponed due to wet weather. The match between Valentine FC and Broadmeadow Magic was deferred due to Broadmeadow’s participation in the Australia Cup national round of 32.

Related Topics:
NPL Men's NNSW Round 20 Review

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