NAGLIERI NEXT IN LINE
Cockburn City's 17-year old attacking midfielder Antonio Naglieri could become the latest Perth Glory recruit to be plucked from the ranks of the W.A. Premier League. The teenager, who last week took out the W.A. Rookie of the Year award after an impressive first season in the local competition, has started a four-week trial with Glory where he's already impressed coach Bernd Stange. "Antonio is a good young player with wonderful potential - I ask Glory to sign him," Stange late last week.
Stange was taken by Naglieri's approach and distribution from midfield when he played for the State Under-23 team against Glory in the Charity Shield recently. It is believed the midfielder will join the band of young talent at Glory which includes midfielder Anthony Danze (16), centre half Aaron Cole (19), and goalkeeper Tomislav Tomich (19).
PUCA REACHES NSL MILESTONE
One of Eastern Pride's favourite son's Robbie Puca made his 50th NSL appearance on the weekend when he ran out to face Northern Spirit. The Perth-born midfielder started out in the W.A. state league where he played at senior level with Perth for several years before being picked up by the then Gippsland Falcons mid-1996. Seen as a key player for Pride's aspirations this season, Puca was surprised that the milestone has come around so quickly. "It's really flown by, I just hope I can continue playing more games for the club."
Puca has been impressed by the efforts made by the new-look club on and off the park this season. "Its a positive feeling around the club, it rubs off on us as players. We are so determined to do well and show everyone we belong in the NSL and show our supporters that we can play great soccer. The new name, new strip all helps us to be very keen and to do well," he said.
A former W.A. junior representative, Puca recently spent time in Italy trialling with AS Roma (amongst others) but his career was in turmoil late last year when diagnosed with diabetes. Despite having now well-and-truly got the condition under control, Puca still remains philosophical about the illness. "It's done two things to me - my diet is a lot better and I'm looking after myself more than ever, but I know in the back of mind I have to make sure I'm doing this otherwise it can be a hassle." And Puca has some words of encouragement for youngsters with the condition, "It hasn't held me back from performing at the highest level possible, you can play sports if you look after yourself."
YOUTH SORRENTO'S STRONG POINT
At Sorrento's Annual Presentation Night, coach Trevor Morgan expressed his disappointed in what he saw as a season of underachievement by the senior side, particularly after a very successful 1999. But Morgan highlighted the club's future lay with the development of young player and that the club are managing the progression of the players up through the ranks very well. Both the Reserves and Under-18's finished the season inside the Top Five, with the Reserves won the Boral Cup Final courtesy of a fantastic free-kick by Barry Williamson.
With next season's Night Series starting early in 2001, Morgan announced that pre-season training would commence on 4th December for the senior squad. Fielding teams in all junior divisions, selection trials for Under-11 through to Under-16 will begin mid-January with all interested players asked to contact Jasmine Albon on 9409 8458 for compete details. The Registration Day for junior players will be Sunday 4th February from 10.30am to 2pm and new players must present three passport photos and a copy of their birth certificate. More information is available from club Secretary Kerry Slater on 9448 5908.
2000 PREMIER LEAGUE ALL-STARS
This team has been chosen from the performances that I witnessed over the course of the winter season in the W.A. Premier League, Boral Cup and Champion of Champions competitions. To find out who has been named in the unofficial squad of 22 visit the 2000 Premier League All-Stars page.
MATASSA JOINS WOKING
27-year old former Perth goalkeeper Vince Matassa last week joined Dr Marten's League outfit Woking for an undisclosed fee from Basingstoke Town. Matassa, contracted to the club until the end of the season with a further 12-month option, is highly rated by Woking boss Colin Lippiatt. "In the past when I have come up against Basingstoke or watched them I have always been impressed by Vince and the vibes I've received suggest he is one of the top dogs in non-league." The 'keeper made his debut for the club on the weekend, keeping their home first clean sheet of the season in Woking 2-0 defeat of Forest Green Rovers.
LICENCE BID GATHERING MOMENTUM
Soccer West Coast have revealed that they have registered Western Lightning as the proposed name of it's new club if successful in winning W.A.'s second NSL licence next season. The state's organising body have apparently got the backing of five W.A. businessmen - including Denis McInerney, Buckeridge and Paul Afkos - to each contribute a million dollars towards the venture. They are also making a play to forge a link with an English club, a SWC official is currently in the UK discussing the deal with interested potentials.
AND THE WINNERS ARE ...
Bayswater City Panthers attacking midfielder Alan MacKenzie will long remember the 2000 Premier League season for reasons other than the relegation of his club. The 34-year-old former Perth Glory star took out the McInerney Ford Gold Medal and $1000 in prize money as the state's Fairest and Best player over the winter. MacKenzie, who is on holiday in Scotland, was the stand-out player in a team that finished second last in a season which saw him take the coaching reigns for a short period of time.
It was a tight finish with four votes separating the top four finishers. With referees allocating votes as the season progresses, MacKenzie won the prestigious award by one from Swan I.C. sweeper Carlo Scali. Both players picked up two votes in the final round of fixtures - MacKenzie against Inglewood United to finish on 21 and Scali against Perth to end the year on 20. In third place was Rockingham City goalkeeper Adrian Rawlings, whose club was also relegated, on 19 votes and one ahead of Troy Bernard of Floreat Athena. Western Knights defender Andy Wright, himself a double Gold Medal winner, was joint fifth on 17 with Fremantle City centre half Dave Evans. Then came Perth's Mark Pottier (16), Knight Alex Christie (15), Sorrento's Scott McLeod (15) and Inglewood's Steve McDonald (13).
Topping the leader boards around the Premier League clubs were Steve Gillibrand (Ashfield/Bunbury), MacKenzie (Bayswater City Panthers), Christian Alvarez (Cockburn City), Bernard (Floreat Athena), Evans (Fremantle City), MacDonald (Inglewood United), Carl McDarby and Jamie Kuzmanovic (ECU Joondalup), Pottier (Perth), Rawlings (Rockingham City), McLeod (Sorrento) Carlo Scali (Swan I.C.) and Wright (Western Knights).
The Premier League Under-18's Fairest and Best award went to Lou de Oliveira (Fremantle City) on a count-back after he and teammate Joe Liguan finished the season with 24 votes apiece. Jake Harman (Sorrento) was third on 17 and Inglewood's Matt Aitken and Perth's Scott White tied for fourth place with 16. Liguan left the field for dead when it came to scoring in the Under-18's competition, bagging 31 goals to finish well clear of nearest rival Harman on 22 and Mark Rodwell (Perth) on 14.
Inglewood United veteran Robert Zabica was named Goalkeeper of the Year for a third time, pipping Corey Hugo (Swan I.C.) and Darren Williams (Western Knights). 17-year-old Antonio Naglieri of Cockburn City took out the Rookie of the Year trophy ahead of Anthony Danze (ECU Joondalup) and Joe Liguan. The Knights John Nicolaou ended the season with 16 goals, one more that Swan I.C.'s Nigel Aubin with Robin Dyer (Floreat Athena) a close third on 14. Sony Player of the Month awards were presented to Damien Scali (Swan I.C.), Kuzmanovic, Alex Christie, Scott McLeod, Scott Broadley (ECU Joondalup), John Mirco (Fremantle City) and Aaron Cole (Perth).
In the First Division Jim Merkouris of the Stirling Lions won the Erceg Mining Player of the Year award, finishing with 26 votes. Two votes behind was Jamie Trandos (Kingsway Olympic) and Rick Davis (Wanneroo City) came in on 20 with Queens Park's Paul Blakely (18) and Stirling Suns' Rob Milevski (15) rounding out the top five. In the goal scoring stakes, Trandos and Ashley Keegan (Stirling Lions) lead the way by finding the net 15 times each over the winter, Rhys Watson also of the Lions finishing one goal off the pace. A count-back was required in the First Division Under-18 Fairest and Best after four players finished with 16 votes. The trophy was eventually shared between Brett Mollison (Kingsway Olympic) and David Brown (Armadale) who still could not be separated, Leeming Strikers' Phil Stanmore and Southside United's Chris Allen getting the minor places.
SWC WAKE-UP CALL?
With the animosity between Perth Glory and Soccer West Coast well documented, it comes as a huge surprise that the two parties are apparently locked in negotiations concerning Glory's entry in the State League. With Glory's recent decision to pursue an eastern states-based youth development program, could it be that our local governing body has finally heeded the wake-up call of W.A.'s most powerful club side?
Soccer West Coast rejected a Glory proposal to field a team in the local competition several years ago but it now appears that they may be reconsidering their decision. The introduction of a Glory reserves or development team into Soccer West Coast competitions would be a blessing in disguise for the local clubs whose gates would no doubt experience a massive boom on the 200 that most clubs averaged this season.
NSL BECKONS FOR PERTH HEROES
The heroes of Perth's Champion of Champions victory on the weekend - Nick Mrdja and David Onoforo - are poised to take the next step and join the ranks of the NSL. 21-year old Mrdja is widely tipped to be snapped up by Perth Glory while hard-working Onoforo, 19, is destined for trials with Sydney Olympic in the near future.
Coach Graham Normanton is resigned to losing his two hot-shot strikers but is full of optimism about the club's future at the top of the W.A. soccer hierarchy. "I think Nick is the best talent in the State at the moment and I'd be amazed if the Glory, or someone else, doesn't make him an offer," he said. "David has done very well for us too and I believe he could be on his way as well. But we've got a good crop of youngsters coming through and, if the majority of the first-team squad stay together, I think we can build a team that will be pretty formidable."
Mrdja this week underwent the knife to relieve a nagging knee injury but expects to be back on the training track the fortnight. "I've had problems with the knee for a while but it's only minor surgery that will be involved - just a bit of scraping - and then I'll be ready to get going again," he said. "I don't know what's going to happen but I'm very keen to get back into the NSL again. I had a brief spell with Canberra and I'm ready to give it another go."
MORE ACTION FOR STATE SIDE
The West Australian state side will play two games against the Malaysian Under-23 team next month. With the games to be played on 7th and 9th November, coach Paul Wormley has made six changes to the squad which lost 2-3 to Perth Glory in the Charity Shield recently. In comes 24-year old Western Knights captain Scott Devine and his teammate Joe Vaz, Sorrento duo Todd Harnwell and Richard Turnbull, Fremantle City striker Kevin Correia and Mark Pottier of Perth.
The full squad: Paul Cooke, Antonio Naglieri (Cockburn City), Troy Bernard (Floreat Athena), Kevin Correia, Alan Dunlop, John Mirco, Trim Morgan, Craig Surtees (Fremantle City), Steve MacDonald (Inglewood), Scott Broadley, Jamie Kuzmanovich, Louis Parkinson, Sandy Robertson Steve White (ECU Joondalup), Mark Pottier (Perth), Todd Harnwell, Richard Turnbull (Sorrento), Cory Hugo (Swan I.C.), Scott Devine, Joe Vaz (Western Knights).
NICOLAOU WAY OUT IN FRONT
In the tally of goalscorers covering all competitions this season, Western Knights marksman John Nicolaou leads the way having found the net 24 times since the opening weekend of the Night Series some ten months ago. Nigel Aubin (Swan I.C.) was a distant second with 17 goals to his credit, followed by three on 16 goals - Perth's departed Adrian Caceras, Robyn Dyers (Floreat Athena) and Nicolaou's teammate Eugene Singeorzan.
It was a fairytale season for the Knights forward who was signed by Ronnie Campbell as a midfielder but made the switch up-front at the suggestion of assistant coach Willie Kelly when the team were experiencing a goal scoring drought early in their campaign. Despite missing the first six games of the winter Nicolaou hasn't looked back since making the move, helping the Knights to the Boral Cup by netting a double and the runners-up spot in the Premier League and Champion of Champions play-off series.
Players Club Goals John Nicolaou Western Knights 24 Nigel Aubin Swan I.C. 17 Adrian Caceras Perth 16 Robin Dyers Floreat Athena 16 Eugene Singeorzan Western Knights 16 Paul Lincoln Inglewood United 13 Mark Pottier Perth 13 Steve Bourne Fremantle City 12 Carl McDarby ECU Joondalup 12 Trim Morgan Fremantle City 12 Nick Mrdja Perth 11 David Onoforo Perth 11 Peter Petkovic Rockingham City 11 Joe Vaz Western Knights 11 Savo Garic Ashfield/Bunbury 10 Todd Harnwell Sorrento 1015.10.2000
CHAMPION OF CHAMPIONS GRAND FINAL
The 2000 Champion of Champions final saw two of the league powerhouse sides face each other at the Litis Stadium on Sunday. It was the Western Knights third appearance in the play-off decider in as many years, triumphant in 1998 against Sorrento only to be thrashed 12 months later by the same team. Perth were making their first appearance since 1993's 2-0 win over North Perth Croatia in what has been a lean period for the club, only the 1998 Night Series trophy coming since.
The teams had played eachother three times prior to this clash with the Knights winning on each occasion by a 2-1 margin and another tight encounter was expected. Both camps had injury concerns over key players going into the match. Karl Medica took his place in the Knights starting eleven having passed a late fitness test on an ankle injury sustained in Boral Cup Final seven days earlier, but Perth's exciting striker Nick Mrdja wasn't so lucky, warming the bench with a niggling knee problem.
The teams made their intentions clear from the outset, playing it hard in an attempt to put the opposition off their game and meaning referee Patrick McCaffrey would be in for a busy afternoon. In the opening quarter of an hour alone we saw Medica bring down Rob Giorgi from behind to join the Perth midfielder in McCaffrey's book. Shane McNally was then carded for a late challenge on Giorgi, and Mark Pottier followed suit for dissent not long after. It was no place for the feint-hearted and full credit must go to McCaffrey who did a sterling job all afternoon, letting the players know who was in control and justifiable in his distribution of cards.
With the Knights defence looking strong, it was Medica that provided the first chance on goal after 5 minutes. He was allowed to run unchallenged from deep before releasing Eugene Singeorzan on top of box, the powerfully built striker letting the ball roll before trying to put it under the advancing Robert Scarparolo who got down quick to smother.
But that was the only time either 'keeper was tested in the opening 30 minutes as both defences wasted no time in doing the job at hand and kept a tight reign on the opposing forwards. While Perth were quick to get forward on the counter attack, they relied almost exclusively on Boni Botha and David Onoforo to do all the work in the final third where their efforts were nullified by the Knights well-organised four man defence. At the heart of that defence was veteran player Andy Wright who was strong in the tackle and never shirked his responsibilities. The Knights on the other hand streamed into attack in numbers and made great use of the full width of the park, but were continually forced back into midfield but an equally impressive Perth backline marshaled by captain Craig Naven.
Playing the game at a frenetic pace, the teams eventually started to string together some good moves which lead to several good chances on goal. In the 30th minute Ray Marinovic knocked a Knights throw-in back to Scott Devine who hit a brilliant drive from close to the by-line and forced Scarparolo to tip the ball over the bar at the far post. Devine's shot lacked nothing in the way of power or direction and would prove to be the match that started the fire. Three minutes later came Perth's first chance on goal - a Stephen Willey corner was met deep by Pottier but his header landed on the top netting.
The Knights were beginning to run the show but, for all their enterprise, had nothing to show as attack after attack broke down inside the 18-yard box. Inside the last ten minutes, Medica surged through the middle of the park only to put the ball wide from 18 metres. A Wright cross from deep flashed past Scarparolo and across face of goal only to find no-one on hand to put the ball over the line. And Dean Nicolaou sent a brilliant ball to McNally, but he mis-timed his jump just outside the 6-yard box, the ball brushed his head on the way down and the Perth defence knocked it to safety.
The final few minutes of the half saw Perth finally spark into life with Onoforo in the thick of the action. In the 42nd minute they had a penalty appeal turned down after Onoforo's flick-on struck the hand of Ivan Ljubicic. The pacey striker should have finished better a minute later when he raced past the Knights defence on the counter attack only to put the ball wide.
But, just as players on both teams were looking forward to the break, it was third time lucky for Onoforo. A neat one-two between Craig Naven and Perry Ielati saw the Perth captain throw himself at the ball to prevent it from crossing the by-line and pull it back into the area. Willey cheekily flicked it across top of the 6-yard box and Onoforo, dead in front and with Williams now well out of position, finished off the move by finding the back of the net. It was a cruel blow for the Knights who had been the better of the two sides over the opening 45 minutes and had deserved at least one goal for their efforts.
The second half started with a bluster - the Knights fired up and keen for a quick reply. Within four minutes John Nicolaou found Joe Vaz inside the box but the midfielder was unable to get a clear shot on goal, rushing his attempt as Naven and Willey closed him down. Minutes later McNally's header looped goalward only to be punched clear by Scarparolo despite the close attentions of John Nicolaou. Four times within the space of the few minutes Scarparolo came to the rescue of his side by taking the ball off the heads of opponents inside the 6-yard box. With all the play talking part in the Knights attacking half, the Perth backline performed admirably under pressure only to see the ball knocked back into the 18-yard box every time they thought the danger had passed.
The barrage couldn't last forever and eventually the pressure and heat started to take effect on the Knights players. Several were beginning to lose their rag as things didn't go their way, lashing out at opponents and teammates alike as they felt their hold on the match slowly slipping from their grasp. John Nicoloau was lucky not to be red carded for a dreadful two-footed tackle on Willey but amazingly it was the Perth player that had his name taken for dissent.
Rather than pump the ball into the middle whenever they turned it over, Perth opted to play it down the flanks in a confident display of first-time passing. Through such moves they were able to steer control of the contest away from their opponents who were quickly running out of puff. In the 69th minute, a fantastic Jamie Coyne free kick saw Williams unable to hold his ferocious shot, Willey pounced on the parry but was unable to re-direct the ball under the bar. Shortly after a lunging Ljubicic tackle bought to a halt a weaving run from Onoforo, from the resulting corner Aaron Cole nodded down Howarth's deep cross but Onoforo hit the ball into the body of an opponent before it was knocked to safety.
The recent introduction of Nick Mrdja provided Perth with a fresh set of legs up-front and, along with Onoforo and Coyne, he was able to find ample space to manoeuver. A lovely 73rd minute in-swinging cross from Coyne found Mrdja at the far post whose flying volley from close range went narrowly wide. Five minutes later Coyne was allowed to walk the ball forward and hit a thundering drive which Williams blocked, Mrdja was on hand to scoop up the rebound but his shot was deflected off the boot for another Perth corner.
With four minutes of regulation time remaining, the game threatened to turn sour with the hot-headed Singeorzan at the centre of several clashes with Perth opponents, McCaffrey calling a halt to proceedings and stepping in to talk at length with those involved. Generally it was a quiet day at the office for Knights strikers John Nicolaou and Singeorzan who found space up-front limited thanks to the efforts of Aaron Cole and Perry Ielati. What was to prove their last throw of the dice came in the 89th minute, Wright pumped a long ball deep into the box which Scarparolo thumped clear despite the pressure of John Nicolaou and Leon Russell.
A 90th minute off-the-ball incident saw the Knights reduced to ten men and their hopes of forcing the game into extra-time evaporate. With the referee dealing with something at the opposite end of the park, Singeorzan ran past Cole and, for no discernable reason, punched the young defender in the left cheek. Singeorzan would probably have got away with it if not for the alert eye of the assistant referee, he reported the incident to McCaffrey who was left with no option but to order the Knights player from the field. Unfortunately it didn't end there as Singeorzan refused to leave the perimeter and had name taken by the fourth official.
Once play got back underway, Perth were not content to run down the clock despite being a goal up, having a man advantage and the game well into injury time. Instead they continued to push for a second goal with Coyne leading the way in midfield. Breaking quickly from a failed Knights attack, Perth out-numbered their opponents four to two as Coyne slotted wide to Mrdja. He ran the ball into the box, skillfully turned Alex Christie before drilling a low right-footer beyond Williams and inside the far corner of the net. It was exactly what Perth were chasing to put the game once and for all beyond the reach of the Knights.
With the final whistle came jubilation from one camp and utter despair from the other. The Knights had their chances in the opening half to take the lead but failed to do so, and Perth snuck in to steal the game from under their nose. Wright had another fantastic game at the back for the Knights, defending resolutely and hardly putting a foot wrong all afternoon. Likewise 'keeper Williams who was twice let down by his defence when it mattered most. For Perth, Scarparolo made up for his lack of height with great work in the air to thwarted the Knights high ball options, while Coyne proved an inspiration operating out of midfield in the sides second half revival.
But it was 31-year old Naven who provided the drive behind the fightback, slicing open the Knights defence shortly before the break to set-up the opening goal with a run that surprised even himself. "I didn't think I still had it in me," he said after the game. "It's a great boost for the club. Apart from me, we're a young side - 12 in the squad are under 21 - and that's the first time most of the players have won something." It was also the first trophy for coach Graham Normanton, who admitted his side was lucky to have the lead at the break. "It wasn't a good performance, but I managed to sort out a few things at half-time and we started to play the ball around a bit," he said. "I was delighted for Craig. He showed the boys what the game's all about in one move."
Perth : Robert Scaraparolo, Gareth Naven, Aaron Cole, Perry Ielati, Stephen Willey, Todd Howarth,
Mark Pottier, Rob Giorgi (Gary Upton 54), Jamie Coyne, Boni Botha (Nick Mrdja 66), David Onoforo
(Michael Vassiliou 84)
Western Knights : Darren Williams, Andy Wright, Ivan Ljubicic, Alex Christie, Carl Medica (Dean Nicolaou 38), Shane McNally (David Annall 74), Ray Marinovic (Leon Russell 74), Scott Devine, Joe Vaz, Eugene Singeorzan, John Nicolaou
Referee : Patrick McCaffrey
Bookings : Giorgi (3), Medica (9), McNally (12), Pottier (15), Willey (56), Devine (59), Ljubicic (90), Christie (90+)
Explusions : Singeorzan (90+)
Attendance : 1,400(approx.)
In the play-off for the First Division crown, the Stirling Lions dominated the opening half against Bassendean Caledonian but failed to convert their chances to go into the break a goal behind when Willie Grubb put Callies ahead. It was a similar story in the 20 minutes immediately after the break with several goal scoring opportunities wasted by the Lions. Callies then took hold of the match and two goals from Kevin Griffiths followed by singles from Marco Schisano and David Boffa saw the club take out their second trophy of the season. Earlier in the day Perth won the Under-18 decider by defeating Fremantle City 4-nil.
Former Tottenham and England defender Graham Roberts was in Perth recently as the guest of honour at the Boral Cup Final. Roberts was apparently invited to Perth by the folks at SWC/SAWA with the intention of sounding him out as to his feelings on becoming the coach of the second NSL side from Perth (they must be very confident of getting that second licence).
Speaking of the second NSL licence, Fremantle City are apparently favoured to get the nod over the Soccer West Coast bid according to sources in the east. This despite the majority of supporters of the game (both in Perth and interstate) being of the belief that it is far too early for a second team.
It can be confirmed that Bassendean Caledonian will be taking their place in the top flight next season after taking out the First Division crown recently. There had been a spot of debate over whether or not the clubs facilities were up to scratch which has now been put to rest by Soccer West Coast officials.
There is still some talk coming from up Joondalup way about bringing former England international Paul Gascoigne out next season for a number of guest appearances at ECU Joondalup. It is not known whether the club have approached Gazza's current team Everton, or what sort of timeframe they are working on.
We may have seen the last of several veterans of the W.A. Premier League with the completion of the 2000 season. As reported previously, former State midfielder Steve Bourne looks to have played his last game while Sorrento's Trevor Morgan has indicated he won't be taking to the field next year. Nigel Aubin (Swan I.C.), Carl McDarby (ECU Joondalup) and Dave Evans (Fremantle City) are all said to be at the crossroads of their respective careers in the top flight.
Perth Glory have shelved any plans about signing Sheffield United defender Shaun Murphy after he agreed to a three-year extension to his contract with English First Division club. Glory tried to lure the former Sorrento and Perth Italia centre half to return to W.A. last season and are believed to have been keeping a close interest on his progress in the UK.
ONE THING ON NORMANTON'S MIND
Perth coach Graham Normanton is brimming with confidence going into Sunday's Champion of Champions grand final showdown with the Western Knights and he is not without reason. His team are in great form, winning eight of their past nine League and play-off encounters as Perth look for their first trophy since the 1998 Night Series. "We've been really consistent all season, there's only been one or two games where you could say we haven't really performed, so we're really looking for another consistent game tomorrow ."
But the Knights are the one team that Perth have found difficult to cope with this winter. "They've beaten us three times this season, 2-1 each game, although in the balance of play we probably should have got some spoils out of it but we didn't. Ronnie Campbell's got them playing some good football and they've got some players we have to keep an eye on and make sure we negate their attacking capabilities. But at the other end of the token I think we are capable of scoring more goals than them. It's just a question of taking your chances, that's what we haven't done in the past three games we've played against them - we've had numerous chances to take the game only we didn't take them and they punished us for it. So yeah, they are a dangerous outfit but I think we've got the ammunition to beat them."
One of the stars of the season for Perth has been Nick Mrdja, who returned to the west after a couple of seasons in the NSL with Canberra Cosmos where he found it hard to break into the first team. The 21-year old striker has been in outstanding form over the winter, hitting the net eleven times despite playing with a knee injury for much of that time. "Nick's been carrying an injury for the past three months and that's coming to a conclusion on Wednesday with an operation. Obviously we've wrapped him in cotton wool over the last few weeks and we've used him where we've thought he'd do best for us. He's come on in the last two or three games and made an impact for us and if he can only give us 20 minutes that's all we want from him." Mrdja has been used sparingly in the play-offs but with devastating effect, most notably in the preliminary final clash with Fremantle City when he scored twice after coming off the bench mid-way through the second half. And it's just that sort of form that Normanton is wanting from the key striker against the Knights.
The Women's Soccer of W.A. Premier League has been taken out Floreat Athena 'A' who conceded only 10 goals in the 18 home and away fixtures. They finished six points clear of second-placed Stirling Reds 'A'. The competitions Golden Boot award went to young striker Lisa De Vanna (Murdoch) who found the net 32 times, Lisa Jobling (Murdoch) and M Walker (Sorrento Breakers) tying for second place with 14 goals a piece.
Curtin 'A' won the First Division title on goal difference over Mandurah after both sides finished the regular season on 47 points, each team recording just one loss over that time. A Murray (Curtin) lead the way on the scorers charts with 23 goals followed by K Jones (Mandurah) with 16. The Second Division was won by Mundaring who finished five points ahead of University of W.A. 'C'. The leading scorer was Y Panting (Yanchep) with 33 goals, with Kylie Goodwin (Armadale) second with 23 goals.
Rockingham City took out the Third Division by crushing Ferndale Crusaders 7-0 on the last weekend of the season to finish two points ahead of Forrestfield United 'A'. There was a double celebration for Rockingham as S Marr won the golden boot with 32 goals, L Rodriques (Carlisle) and M Dickinson (Shamrock Rovers) tying for the runners-up spot with 26 goals each.
The Anna Senjuschenko Cup final saw Stirling Reds down Floreat Athena 3-1 to overturn Premier League placings. The 30th Annual Presentation Dinner will be held at the Floreat Athena Soccer Club on Saturday 11th November, starting 7.30pm. Tickets to the event cost $15.00, which includes a buffet meal and entertainment, and are available by calling Barbara on 9493 1627.
FERTILE GROUNDS DOWN FREMANTLE WAY
Fremantle City's Under-18 team have enjoyed a fruitful season under coach Greg Kazmer which saw them return home with the Boral Cup. But it could have been so much more for the youngsters - they pushed Perth all the way in the League and crashed in the final of the Champion of Champions series 4-0 to that same team.
While Kazmer would have liked to see the boys take out further silverware, it wasn't something that concerned him considering he rebuilt the team this season. "We've had basically a new squad this year - there's only four players from last year - and I think that we went for a lot younger side than previously, the average age is 15 years 8 months, there's a 14 year old, a couple of 15 year olds and then it averages out with 16 and 17 year olds."
Kazmer chalks up much of his sides success this year to the joint efforts of the Fremantle coaching staff, with Stuart Kamasz and Mike Tetlow playing their part. "If you're going to be successful you have to do that. If we want to be successful you have to put your heads together and I think that's what happened this year and that's why we did so well." Amongst the players that have come to the front for the Under-18's this season area Joe Liguan and Cisco Joquera who have both seen first team action, State Under-15 captain Paul Apelgren and 14-year old striking sensation Josh Kamasz.
END OF THE LINE FOR WHEELER
Perth born Matilda Tracey Wheeler has bowed out of the game at the international level following the national teams showing at the Sydney Olympic games. While the results didn't go Australia's way, the goalkeeper said the Olympic experience was a fantastic way to end her international career. "It was great and one of the best things about it was we were playing in front of big crowds, and big crowds at home which is a bit unusual for us."
"We played reasonably well in Canberra - I personally didn't think I played well at all - but in the other games we played better and I played better as well," Wheeler said of the Matilda's performance in Sydney. "I think that maybe we could have done a bit better and looking at especially the last two games, when we were winning one-nil for a lot of the time, we sort of felt that we gave the games away in the end where we could have got a better result out of both those games."
"But being over in Canberra full time was only something that I could do for a set period of time. So I'm happy to be back in Perth, and certainly the weather's a lot better over here as well," she said recently. Wheeler's immediate aim is to become reacquainted with her job as a physiotherapist, but will don the gloves come next winter to play in the local competition with Murdoch. "That's the club I've been playing with the last couple of years that I've been playing in Perth. There are some good young players in the team, they're learning all the time and I think that quite a few of them will progress."
Versatile Floreat Athena youngster Troy Bernard has won the 2000 Siena Cafe/Sunday Times player of the Year award. The State Under-23 representative had an outstanding season at club level where he was used chiefly as sweeper but also proved invaluable when shifted into an attacking midfield role on occasions. Scott McLeod of Sorrento capped an injury struck season by coming in runner-up with a three way tie for third between Alex Christie (Western Knights), Dave Evans (Fremantle City) and Alan MacKenzie (Bayswater City Panthers).
Players Club Votes Troy Bernard Floreat Athena 21 Scott McLeod Sorrento 19 Alex Christie Western Knights 18 Dave Evans Fremantle City 18 Alan MacKenzie Bayswater City Panthers 18 Steve MacDonald Inglewood United 17 Scott Broadley ECU Joondalup 16 Carlo Scali Swan I.C. 16 Jamie Kuzmanovic ECU Joondalup 16 Robert Zabica Inglewood United 1611.10.2000
GLORY TURN BACK ON OWN BACKYARD
Perth Glory has seemingly turned it's back on the talent in their own backyard with the recent appointment of Emmanuel Zammit as Football Manger. Part of Zammit's brief is to establish a youth development program in the eastern states, most likely in co-operation with a New South Wales State League side which will see an east coast-based Glory youth team. But this will come at the expense of the youth of Perth who would surely blossom if given the opportunity to be part of a professional set-up like Glory's.
It appears that Glory co-owner Nick Tana might be about to give up on the multitude of talented youngsters in the west - but not through want of trying. While his club have signed several local players on apprentice and full-time contracts over the past year, Tana has seen his efforts to establish a second Glory side in the W.A. winter League hit a wall of rejection from controlling body Soccer West Coast. Another project aimed at developing the skills of teenagers in Perth is the summer youth development league in W.A. in which Tana is a key player, but again, this has run into a number of problems in getting off the ground and is being obstructed by both SWC and his co-owner at Glory Paul Afkos.
AMATEURS ROUND UP
In the Amateur Mitre Cup Final played last Sunday at the Litis Stadium, a seven goal thriller was taken out by Murdoch University who got over the line against Forrestfield United by the odd goal. Steve Migas bagged two with singles from Nathan Chapman and Christian Pashchkewitz taking the trophy to Murdoch for the first time, while Richard Fox (2) and Kevin Molyneux scored for Forrestfield.
Fremantle United has taken out the AustWest Homes Premier League, finishing on 53 points and well ahead of runners-up Forrestfield United. Murdoch University came in third on goal difference over Hamersley after they both finsihed with 40 points. Ronald Marcus took out the competition's Fairest and Best award, polling 26 votes to finish 7 ahead of nearest rival Flavio L'Abbate on 19. Alexander John Dawson and Charly Jensen (Perth Azzurri) tied for third place with 17 votes each. The Golden Boot has gone to Flavio L'Abbate who found the net 30 times over the winter. Christian Paschkewitz (Murdoch University) was a distant second with 18 goals to his credit, closely followed by Richard Fox (Forrestfield United) and Nathan Chapman (Murdoch University) on 17.
In the OLA Sports Cover Divison One, Mandurah City topped the table with 45 points from 22 outings. Balga came in a close second on 42, edging out the Cockburn City Amateurs on goal difference. The Fairest and Best award went to Steven Adams (20) with Fernando Nascimento (14) runner-up and in third place Lloyd Tucker (12). Alastair Page won the Division's Golden Boot with 23 goals, Patrick O'Boyle on 19 and Dean Gartside (Cockburn City Amateurs) on 15 getting the minor positions.
BORAL CUP FINAL
Both coaches were interviewed on Radio Fremantle on the eve of this clash and both were equally as coy about their sides chances the following afternoon. Western Knights coach Ronnie Campbell was reluctant to play up his side's chances, admitting only that missing out on the minor premiership on goal difference was enough incentive for his side to out-perform Sorrento. In the other corner Trevor Morgan acknowledged his teams status as underdogs after a disappointing season, adding his players were in a positive frame of mind after trouncing minor premiers Fremantle City in the semi-finals. Sorrento went into the game having not played competitively in a month and without midfielder Ross Greer who withdrew late in the piece through injury. The Knights on the other hand were at full strength and looking forward to getting back into the swing of things after a week's break courtesy of securing the first spot in the Champion of Champions final.
The match got underway with a lot of passion on display from those on both sides, players 100% committed to the ball with no-one conceding an inch without a fight. The potential importance of Trevor Morgan's early booking for a rash tackle was not lost on the Knights' players who niggled at the striker over the following 90 minutes in the hope of him retaliating and being red carded. Once the game settled, most of the play took place between the penalty areas with few chances at either end, the teams instead playing it safe and waiting to see how their opponents would approach the challenge that lay ahead.
The game finally sparked into life in the 15th minute with the first genuine shot on goal. With the Sorrento defence failing to deal sufficiently with a corner, the ball landed at the feet of Eugene Singeorzan on the top of the area and Mike Harkness proved up to the task by tipping the powerful drive over. Three minutes later Todd Harnwell raced past Carl Medica and pulled it back centimetres before the by-line only to see Knights 'keeper Darren Williams deflect it out of the path of Morgan. A couple more minutes passed before Singeorzan seized upon some hesitancy in the Sorrento backline and, with the defence backing off, forced Harkness into making a great reflex save from close range.
There was a sense that it wasn't going to be long before one of the 'keepers was beaten with all this goal mouth activity, but two goals in as many minutes was the last thing expected. In the 22nd minute, Ray Marinovic started a good move by releasing Scott Devine down the right. The Knights captain crossed from deep and found John Nicolaou who sent a strong header on target, but Harkness proved again he was up to the task with some superb reflexes. Nicolaou reacted quickest inside the 6-yard box to the loose ball and put it over the line with his second bite of the cherry.
There was hardly time to reflect before the margin was doubled. Ivan Ljubicic volleyed the ball back into a crowded goalmouth after a corner was played deep, the ball somehow found its way through to Nicolaou who, only a metre or so from the line, drilled it into the back of the net. It was a true goal-poacher's and one which left Sorrento reeling little over twenty minutes into the game.
Sorrento went looking for a quick response and almost found it near-on immediately. Morgan sent a great shot goalbound from 12 metres but discovered Williams in fine form, producing a spectacular diving one-handed save to deny the veteran striker. Williams was solid as a rock this afternoon for the Knights, and it was a good thing as his defence was at times very shakey indeed. Panic rippled through the Knights bench as several mis-timed clearances and hurried passes went badly awry and saw the team conceded possession deep in the dangerzone. The worst culprits were the otherwise reliable Alex Christie and Andy Wright who often needed a second go before knocking the ball to safety.
It was Sorrento that controlled the closing stages of the half, going close on several occasions but a lack of support up-front would prove they went into the break two goals down. Ryan Jeans tested the defence with a stirring run in the 31st minute which took him last several opponents only for his shot to be deflected off the boot. Harnwell made several dashes down the flank but found no-one in the middle once in position to cross. With little help coming from the midfield, Morgan and Jeans regularly were left alone in attack where the ball was cut-out well before it found them by the Knights four man defence. Down the other end, Marinovic and Shane McNally were getting behind the defence but also saw their crosses intercepted. Perhaps the only clear-cut chance of the period for the Knight's fell to Singeorzan who was allowed plenty of time only to curl his shot from 16 metres narrowly wide of the up-right.
Within a minute of the second half getting under way Sorrento had their appeals for a penalty turned down. Harnwell, whose pace had troubled the Knights over the opening 45 minutes, appeared to have been clearly brought down by Medica but referee Angelo Nardi thought otherwise. The rejection only intensified Sorrento's determination to open their account and they came close in the 55th minute. Stuart Banks rounded Christie and lined-up from the top corner of the box, but his shot didn't test Williams and flew into the side netting.
The introduction of Richard Turnbull and Jared Love at the interval by Morgan and his assistant Steve Neville was just what the doctor ordered to revive Sorrento's flagging fortunes. Tony Cumace moved into midfield as a result and the team started to display the style and composure with which they so comprehensively defeated Fremantle. But standing in their way was Williams. In the 64th minute the 'keeper dived to keep out a Morgan drive from 16 metres. Four minutes later it was Jeans who got on the end of a Jared Love cross, but Williams was again on hand to prevent the header from crossing the line. Just as it looked as though it wasn't going to be Sorrento's day, they pulled a goal back with 21 minutes remaining. Harnwell played a low ball in from the right, Williams fumbled under pressure from Love and Jeans raced in to bundle it over the line. Not a clean goal, not a pretty goal, but it was what Sorrento were after and put them back in the hunt.
The Knights were content to soak up the pressure and attack on the counter for much of the second period. With their defence still putting itself under pressure un-neccessarily, it was the understanding between hard-working forwards Nicolaou and Singeorzan that came to the fore and was unfortunate not to result in another goal. Just after the hour mark Nicolaou should have celebrated his hat-trick when gifted a clear strike on goal by McNally only to mis-time the bouncing ball and shoot well wide. And four minutes after Sorrento pulled one back, Nicolaou broke into the area and laid it off to Singeorzan who was denied by Harkness with a good save down low. There would have been plenty of other opportunities to put the match beyond the reach of Sorrento but the Knights were far too slow in feeding the ball to their fast-breaking players, giving their opponents plenty of time to get back in numbers and close down Singeorzan and Nicolaou.
But the second half was all one way traffic as Sorrento attacked in waves and laid siege on their opponents goal. A floating 76th minute corner from Harnwell was met be an explosive Jeans header from within the 6-yard box which Williams amazingly turned away. A minute later Morgan released Harnwell whose drive clipped the boot of Christie and again Williams was called into action, tipping the deflection around the post. Shortly after the Knights 'keeper showed great courage by blocking at the feet of Jeans. With Sorrento running out of legs, Harnwell put a shot over the bar from close range and Jeans finished disappointing from 12 metres in the closing minutes of the match. They deserved far better results for their second half fightback but it just wasn't to be.
The final whistle saw the Knights wipe away the disappointment of missing out on the minor premiership only a month earlier, and brought them a step closer to realising their aim of claiming both end of season trophies. Williams, a former Sorrento player, was the difference between the sides today in a man of the match effort. What made the keeper's performance all the more amazing was that he played with a hairline fracture of his right foot. "I've had the injury for over a month and the only way to cure it is rest, but I'll do that in the close season for there was no way I was going to miss finals time," said Williams post match. "It was a great contest and Sorrento pushed us all the way, but I think we just about deserved our victory and it was nice to put one over my old club." Despite being two goals up at the break, Knights coach Campbell was well aware the game was far from over after 45 minutes. "We dominated the first half, but we knew it would be a battle in the second and I thought we defended superbly."
Sorrento : Mike Harkness, Tony Cumace, Kevin Murphy (Richard Turnbull 46), Scott McLeod, Stuart Banks,
Todd Harnwell, Glenn Thomas, Andrew Chapman (Jared Love 46), Sean Bowyer, Ryan Jeans, Trevor Morgan
Western Knights : Darren Williams, Ivan Ljubicic, Andy Wright, Alex Christie, Carl Medica, Shane McNally, Ray Marinovic (Dean Nicolaou 82), Scott Devine, Joe Vaz, Eugene Singeorzan, John Nicolaou
Bookings : Morgan (2), Medica (33), Wright (37), Harnwell (52)
Explusions : None
Referee : Angelo Nardi
Attendance : 1,000(approx.)
In the Reserves Cup Final, a brilliant curling free-kick from Barry Williamson mid-way through the second half was all that separated Sorrento and the Western Knights. Both sides had their chances in an evenly contested match which saw a tense closing 10 minutes as the Knights looked for a way back into the contest. The Under-18 Cup Final was taken out by Fremantle City for whom 14-year old striker Josh Kamasz scored twice in their 5-4 win over Inglewood United. 16-year old Joe Liguan, a fringe player in the Fremantle senior side, also bagged a double with Cisco Jorquerea netting the other.
STATE TEAM TAKES GLORY TO WIRE
Perth Glory had their final hit-out before the 2000/2001 N.S.L. season gets underway on the weekend with the Charity Shield clash against the W.A. Under-23 team at Litis Stadium on Saturday. The State team saw their preparations hampered by the withdrawal of strikers Nick Mrdja and Joe Liguan in the days leading up to the fixture, along with experienced midfielder Paul McVittie and defender Aaron Cole who pulled out earlier in the week. The NSL side also had several players out, most notably Vinko Buljubasic (hamstring), Gary Faria (flu) and Peter Buljan (interstate) while clouds still hovered over the fitness of PJ Roberts and John Carbone. On the positive side for Glory, Shane Pryce, Scott Miller and Ljubo Milicevic all returned from recent injury/illness.
The first crack on target came after 6 minutes from Sandy Robertson, but his long range effort flew safely into the arms on Jason Petkovic. Other than that, the opening stages were dominated by Glory who mounted wave after wave of attack only to be denied by a combination of solid defending and great goalkeeping. Steve MacDonald and Scott Broadley had their work cut out for them in marking Damian Mori and Bobby Despotovski respectively, while behind them Troy Bernard was kept busy looking out for Glory's runners. But the hero for the State team was undoubtedly Cory Hugo who would thwart the opposition countless times over the course of the afternoon.
Although the 'keepers distribution at times left a lot to be desired, his work between the posts was outstanding. In the 8th minute Hugo's reflexes were put to the test by Alistair Edwards who sent an explosive drive from point blank range on target, only to be denied by the one-time Glory triallist. Twelve minutes later Paul Cooke clattered into Gareth Naven to give Glory a free-kick on the top of the area. Rob Trajkovski curled the ball into the 6-yard box to find Edwards, only for his powerful header to be turned away by an in-form Hugo, and Troy Bernard belted the parry to safety.
The State team were proving they could hold their own but, for all their good work, a defensive lapse would allow Glory to take the lead after 25 minutes. Brad Maloney turned Paul Cooke on the right efore sending a looping ball into the area. Bobby Despotovski was allowed to run ball-side of the defence and sent a superbly executed header past Hugo. But the Glory striker landed awkwardly and hurt his knee in the move and was replaced immediately by Roberts who moved into midfield with Edwards going up-front.
Within two minutes it was Hugo to the rescue once again. Edwards raced onto a long clearance to catch the State defence well out of position, leaving Hugo with no option but to come well out of his area to defend. He managed to hold up Edwards while his defence got back, only for the Glory player to shoot as the 'keeper retreated - Hugo blocked the attempted chip with his chest then cleared the danger down the right flank. In reality it was lazy work from Edwards who should have done much better with a free shot on goal, but Hugo showed great composure and maturity when under pressure and outside his area.
Glory were exploiting their superior fitness and pace by playing the ball over the State backline for Damian Mori to run on to, only for the ball to often be over-hit and Hugo take control at the back under no pressure. On the occasions Glory's ploy worked, the State team sprung a well-worked off-side trap to halt Mori and his teammates in their tracks. The only clear cut chance on goal came in the 36th minute when Hugo parried a curling left-foot shot from Maloney, then blocked the close range follow-up effort of Mori to once again put on show his great reflexes.
After dominating the game early on, W.A. came back into the contest as their midfield got more involved in the game. With Sandy Robertson and Antonio Naglieri working hard, fellow midfielder Steve White proved the inspiration for a late half fightback. In the 38th minute he latched onto a long pass, took a couple of touches then flicked the ball past the advancing Petkovic to equalise. The State team had caught their more experienced opponents napping and made them pay for some very lackadaisical marking.
Within two minutes White would turn provider as W.A. took the lead. He made the highly rated Ljubo Milicevic look very ordinary on the left before pumping it high to the near post where Trim Morgan beat Dion Valle to the ball and sent a splendid downward header to the right of Petkovic which trundled over the line. It was a lovely piece of teamwork from the State boys - who had come together only eleven days before this match - with White's pin-point cross the key ingredient. But, from a Glory point of view, the fault must lie with Petkovic who was rooted to his line when he should have come for the cross.
Glory came out with all guns ablaze after the break and within minutes Roberts had picked out Mori but his header went well wide of the target. It wouldn't be long though before they were back on level terms, Naven sending a perfectly weighted 20 metre pass into the path of Mori, who out-paced MacDonald and Bernard then took his time in sliding it past the advancing Hugo. Two-all with 52 minutes gone and we had a game on our hands.
Glory stepped up the ante and had numerous chances to wrap up the game but saw every one of them go begging. Trajkovski and second half substitute Pryce teamed up well down the right to open up the State defence, the former seeing several of his low crosses scoot through the box without a Glory forward in sight. And when there were players there to receive the ball, the State defence were in the way to intercept and to relieve the pressure valve.
With several young players in State colours wanting to prove their worth, this was a friendly in name only. W.A. were in no mood to mess around and put everything into challenging for the ball, the result of which was several Glory players complaining about the ferocity of some tackles. With his in mind, there was a degree of nastiness in the contest from the opening stages but it appeared to be rapidly approaching boiling point. Gareth Naven was hacked down from behind by John Mirco after a long run out of defence by the Glory captain, but the referee still refused to take anyone's name. Mirco was also involved in a heated exchange with Edgar, and shortly after it was and Scott Miller and Morgan that were at eachother's throats.
As the clock ticked down, Glory were still searching for the winner in what was turning into a one-sided contest. Edgar sent an explosive drive from long range on target in the 69th minute, Hugo fumbled the save but pounced on the loose ball before Mori could get there. A minute later they found the breakthrough they were after when Trajkovski crossed from deep on the right and Edwards was allowed to jump unchallenged for ball to send it over Hugo and into the back of the net.
The NSL side weren't content with a 3-2 scoreline and continued to press forward in numbers. It was down to Hugo that the margin didn't blow-out three minutes later, blocking a flying Edwards header from close range after another cross from Trajkovski, Maloney reacting quickly to the rebound but unable to get the ball under the crossbar. Then a stirring run from Mori in the 75th minute saw him set-up Harnwell who unleashed a blistering 25 metre shot which grazed the wrong side of the cross bar.
It wasn't just Glory that were coming close to adding to the scoreline, W.A. were also finding holes in their opponents defence mostly on the counter-attack but, with Pryce and Harnwell doing the job after the break, chances were a rare occurrence. Mid-way through the half Mirco, who was having a very quiet day by his standards, made a determined run only to see his shot whiz narrowly wide of the mark but Petkovic was positioned to make the save if necessary. Nine minutes from time Morgan sent a free-kick into the Glory wall, the follow-up was collected by Robertson but his shot didn't require any action from the recently introduced Tomislav Tomich. Shortly after a quickly taken throw-in from Rory Mouttet found Robertson, he flicked the ball over his head and into the path of Morgan but he couldn't make the most of the chance and put his shot over the line.
In the final minute Glory should have increased the margin. A lung-bursting run from Naven saw him draw Hugo off his line before slotting it across goal to Edwards who now had an open target. But the Glory player took too long and allowed MacDonald to make a lunging challenge which saw him deflect Edwards' shot off the boot.
At the end of the day the scoreline probably flattered the State side who really were out-played for much of the contest. Hugo was without a doubt the player of the match, Glory finding him in fantastic form between the posts which must have left coach Bernd Stange wondering why his club didn't pursue their interest in him a couple of years ago. Tall defender MacDonald and teenage midfielder Naglieri were also impressive. For Glory, Trajkovski proved a handful on the flank and got behind the State defence with some great ball control and strong runs. He teamed well with Pryce, while the other performer was Mori who ran all day to get into space and showed he's much more than just a goalscorer with some deft touches.
The result though left State coach Paul Wormley pleased with his troops effort, particularly given they'd only had two training sessions together before confronting Glory. "I think it definitely shows we've got the players here in W.A. to have another NSL side," he said. "There were no players from the Western Knights, Sorrento or Perth in that squad and there's still a couple of others I could've added."
Perth Glory : Jason Petkovic (Tomislav Tomich 78), Gareth Naven, Ljubo Milicevic (Jamie Harnwell 46),
Dion Valle (Shane Pryce 46), Rob Trajkovski, Scott Miller (John Carbone 68), Edgar (Anthony Danze 75),
Brad Maloney, Alistair Edwards, Bobby Despotovski (PJ Roberts 21), Damian Mori
WA Under-23 : Corey Hugo, Troy Bernard (Jamie Kuzmanovic 68), Steve MacDonald, Scott Broadley, Paul Cooke (Gary Andrews 75), Craig Surtees, Antonio Naglieri, Sandy Robertson, Steve White (Rory Mouttet 78), John Mirco (Louis Parkinson 78), Trim Morgan
Bookings : None
Expulsions : None
Referee : Jeremy Olifant
Attendance : 1,400 (approx.)
ENOUGH TALENT FOR THAT SECOND TEAM
State coach Paul Wormley has confirmed those players in the W.A. Under-23 squad that took on Perth Glory over the weekend will form the nucleus of the second N.S.L. side based in Perth should the Soccer Association of Western Australia be the successful bidder for that license. "This is what SAWA is looking at if they actually get the license, bit of course there are probably other syndicates out there that are looking at it as well. But all these players would certainly come into the picture without a shadow of a doubt and that's why it's a bit of a concern to me that players have not really taken the opportunity to come onto this stage and show exactly what they are capable of."
As to whether the time is the time right for a second Perth-based team in the NSL, there is no doubt in Wormley's mind. "I would say it's definitely right now. Not this season of course, but if they were given the nod now it would give us the opportunity to start building and creating a team over the next 12, 14 months. I really do think there's enough talent here to create a second side." Such a move would not be without effect on Perth Glory as Wormley recognises. "Of course both teams wouldn't be pulling in [crowds of] 14,000, you'd probably find some exodus of support would go to the new license. If that was to be created, both teams would generate crowds of perhaps 6,000 to 8,000 each weekend. I know a lot of people aren't happy with Glory and it would be exciting to see an opportunity for another team to come in and show the eastern states that one city can have and hold two clubs in the code of soccer."
MUTUAL RESPECT ON EVE OF CUP FINAL
Sorrento take on Fremantle City in tomorrow's Boral Cup Final at Dorrien Gardens in what is promising to be an entertaining encounter. Just 24 hours out from the clash, Martin Wells and the folks from Radio Fremantle spoke to the coaches from both camps about their prospects.
Trevor Morgan from Sorrento acknowledged that his club didn't have a great season, but his players were in a positive frame of mind after a convincing semi-final victory over minor premiers Fremantle City. "As a club we're looking forward to it - I know all the players area - we've been in training this morning and everyone's very up-beat. I think that after the season we've had at least it gives us something to go for this season ... We've got a young squad and we've got some experienced players, probably not as many as we'd like but the only way the boys get experience is by playing. So the experience they've had this year, having come in for players that we've had injured or players that have been missing - people like Tony Carbone that we've really not been able to replace, Simon Harland, Andy Bowyer - they've come in for those people and that should stand them in good stead for next season."
The Sorrento coach was well aware of the task ahead of his side, taking on the competition's in-form side over the past three months for the Boral Cup. "No disrespect to Fremantle City, I think the Western Knights were coming on really strong at the end of the season and if there had been another 2, 3, 4 games the Western Knights probably would have got there. They've just missed out on winning the title on goal difference. They're very strong, Ronnie [Campbell] and Willie Kelly have done a tremendous job there after a successful season and then not winning anything. They brought nine new players in, it took a bit of time for it to gel but they're very strong and I would say we go into tomorrow's game as underdogs."
Knights coach Ronnie Campbell was just as gushing in his praise of Sorrento who went into the game with nothing to lose. "We've got the utmost respect for Sorrento Soccer Club and Steve Neville and Trevor Morgan are excellent coaches. They've done a top job at the club with their blend of youth and experience. We've had some battles against them in the past - we've played a couple of finals against them and we know it's going to be a tough game and we'll have to be at our best to win. The boys are really relaxed and focused on the final. Obviously losing the minor premiership on goal difference has made them even more determined to win the Boral Cup."
Campbells' side underwent some major changes over last summer, as previously highlighted by Morgan, which the Knights coach was initially a little anxious over. "We lost six players from the previous season - vital players like Paul McVittie, Trim Morgan, Alex Cummings and Tommy Tomich - and we had to bring in nine new players and the boys have done really well. We had a slow start and we're looking forward to the next couple of weeks." But in the run home Campbell's side gathered momentum which saw them rightly installed as favourites for both the Boral Cup and Champion of Champions crowns. "Of the last eleven games we've won ten and we've drawn one, so I suppose that's fairly good form. But still, when you go eleven games you're going to get knocked off eventually. We've been really trying to keep the boys feet on the ground and we think - without having any super-stars - we've got a good team. Probably the biggest thing we've got going for this team is that they are all really good mates and we've got excellent team spirit, we just feel we deserved to win something this year. We've missed out on the minor premiership and we'd love to win either the Boral Cup or the Top Five."
THE SAGA OF THE STATE U-23'S
With a second W.A. team looking the goods to be admitted into the NSL for the 2001/2002 season, this weekend's Charity Shield match between Perth Glory and the State Under-23 team at the Litis Stadium could a precursor of things to come. Soccer West Coast have told the State players that they are playing for a spot in the second NSL side should they be the successful bidder for the licence. "There are a lot of incentives for the young, and more mature, players to provide Glory with a stern test this weekend," said State team coach Paul Wormley, whose squad includes five over-age players. Wormley was asked to not include any players from the Western Knights or Sorrento who are involved in the Boral Cup Final just 24 hours later.
But it's been a trying week for Wormley who, just days before the fixture, lashed out at the attitude of some State League club officials towards the selection of their players for representative duties. The coach said he was disappointed that several players had failed to show for training sessions while others had pulled out of the match altogether. "It's incredible that so many people have been so negative about this match against the Glory," he said. "This is a great opportunity for these guys to show what they can do."
Wormley was particularly critical of the withdrawal of Perth players Aaron Cole and Nick Mrdja. Perth vice-president Frank Bosio, who is also the Players' Committee chairman, said Mrdja was withdrawn because of injury, while Cole's absence was a matter of protocol. The young defender, who has signed apprentice papers with Glory, has been on loan to Perth over the winter and it is believed the club did not want to jeopardise an agreement with Glory. It was an odd call from Perth, especially after Glory coach Bernd Stange expressed his desire to see Cole take part in the match several days earlier in the "West Australian" newspaper. Having been contacted by Stange late in the week, Perth's Players Committee were due to review their withdrawal of Cole at a meeting on Thursday night.
Stange will be taking a close look at several State players with the possibility of offering them contracts. ECU Joondalup utility player Scott Broadley has come to Glory's attention and is currently on trials with the club, while Antonio Naglieri (Cockburn City), John Mirco (Fremantle City), Louis Parkinson, (ECU Joondalup), Gary Andrews and Steven MacDonald (Inglewood United) have all spent time with the NSL side over the past month.
The original State Under-23's squad announced this week consisted of Paul Cooke, Antonio Naglieri (Cockburn City), Troy Bernard (Floreat Athena), Alan Dunlop, Joe Liguan, Paul McVittie, John Mirco, Trim Morgan, Craig Surtees (Fremantle City), Scott Broadley, Jamie Kuzmanovic, Louis Parkinson, Sandy Robertson, Steve White (ECU Joondalup), Gary Andrews, Steven MacDonald (Inglewood United), Aaron Cole, Nick Mrdja (Perth), Corey Hugo and Rory Mouttet (Swan I.C.)
TWO MAKE JOEYS 21
Two Perth boys - recent Perth Glory recruit Anthony Danze and his former ECU Joondalup teammate Louis Parkinson - have been invited to attend the Australian Under-17's training camp being held at the AIS in Canberra later this month. The camp will serve to prepare coach Ange Postecoglou's team as they get ready to face Samoa, Soloman Islands, New Caledonia, Papua New Guinea and American Samoa in the December Qualifying Stage for next years' Youth World Championship.
BROADLEY'S LUCKY BREAK
22-year old ECU Joondalup player Scott Broadley this week began a four-week trial with Perth Glory - but considers himself lucky to keep the appointment after fracturing his skull playing against Inglewood United seven weeks ago.
The defender did not realise the severity of his injury, only going for treatment three days after the incident. "I was knocked out for a few seconds after copping an elbow on the side of the head when I went up for the ball in the first half," he said. "I felt nauseous, but I took a painkiller at half-time and went back out again. I took a few deep breaths and felt all right and it wasn't too bad just after the match. It was the following Wednesday when my head started to swell up and really hurt that I thought I better get something done. The fracture didn't show up on an X-ray, but it did after a CAT scan. I was told if I had taken another knock when I went out in the second half it would have been the end of my sporting career."
The mid-August incident saw Broadley confined to bed for almost three weeks suffering painful headaches. "But the fracture healed after about five or six weeks and it hasn't given me any problems since." He resumed training a week ago with beach and cross-country running before joining the Glory squad on Wednesday. "It's a dream just to be involved, because I know I will learn a lot under Bernd Stange and, hopefully, maybe impress him as well."
While Broadley is capable of filling a variety of positions, it is at centre back that he feels most comfortable - a fact that pleases Stange. "I saw Scott have some good performances for Joondalup - he is hard man in defence, tough and strong in the air and a very good header of the ball," the Glory boss said. "He has four weeks to show us what he can do." Broadley will get an early chance to prove his worth, representing the State when the Under-23 side take on Glory this weekend.
NATIONAL HOMES CHAMPION OF CHAMPIONS SERIES
Great things were expected from the weekend's Preliminary Final clash between Fremantle City and Perth at Litis Stadium where a spot in the Grand Final against the Western Knights was on offer. Both sides went into the clash pretty much at full strength with League Champions (aka Minor Premiers) City relying on the experienced midfielder partnership of Paul McVittie and Steve Bourne to open up the Perth defence. Despite being without defender Evan Wallace, absent through injury, coach Stuart Kamasz was quietly confident going into the game. Perth also had a minor injury worry which saw striker Nick Mrdja relegated to the bench, allowing Boni Botha to come into the starting line-up. Coach Graham Normanton was looking for a vast improvement from midfielders Mark Pottier and Jamie Coyne, who did little against Swan I.C. seven days earlier. And like his counterpart, Normanton was confident his troops could pull off victory, going so far as to tip a three-nil margin.
On a hot afternoon it was Perth that came out of the blocks firing on all cylinders and looking to take an early lead. They settled quickly and sprayed the ball around the park with confidence, slicing their way through the City midfield with seemingly little effort. And it wasn't long before they had their first chance on goal, in the 4th minute a deep Perry Ielati cross picked out Pottier who volleyed strongly but off-target. With Perth asserting their dominance in the middle of the park, City striker Trim Morgan dropped back into more of a midfield role to leave John Mirco as the lone man up-front. And while Morgan worked hard to get possession, there was little support from those around him who should have been streaming into their attacking half while he held the ball up.
It was a different story down the other end where David Onoforo and Botha were causing all manner of problems for the City backline. Perth's game plan appeared to be to play the ball either over or through the defence, allowing their quick forwards to run at goal. In the 18th minute such a move should have resulted in Perth taking the lead. Coyne released Onoforo with a great pass through the middle, the striker out-paced the defence and put his shot past Alan Dunlop only for it to cannon back off the up-right and straight to the thankful City 'keeper. Shortly after Onoforo retained possession against the odds and slotted it to Stephen Willey who hit the ball well over from inside the area.
City were under pressure and taking no chances, reluctant to commit men forward and at times playing themselves out of the match. The port side didn't get out of first gear in the opening half, only once managing anything resembling a shot on goal - in the 32nd minute when Morgan sent a chancey shot from 40 metres which forced Robert Scaraparolo to double back and tip the ball over the bar. At the heart of their problem was a stagnant midfield who were being ruled over by Rob Giorgi and Pottier who, once in possession, found plenty of options with free men seemingly everywhere. Howarth was proving inspirational on the left flank, quick to lay the ball off to teammates and then move into space to receive it back. On the opposite side Willey found himself with ample space to manoeuver and get behind the flat back-four with menace.
While Perth were dominant in the middle, chances on goal were not that common with the City defence standing firm. It would take a stroke of good fortune in the 39th minute to get the breakthrough. Willey played a corner short then received it back before waltzing the ball to the top corner of the area from where he pumped a hopeful low shot through a sea of legs, catching Dunlop unsighted and tucking itself inside the side netting. Five minutes later the margin was almost doubled - a well worked free-kick saw Howarth play the ball wide to Pottier who crossed from the right, finding Giorgi but his free header went just over the bar.
Perth turned on the style in a lively second half display which began with Giorgi knocking the ball into the path of Onoforo who once again out-paced the defence but shot wide of Dunlop and the target from 15 metres. Eight minutes later Howarth made a superb weaving run deep in the heart of the City defence before hitting the ball low across top of 6 yard box - on the far side Pottier took one touch then belted it over the line to striker a killer blow.
With the second goal City began to get more involved, stringing together several promising moves and retaining possession for long periods, but for all their effort, gaining very little in the way of territory. Once their attacks broke down the Perth backline found themselves with plenty of time to knock it around amongst themselves until an opening showed itself further downfield. It was an effective strategy in warm conditions, tiring their opponents who chased up hard in the hope of pressuring the Perth players into making errors. City's best chance of the second half came from a dead ball situation - Morgan drove a 20 metre free-kick through a weak Perth wall then watched as Scarparolo knocked the effort onto the post.
There was a let-off for City in the 63rd minute when Dunlop brought down Onoforo on top of the area. The striker ran onto a long pass, Dunlop got to the ball first but mis-judged his attempt to clear and took the legs from under his opponent without touching the ball. It could be debated that he was the last man and that a red card was in order but referee Frank Moretti saw nothing malicious in it and allowed play to continue.
The substitution of Mrdja for Onoforo two minutes later would prove an inspired move by Normanton. Within two minutes of coming onto the park, Mrdja had further stretched Perth's lead by sending a thumping left-foot shot from 18 metres past the out-stretched Dunlop. And it was curtains for City in the 73rd when Mrdja grabbed his second goal of the afternoon - Giorgi found the striker who took a couple of touches before unleashing a blistering drive from the edge of the area which rocketed into the back of the net. In the time remaining Perth could well have added to the scoreline. Howarth beat Dunlop with a low drive which ended up the wrong side of the up-right. Pottier did likewise while Botha should have made it five in the dying minutes but over-ran ball when all it needed was to be touched over the line.
But at the end of the day it didn't matter. City had been totally outclassed and Kamasz must have been disappointed that his side had lost three vital games since clinching the League Championship just four weeks earlier. It was a very flat City performance with far too many players along for the ride. From the opening kick, Perth showed more desire for the ball and never looked like going home the losing team. Their willingness to run and work hard to get and retain possession was highlighted by a fantastic return to form by Pottier who was the central figure in a midfield that was the key to victory. Giorgi has been outstanding all through the play-offs and today didn't miss a beat, while there were other notable contributions by Botha and Howarth.
Fremantle City : Alan Dunlop, Cesare De Bartolo, Dulio Xavier (Graham Matthews 71), Dave Evans,
Craig Surtees, Michael Mirco (Cisco Torquero 73), Steve Bourne, Paul McVittie, Dean Wallace
(Joe Liguan 57), Trim Morgan, John Mirco
Perth : Robert Scarparolo, Craig Naven, Aaron Cole, Perry Ielati, Stephen Willey (Christian Marocchi 67), Todd Howarth, Rob Giorgi, Jamie Coyne (Gary Upton 53), Mark Pottier, Boni Botha, David Onoforo (Nick Mrdja 65)
Referee : Frank Moretti
Bookings : Morgan (81)
Explusions : None
Attendance : 500 (approx.)
In the First Division play-offs, Bassendean Caledonian and Queens Park played out a scoreless draw earlier in the day. It should have been a cricket score but Queens Park failed to take advantage of their second half dominance with a combination of poor finishing and veteran Caledonian 'keeper Willie McNally keeping the scores level. With the match going straight to penalties, McNally again was his teams saviour, twice saving the efforts of his opponents and setting up the opportunity for Caledonian to secure the tie the 3-2.
FORRESTFIELD AIM FOR CUP NO.5
The Mitre Amatuer Cup Final is played on Sunday 8th Ocotber at the Litis Stadium, kick-off at 2.30pm, and sees Forrestfield United take on the might of Murdoch University. With Forrestfield having finished the WAASSA Premier League season in second place and Murdoch third, it promises to be a great day according to John Rainer, President of the Forrestfield United. "Murdoch and Forrestfield have got a good rivalry, we always seem to play a great game on the park and we're very social with each other afterwards. It really is one of those special days when Forrestfield plays Murdoch, both sides seem to lift on the occasion we play each other. It'll be a crackerjack game."
It will be the debut Cup Final appearance for Forrestfield United at senior level, and the club will be hoping they can emulate the success tasted at junior level this season where they won four Cup Finals as well as four out of the seven Top Four play-offs that they were involved in.
BOURNE CALLING IT A DAY
Interviewed in the eve of Fremantle City's play-off clash with Perth by Martin Wells for 100FM's Saturday Morning Soccer Program, City midfielder Steve Bourne discussed his plans to bow out of soccer at the end of this season. "I've been thinking about it for some time, I'm getting older know, the body's not recovering as soon as what it should be so I've been looking at it," he said. "Hopefully if we win tomorrow it'll be a better ending to finish on a Final rather than on a losing note in a Semi-Final."
Bourne was hoping for a couple of weeks break before a Grand Final finale, but last weekend's draining penalty shoot-out loss to Western Knights put an end to that. "It was a big battle and because of the extra time I was just absolutely shattered after the game, I don't think I've ever been so tired, I was still recovering the Tuesday after the game. We were quite happy with the way we played - obviously the result wasn't the best - we had four or five one-on-ones with the 'keeper in golden goals, they had a couple as well, so it was probably very entertaining watching the game but on the pitch it was very tiring."
This weekend they have to overcome Perth on Sunday to make the decider, which Bourne admits will be a tough task. "They've got he wood on us this year, they've beat us twice and deservedly as well. Hopefully we can get back to winning ways because as the season's gone on we really haven't played probably as good as what we've played in the a few years before - when we didn't win the League. We feel as if we've played better the last couple of years and that this year we haven't played as good, and yet we've won the League."
After close on a decade of playing at the top level in W.A., the 32-year old reflected on his career which has seen him follow coach Stuart Kamasz from with Rockingham City to the Stirling Lions to Fremantle City. "I've been with Stuart all my soccer career except for the year I was with the Perth Kangaroos, so we know how each other works. And there can be a bit of leniency - he knows if I can't make it or I'm not feeling well that I'm not trying to pull a fast one. Also I know how he works, he's quite lenient with players but there's a time and a place to start putting the effort in and stop messing around. But we've got on really well and it's been a great, it's coming up to ten years now - it's been excellent."
And Kamasz was full of praise for the one-time State player. "Steve's been fantastic over the years. He's still an influential player and hopefully, along with a few others, he can produce another big effort to get us to the final. I think the team deserves it, for we were desperately unlucky to lose in a penalty shoot-out to the Western Knights in last week's semi-finals, Steve would like to finish with another trophy - and the lads would like to help him get his wish."
NARDI JOINS THE NSL RANKS
Perth-based referee Angelo Nardi has been promoted to the NSL panel of referees for the 2000/2001 season which starts in a couple of weeks. His father Frank was one of the state's top referees 20 years ago and it was because of him that Angelo took up the whistle just seven years ago. "My first reaction was "you've got to be joking, no way" when dad made the suggestion, for I knew how tough it could be as a man in the middle," Nardi said. "I had played soccer until I was 17 and then the team broke up and I became interested in other things. But dad kept at me to get involved again as a referee."
Nardi started out in the amateur ranks and was promoted to the professional leagues three years ago. "I got my break when I went to National Under-14 Championships in N.S.W. in 1997," he said. "I did the final and I understand the national referees coach (Gary Power) was quite impressed with my efforts and thought I had the potential to make the NSL. So I thought if the guy over east reckons I've got what it takes I've got to take this a lot more seriously." This has meant following a demanding fitness program and studying endless videos to see how referees handle themselves, and players, in other leagues around the world. Nardi, who works during the day as an accountant, hits the training track on his own most nights and twice a week with other local referees.
Nardi has already had a taste of NSL duty, acting as fourth official at Perth Oval on several occasions last season. More recently he was in charge of a friendly between Sydney Olympic and Northern Spirit in Newcastle recently as well as one of the Perth Glory-Slovakia Under-23 games last month.
The W.A. State amateur team arrived in Indonesia amongst much fanfare and full of confidence for the Pardede Cup tournament last weekend. But it would be a sobering experience for the side, going down heavily in all three first rounds game. Upon touching down on the island of Sumatra, the squad were greeted by a band which struck up as they crossed the tarmac, followed by scores of young women who danced and sang to welcome the visitors.
Ranked by the local media as one of the favourites, the tour started in disastrous fashion with the W.A. side crashing 5-0 to Semen Padang, a leading club side from Indonesia. Two days later things were looking on the up after midfielder Ray Rose gave the side the lead after just 16 minutes of play against the Thailand national team. But three goals early in the second half made sure W.A. came out second best on the day. Playing for little more than pride against Harimau Tapanuli of Medan, it was another tale of woe for the Amateurs as two goals in each half from the 'home' side meant a final scoreline of 4-0.
After three games apiece, Semen Padang finished on top of the ladder having recorded strong victories all every match. The W.A. Amateurs arrive back in Perth this Sunday night.
ASHFIELD SEEK COACH
Ashfield Soccer Club have informed Soccer West Coast that Bunbury will not be part of the set-up for the 2001 winter season. The news comes after severe internal conflicts threatened to rip the club apart during the recent campaign which saw the club relegated to the First Division.
With plans for a quick return to the Premier League, Ashfield are calling on interested parties to apply for the vacant position of Under-18s Coach. Please submit applications for the job in writing to Ashfield Soccer Club, Box 71, Bassendean. The club are aiming to strengthen their youth system by forging links with a number of junior clubs who will act as filter clubs for the First Division outfit.
While Ashfield and Bunbury have gone their separate ways, Bunbury will also maintain a presence in the State League by competing in the First Division next season. The league has been expanded to 16 teams following the Ashfield/Bunbury split, with one other vacancy yet to be filled.
The long-term future of the Bayswater City Panthers is still reported to be in limbo. With the club's financial problems well documented, City are said to be seriously considering a merger with another of the locals clubs for the 2001 winter season. It is believed that Dianella White Eagles are the lastest club to have been involved in talks with the club.
ECU Joondalup youngster Shaun Kilkelly is currently enjoying his trials with English Premier League side Leicester City. The W.A. Under-16 captain apparently impressed the coaching staff at Barnsley recently but turned down an offer to extend his period with the club for personal reasons.
One-time Young Socceroo goalkeeper Vince Matassa is still having troubles getting out of his contract with English Non-League side Basingstoke Town. Matassa, who has had a £10,000 transfer fee slapped on his head by Basingstoke management, is currently on loan to Dorcester Town in the Dr Marten's Premier League where he is getting regular first team action.
Former Mandurah City junior Jordan Rhodes continued his good run of form with Charlton Athletic's youth team against Q.P.R. las weekend. The 15-year old was part of a stirring second-half midfield performance by the Charlton youngsters and provided the telling through ball which led to the only goal of the game in the 70th minute.
16-year old former Inglewood United midfielder Sean Cooney is also finding the going good in the UK. Having joined Coventry City recently, Cooney is already an established part of the Under-17's line-up and got his name on the scoresheet in City's recent 4-0 home win over Reading (09/09).
The W.A. State Under-23's started preparations this week for their friendly with Perth Glory to be played on Saturday 7th October. The training squad, which features the pick of the crop from the Premier League, will be trimmed in the coming week before being publicly announced.
Soccer West Coast are already planning for the day a second NSL license is granted for a team from Perth. The state's controlling body have told members of the State Under-23 team that, should SWC be the successful bidders for the license, they will form the basis of the squad. SWC have always made it clear that they will draw heavily from the local competition rather than sign players from interstate and overseas.
FIRST DIVISION PLAY-OFFS
With much attention being given to the National Homes Champion of Champions series for the state's top flight, it might come as a surprise to some that there is also been a similar competition being battled out between the top five finishers from the First Division. The first weekend of action at Dorrien Gardens saw a tight contest between the Stirling Lions and the Dianella White Eagles finish 4-2 in favour of the Lions. The following day at Dorrien Gardens, the Stirling Suns bowed out after a particularly spiteful clash with Queens Park, the margin again being 4-2.
Last weekend, saw the field reduced to three. In the Saturday fixture, the Lions avenged their loss to Bassendean Caledonian three weeks earlier with Danny Carlino bagging the only two goals of the afternoon. Twenty-four hours later Dianella and Queens Park had several chances to put the game away at Litis Stadium but poor finishing let them both down. One-all at the end of 90 minutes, the game went straight into a penalty shoot-out which Queens Park run out 6-5 victors as Dianella's season came to a crashing halt.
This weekend pits Caledonian against Queens Park in the Preliminary Final at the E&D Litis Stadium on Sunday, the winner progressing to the Grand Final on 15th October against the Stirling Lions to be played at the same venue. For the losers it's curtains for 2000 and time to start planning for season 2001.
NATIONAL HOMES CHAMPION OF CHAMPIONS SERIES
In Sunday's First Semi-Final at the E&D Litis Stadium, Perth took on Swan I.C. after which the play-off field would be reduced to just three. Perth went into the match as firm favourites having won three of the four clashes between the teams over the winter - 3-0 in the pre-season Night Series, 2-1 in the Boral Cup and 2-0 just a matter of weeks in the League. Swan's lone triumph was mid-season when the came away from Dorrien Gardens with a lucky 1-0 nil win having been completely out-played over the 90 minutes. None-the-less, this is finals football and both sides went into the clash at full-strength and focused on nothing but victory.
The opening half hour saw both teams take their time to settle and, as a result, chances at both end of the park. The first of these came after 5 minutes when Perth 'keeper Robert Scarparolo smothered at the feet of Elton Holmes after he outpaced his opponents to break into the area. Four minutes later some very relaxed midfield work from Swan allowed Todd Howarth to draw the defence before knocking it wide to David Onoforo who should have done better with his grass-cutting shot. Shortly after Swan's Corey Hugo found his heart in his mouth when Justin Everley deflected a hopeful shot looping over his 'keeper, Hugo scrambling back and knocking it over the bar with millimetres to spare. Then, in the 17th minute, a Rory Mouttet corner into a crowded area was flicked narrowly wide by Anthony Jones.
With some strong challenges coming in from both camps, referee Angelo Nardi was kept busy in keeping the physical side of the match under control. It was Swan that found their rhythm first and they began to assert their authority in the middle of the park with some cutting moves. Building patiently through midfield, it was Jones on the flank that was providing much of their inspiration only for Perth's resilient backline to smother any danger. Supercool captain Craig Naven had a fantastic afternoon and marshalled the defence of Aaron Cole and Perry Ielati to great effect. Down the other end of the park it was a similar story. No-nonsense defender Everley - whose methods at times weren't all that attractive - made sure Nick Mrdja's talents were stifled, and Darren Freeman was doing a similar job on the quick-breaking Onoforo. Behind them it was all held together by James Dimmock who was outstanding in a sweeping capacity.
With genuine scoring chances becoming scarce, Perth would pay dearly for a missed opportunity in the 28th minute. Mrdja wriggled free of Everley to latch onto a long ball from Rob Giorgi, but rather than slotting it wide to Onoforo who was free and within range, the Perth forward decided to go it alone and hit his shot clear across the face of goal. Within six minutes Swan took the lead courtesy of an unfortunate own goal. Carlo Scali dispossessed Mark Pottier before finding Holmes, he twisted past a couple of opponents and shot from a narrow angle to beat Scarparolo but it flew low parallel to the goalline. Dale Wingell raced in beyond the far post in anticipation of collecting the crumbs, bringing with him Perry Ielati who had the misfortune of bundling the ball over the line in an attempt to prevent it reaching the Swan player.
With the game still very much in the balance, the goal opened the contest up with Perth throwing everything into getting back on level terms before the break. Within minutes they twice caused concern for Hugo - Onoforo sent a lob over the keeper which grazed the wrong side of the bar, then Mrdja set-up Giorgi but he cannoned the ball well wide from close range. But realistically there were few opportunities in a disappointing first 45 minutes of a match that at times struggled to get out of first gear. This was down largely to both sides having key players - Pottier and Jamie Coyne for Perth and Mouttet and Carlo Scali for Swan - not getting involved to their usual degree.
Perth almost found their equaliser two minutes after the re-start when Onoforo raced clear (from what looked an off-side position) to send a low cross to the far post. Stephen Willey's side-foot was on target but Everley got his boot in the way, crashing the shot against outside of the up-right and to safety. They didn't have to wait long to be back on level terms though. In the 53rd minute Hugo picked up a backpass from Everley, leaving Nardi with little option but to award an indirect free-kick close to the penalty spot. In a well rehearsed move, Pottier touched it to Howarth who turned sharply and hammered a low shot through the wall and inside the left hand post.
With the game still lacking the fire of a finals clash, the goal did inspire Perth and Swan into a flurry of activity but bad luck and poor finishing conspired to make sure the scorers weren't troubled. Dale Wingell, who was being kept out of the game by Ielati, did well to control a high pass from Hatton but disappointed himself by spraying his shot well wide. Not long after Jones saved Swan when he cleared the ball from the feet of Willey after a deep cross from Onoforo picked him out only metres from goal. In the 63rd minute a fantastic corner from Mouttet saw Scarparolo scrambling to keep the in-swinging ball from sneaking in at the far post. Perth came close six minutes later when recently introduced substitute Gary Upton sent a searching pass in to the direction of Onoforo, he skillfully turned Freeman to open up the angle but it hit wide of the target. The most spectacular chance of the period was a hopeful 30 metre drive from Dimmock which dipped at the last moment but was tipped over by Scarparolo.
With both sides seeing chances to grab the lead go begging, the final 20 minutes saw Perth have their opponents under the hammer for long periods but unable to capitalise. With most of the play taking part in Perth's attacking half, their efforts were strengthened by Onoforos's ability to slip away from his marker to make a number of darting runs into the area. But Perth were guilty of over-hitting their final passes. And when those passes were on target, there was always a Swan player there to cut out the through ball and pump it back into the centre of the park. The only clear-cut chance of the period fell to Mrdja but, after some great lead-up work by Onoforo and Willey, he lifted his head at the wrong time and put the ball well over the bar.
A late surge from Swan began with Wingell's appeal for a penalty turned with eight minutes remaining. Shortly after Justin Hugo crossed into a crowded area, Holmes knocked it to feet and Wingell drove on target but was unable to get the ball through the mass of bodies in his way. Wingell, who was now getting more involved in the game, then sent a strong header into the arms of Scarparolo. And when Hatton's blistering shot on the run was deflected for corner you sensed it just wasn't going to be Swan's day.
In the third minute of injury time Upton raced down the right and crossed to the far side of the box. Corey Hugo hesitated in coming out and ended up being caught in no man's land as Howarth headed weakly but accurately past the 'keeper to send his side into the last three. It was a devastating blow for Swan who had given all in their quest for a second goal. A minute later the final whistle saw Swan's players sink to their knees in despair, and will their disappoint was clear, they have every right to be proud of what they achieved this season. Early pace-setters and causing several upsets by toppling some of the traditional heavyweights over the course of the winter, Swan should hold their heads high after a fantastic first season back in the top flight in which they've shown enough commitment to suggest there will be trophies coming their way in the not too distant future.
Perth coach Graham Normanton chalked the victory up to a training session held on the day of the do-or-die game in which his troops practiced the free kick move which lead to their opening goal. "That was a move we thought up this morning, so it was nice that it worked when we needed it," Normanton said post-match. The win sets-up a showdown next weekend between Perth and Premier League minor premiers Fremantle City, who lost to the Western Knights just 24 hours earlier on penalties.
Perth : Robert Scarparolo, Craig Naven, Aaron Cole, Perry Ielati, Stephen Willey (Boni Botha 81),
Todd Howarth, Mark Pottier, Rob Giorgi (Gary Upton 63), Jamie Coyne, Nick Mrdja, David Onoforo
Swan I.C. : Corey Hugo, James Dimmock, Justin Everley, Darren Freeman, Anthony Jones (Justin Hugo 83), Rory Mouttet, Damien Scali, Trevor Hatton (Nigel Aubin 86), Carlo Scali, Elton Holmes, Dale Wingell
Referee : Angelo Nardi
Cautions : Jones (19), Pottier (25), Freeman (59), Willey (75), Everley (77), Wingell (82), Mouttet (90)
Dismissals : None
Attendance : 450 (approx.)
On Saturday in the double chance Second Semi-Final at Dorrien Gardens, the Western Knights booked their place in the Champion of Champions Grand Final in dramatic style. Fremantle City dominated the opening stages of the match and looked most likely to come away with the goods when they took a deserved lead after 30 minutes of play. On the edge of the area, veteran midfielder Steve Bourne out-witted the Knights defence before unleashing a vicious shot that flew beyond the reaching of a diving Darren Williams to give his side the lead.
In a second half that mirrored the pattern established in the first, City could well have doubled their lead shortly after the re-start when Michael Mirco's free-kick found Dean Wallace but the striker couldn't direct his header between the posts. As the half progressed, City would live to rue several missed chances to kill off the match and - in an scene reminiscent of last week's Knights-Perth clash - a goal in the dying minutes of play would send the tie into extra time. Substitute Ray Marinovic crossed into the area and found the league's leading scorer John Nicolaou who volleyed sweetly from 6 metres and beyond 'keeper Alan Dunlop.
Neither side was able to find the golden goal required, but not through want of trying. Both teams had their chances against fast tiring defences only to be continually denied by some fantastic goalkeeping, in particular from Knights' custodian Williams' who three times stood firm in one-on-one situations and came out on top over City players. Full of confidence, Williams' heroics flowed over into the penalty shoot-out which followed. With the scores level at 2-2, Williams pulled off a spectacular save to prevent Bourne from netting. The Knights converted their next spot kick before Trim Morgan blasted wide to send City through to the decider. For the record, Alex Christie, Eugene Singeorzan and Devine scored while Joe Vaz and Carl Medica squandered their chances for the Knights. Paul McVittie and Dulio Xavier converted for the port side but misses by Michael Mirco, Bourne and Morgan would prove costly.
"We were extremely unlucky, we outplayed them for most of the game but they equalised in the last five minutes," Kamasz said. "Their 'keeper Williams kept them in the game with five or six great saves which included several one-one-one in sudden death, I was happy with our performance, but they hung in there. We should have killed them off on a number occasions, but now it's do-or-die with our bogey side Perth."
GLORY GIVE FIVE LOCALS THIER CHANCE
Leederville Oval was the site of a Perth Glory practice match last weekend, kicking off at 11.00am. The game, attended by about 200 of the Glory faithful, basically pitted Bernd Stange's preferred starting eleven (Purple) against the reserves and trialists (White). Vinko Buljubasic and new Glory signing Anthony Danze took no part in the game due to minor injury.
The respective line-ups were -
Purple : Jason Petkovic (Tomi Tomich 46), Ljubo Milicevic (Gareth Naven 46), Dion Valle (PJ Roberts 46), Shane Pryce (Antonio Naglierei 59), Scott Miller, Rob Trajkovski, Edgar, Alistair Edwards, Brad Maloney, Bobby Despotovski (-46), Damian Mori
White: Tony Franken (Jason Petkovic 46), Gareth Naven (Ljubo Milicevic 46), Steve MacDonald, Jamie Harnwell (-46), Todd Harnwell, Gary Andrews, PJ Roberts (Antonio Naglieri 46), John Carbone, Gary Faria, Barry Williamson, Peter Buljan
As was expected, it was a completely one sided clash which saw Glory Purple hit a slew of first half goals. In the 4th minute, Despotovski pounced upon a mis-hit backpass from Roberts to slot the ball inside the far post from close range. Six minutes later Despotovski knocked it short to Mori, he nut-megged Naven and curled the ball around Franken and inside the top corner. Despotovski ran onto a long ball hit from the middle in the 25th minute, out-pacing Naven and rounding Franken to make making it 3-0. Despite several penetrating runs from Faria, Glory White were finding it difficult to get men free in the forward line and chances on goal were few. Their best of the opening half came when Buljan crossed low to Williamson who, 8 metres from goal, slammed his shot into the upright. Despotovski and Maloney combined in the 33rd minute for Mori to net and three minutes later Despotovski out-witted Franken in a one-on-one situation to slot home. And four minutes before the break it was 6-0 when Maloney headed through the hands of Franken after a Miller corner.
In an effort to even up the contest, Stange swapped several players at the break which saw Glory Purple play the second half with 10 men. Five minutes after the re-start, Glory White pulled a goal back as Buljan ran onto a very long clearance from Petkovic and chipped over Tomich, who was slow to come out to challenge. In the 54th minute Trajkovski skinned Andews before slotting to Maloney who blasted it beyond Petkovic for No.7. It was a much more even period with Glory White making a number of promising moves but found the Glory Purple defence up to the task. Naglieri and Faria were combining well in the middle to take the side forward while on the flank Andrews was creating space for himself and displaying some deft touches. Pryce came off after 59 minutes after a strong challenge with Andrews in which he injured his suspect right ankle, and the remainder of the match was played with 10 men apiece. In the 64th minute, Maloney set-up Mori to bag his first halt-trick in Glory colours. A quick break by Miller in the 71st minute saw him release Mori whose shot was parried by Petkovic and Trajkovski was on hand to bury the rebound. And with eleven minutes remaining the final goal came through Miller when he connected with a low Roberts cross. Glory White almost found the net once more when Andrews one-two-ed with Williamson then wriggled past Edgar and sent a strong shot on target which Tomich somehow kept out. The final score of 10-1 to Glory Purple saw three goals each to Depotovski and Mori, a double to Maloney and singles to Trajkovski and Miller. Buljan got the lone goal for Glory White.
Of the players drawn from the local competition, all showed promise and did their chances of being
picked up for NSL duty no harms, but obviously lacked the stamina, fitness and speed of the regular
* Andrews (right wing, Inglewood United) put in some timely tackles to dispossess Trajkovski and made a number of good moves both on and off the ball. He got into space with regularity and has the ability to take the ball deep quickly from where he'd cross into the box.
* McDonald (defender, Inglewood United) combined well with T.Harnwell on the left, laid off the ball with accuracy and was cool when under pressure. He battled hard with Despotovski (who had a good game) in the first half but was caught out late by the wide players.
* Wiliamson (striker, Sorrento) had very few chances in the first half when Valle kept a close check on him but came into the contest after the interval. Skillful and strong in the tackle, I thought he was probably the best of the trialists on show. His downfall may be his willingness to take on one defender too many.
* Naglieri (attacking midfield, Cockburn) got badly short-changed by having only 15 minutes to impress. He came on at the break and looked promising when playing alongside Faria, but swapped sides when Pryce came off injured and was completely smothered by those around him (ie Roberts and Maloney).
* T.Harnwell (left wing, Sorrento) was another player over-shadowed (by Miller) for much of this clash but did get involved a bit more in the latter stages when he his pace allowed him to race past Miller and cross from deep.
Western Knights midfielder Joe Vaz has spent the week in Melbourne where he's been trying out with NSL outfit Carlton. He is expected to return for the weekend's National Homes Champion of Champions Second Semi-final game against Fremantle City. The 21-year old only two weeks ago returned from Portugal where he trialled with Benfica and Sporting Lisbon.
Perth striker David Onoforo has been turning on the style during trials with Sydney Olympic. Onoforo has impressed the coaching staff at the NSL club to the degree that they have agreed to release him from his trial period in order for him to turn out for Perth in the Champion of Champions series. At the completion of the play-offs, Onoforo will re-join Olympic where he hopes to secure a full-time contract for the coming summer.
Former State team coach Alan Vest has returned to Perth after 10 years in Asia and is currently looking at employment opportunities in the local competition. The one-time New Zealand international, who has 31 years coaching experience to his credit, resigned from his position with S-League side Geylang United mid-June.
Adrian Caceras has settled at Southampton and on the weekend scored his first goal in the reserve ranks. Unfortunately the attacking midfielder came off in the second half with a mild calf strain as the Southampton side went down 2-4 to Ipswich Town. Speaking with AAP during the week, Saint's secretary Brian Truscott believes the teenager has what it takes - "He certainly impressed everyone during his trial period and we think he's got a future."
DANZE JOINS GLORY
ECU Joondalup teenager Anthony Danze has turned his back on an offer to join English Premier League club Southampton in preference of joining NSL outfit Perth Glory. The Saints have been chasing the 16-year-old midfielder since the start of the year but Danze wanted to prove himself at the top level in Australia before signing with an overseas club.
He is expected to be a key figure in the Joeys squad that will compete in the Oceania qualifying stages of the World Under-17 Championship in December, and it was his desire to represent Australia that ultimately decided where his immediate future lay. "I had a trial with Southampton earlier this year and they want me to sign, but I don't really want to leave Australia at the moment," Danze said early in the week. "I want to stay around to be part of the Joeys squad and if the Glory offer me something I'll probably take it. I still think I'll have opportunities to go overseas when I'm 19 or 20."
It was expected that Danze would train with the Glory squad this week before his assessment by the coaching staff. But renewed interest from Southampton on Tuesday sparked the NSL side into action and the following day they secured the young star before the English club could make a counter offer. "We're excited that we have signed a player we believe has tremendous potential," Glory general manager Roger Lefort said. "Rather than go overseas, Anthony can mature with the Glory and who knows after that. He has got a toe in the NSL - and it's up to him to impress the coach and take the next step."
NO GLORY FOR INGLEWOOD
Inglewood United played host to Perth Glory in a friendly on Wednesday night as the NSL side continued their pre-season schedule. Around 1,500 turned up at Kiev Sports Ground on a chilly night to see Glory dominate proceedings and hit three goals in the opening half hour. Dion Valle headed in the first from a Scott Miller corner after 9 minutes, and shortly after a Miller cross from the left found Brad Maloney who crashed home a superb volley. On the half-hour mark, another Miller corner saw Peter Buljan put the ball past teenage 'keeper Oliver Taseski. Shortly before the break Inglewood pulled a goal back when Steve MacDonald out-jumped Gareth Naven in the 6 yard box and headed home. After the break it was a different story with Inglewood coming into the match more, creating several goalscoring opportunities and defending solidly against a hard running Glory side. If not for the fine efforts of Taseski, the final margin would have been much greater than 3-1.
CHAMPION OF CHAMPIONS PLAY-OFFS
The first weekend of the National Homes Champion of Champions play-offs saw the Western Knights play Perth on Saturday in the Qualifying Final at Dorrien Gardens, followed 24 hours later by the do-or-die clash between Inglewood United and Swan I.C. in the Elimination Final.
The Knights went into the first match without the experience of midfielder Ray Marinovic who failed a late fitness test on a calf strain, while goalkeeper Darren Williams ignored the advice of club coaching staff to play with a stress fracture in his right foot. Their opponents were pretty much full-strength after the return of striker David Onoforo who spend the past fortnight on trial with NSL outfit Sydney Olympic. They also welcomed a Soccer West Coast amnesty on accumulated yellow cards, allowing Craig Naven to take his place in the starting eleven. The controlling body, in wanting the competing clubs to field their strongest possible line-ups, allowed such suspensions to be bought off at a cost of $100.00 per player. The only player out for Perth was Mark Pottier who was a late withdrawal from the team.
The upper hand for the opening 20 minutes was held by Perth for whom Jamie Coyne was seeing a lot of the ball and linking well with Gary Upton on the right. It was Coyne who had the first chance of the game in the 3rd minute, receiving a Boni Botha free-kick played into the area but, unable to make the most of the opportunity in a crowded 6 yard box, hit a grubber to Williams. Six minutes later a deep cross from Stephen Willey picked out Botha whose header didn't trouble Williams. And Onoforo was unfortunate shortly after when a 35 metre pass from Craig Naven spilt the Knights defence wide open and saw the striker race between Ivan Ljubicic and Andy Wright only for his low drive to nudge the wrong side of the up-right.
At the other end the Perth backline were doing a great job in reducing the threat of the most lethal striking partnership in the competition. With Naven acting as sweeper, Aaron Cole and Willey were pouncing on Eugene Singeorzan and John Nicoloau the instant they received the ball, forcing them into elemental mistakes and concede possession. Restricted to shooting from outside the penalty box, the Knights first shot in open play came after 20 minutes when Scott Devine got to on the end of a Christie cross, but his looping header was easily saved by Robert Scarparolo. It was a completely different story two minutes later when the Perth 'keeper gifted Dean Nicolaou the opening goal of the game. Coming to the top corner of his area to receive a backpass, Scarparolo found himself having to make a rushed clearance with John Nicolaou bearing down on him. The ball squirted to Dean Nicolaou and the midfielder had plenty of time to pick his place and he send a delicate chip into the back of the net.
The goal had instant effect on Perth's game which they now approached with a lot more caution and a lot less fair. The Knights started to stamp their authority on fixture with midfielder Scott Devine the vital link between defence and attack, and Shane McNally working tirelessly on the left to bang in some dangerous crosses. Perth found themselves under the hammer and had to make some hacking clearances from within their 6 yard box to temporarily relieve the pressure value, only for their opponents to come right back at them. But the Knights were guilty of being unable to do a lot with the ball, especially once they got inside the area, and more often than not didn't require Scarparolo to respond.
Devine's aggressive approach often brings him to the attention of the referee and today was no exception. Having twice brought down Robert Giorgi with some crunching challenges, referee Eddie Lennie decided enough was enough and booked the Knights captain for another crude tackle on Giorgi in which he took the legs from under the Perth player. And before the break Carl Medica would join Devine in Lennie's book for what can only be described as a 'coat-hanger' which left Upton require treatment before being substituted at half time.
With pendulum having already swung in Perth then the Knights favour, it came back to rest with the home side for the final 15 minutes of the half. Onoforo released Coyne who sprinted clear of the defence only to be denied by an ever-alert Williams. But like the Knights, Perth were doing themselves no favours in front of goal, most notably in deadball situations - three corners within as may minutes came to nothing with defenders always first to the ball, while free-kicks were often being floated too deep and over the by-line. Five minutes before the break Nick Mrdja had his teams' best chance when he ran onto a long ball pumped into the area. With Ivan Ljubicic in hot pursuit there was no time to control and the striker hit the bouncing ball across face of goal from a narrow angle and watched as it rolled the wrong side of the far up-right.
The opening period of the second half was evenly contested with both sides squandering chances. John Nicolaou threw himself at a mis-hit Dean Nicolaou shot but couldn't re-direct it past the Perth custodian. Perth deserved better with a sweeping move involving Mrdja, Coyne and Botha which saw the latter blast narrowly wide. A minute later Coyne's curling shot from corner of the box went beyond the far post. And on the hour mark John Nicolaou crossed from wide on the left to pick out Singeorzan but his header landed on the top netting. An explosive free-kick by Devine was tipped over by Scarparolo before the ball was raced to the other end where Williams kept out Coyne's strong drive. It was real end-to-end stuff which saw some fantastic movement of the ball through midfield and down the flanks.
Having come out with all guns firing immediately after the break, the Knights quickly ran out of puff and Perth took control. Willey was enjoying his time on the wing, making the most of his close ball control and speed to get past opponents, while Coyne was outstanding in his midfield role and teamed up with Willey with great effect. And up-front, Onoforo was showing why there's so much interest in him at the moment, out-maneuvering the defence and sending ripples of panic through the opposing backline everytime he found the ball at his feet.
Despite their superiority, Perth just could not find a way through to goal with Botha and then Onoforo failing to find the target in quick succession. Knowing time was quickly running out, coach Graham Normanton brought on Dario Pellicciotti late in the piece to make use of a three man forward line. Mrdja, who had been kept in check by Ljubicic for much of the game, was now finding more opportunities to get free off his opponent and get more involved in the game. In the 82nd minute Onoforo cut back to Giorgi on the left side of the area, the midfielder's chip into the dangerzone was met at the far post by Coyne but he was unable to direct his header between the posts.
A deep corner from Todd Howarth in the 91st minute found Botha who would have scored if not for a reflex save from Williams which produced another corner. From the other side, Willey sent it to the near post where it was knocked it to feet and, in the mad scramble for possession, Coyne hit it goalward through a crowded 6 yard box. It was a case of right place-right time for Perth defender Aaron Cole who sent the game into extra-time by gliding the ball over the line.
With the adrenaline flowing and confidence at a high, Perth continued to play as they had done in the final 20 minutes of normal time. Within the space of two minutes they'd won three corners, all of which were scrambled to safety by the Knights defence from inside the 6 yard box. Giorgi was still operating under full steam in the middle and was quick to throw his side into attack and, had it not been for some sloppy final passes, Perth could well have found a winner early in the piece.
But as the period wore on Perth's legs tired and their dominance faded. The Knights first real chance in 25 minutes saw Singeorzan curl wide a free kick from 25 metres. Pellicciotti held onto the ball a little too long after a determined run and he slammed the ball into the side netting. Then substitute David Annall ran the ball into the corner and cut it back to Joe Vaz whose explosive volley grazed the crossbar. With neither midfield able to take control of the match, the ball was turned over with frequency and raced to the other end at break-neck speed.
Going on the first half of extra time, it was looking as though neither side were going to find the net and penalties would be required to settle the match. But it would take a controversial goal three minutes after the turn-around to decide the tie. Scarparolo looked to have covered a mis-directed through ball, only for John Nicolaou - who seemed well offside - to race in and take the ball from the 'keeper. The Perth custodian dived at Nicolaou's feet but couldn't take the ball cleanly, a second grab had the same end result and Nicolaou slotted into an empty net for the winner.
It was a fortunate win for the Knights who battened down the hatches in the second half to weather the Perth onslaught. For their part, Perth should consider themselves terribly unlucky not to have found the net a number of times after the break as they threw everything into their efforts to find the equaliser that they thoroughly deserved. The result means the Knights will now face Fremantle City next Saturday in the double chance Second Semi-Final at Dorrien Gardens, with Perth playing the winner of the Inglewood United-Swan I.C. game in the First Semi-Final played 24 hours later.
Perth : Robert Scarparolo, Craig Naven, Aaron Cole, Stephen Willey, Todd Howarth, Gary Upton
(Perry Ielati 46), Robert Gioigi, Jamie Coyne, Boni Botha (Dario Pellicciotti 78), Nick Mrdja,
Western Knights : Darren Williams, Leon Russell, Alex Christie, Ivan Ljubicic, Andy Wright, Shane McNally (David Annall 82), Carl Medica, Scott Devine, Dean Nicolaou (Joe Vaz 82), Eugene Singeorzan, John Nicolaou
Referee : Eddie Lennie
Cautions : Devine (38), Medica (43), Onoforo (53), Christie (72), Coyne (73)
Dismissals : None
Attendance : 650 (approx.)
The following afternoon it was make-or-break time for Inglewood United and Swan I.C. with one of these teams just 90 minutes from their season coming to a close. Inglewood sprung a late surprise by including leading scorer Paul Lincoln in their starting line-up - despite the claims by coach John Hunter only two days earlier that his player "would definitely not be playing" due to a hamstring complaint. For Swan I.C, their play-off boost came earlier in the week when two key figures in their hopes, attacking midfielder Elton Holmes and James Dimmock returning from suspension and a stomach virus respectively.
The game was just seven minutes old - but already settling into a pattern that would continue for the duration - when Swan took the lead. Elton Holmes played a defence splitting pass into the path of Dale Wingell which saw him race clear of the Inglewood defence. His first attempt on goal was parried by Robert Zabica and it was the Swan striker that reacted quickest to sweep the loose ball under the keeper's body from close range.
One thing that became patently clear from this clash was just how much of a divide exists between the top three finishing teams (Fremantle City, the Western Knights and Perth) and these two. It was an uninspired performance by both Inglewood and Swan I.C. in a match that saw little creativity and very few opportunities at both ends. Every time either defence turned the ball over it was lackadaisically knocked back into the middle where the mad scramble for possession would start all over again. Neither team was able to string together more than four or five passes before running out of options and conceding possession.
Of the chances on goal, none really threatened Zabica nor his opposite number Corey Hugo. Paul Lincoln tried to flick the ball over Corey Hugo after 14 minutes but failed miserably and the 'keeper caught it at chest height. Rory Mouttet sent the ball sailing into the arms of Zabica from 16 metres after 31 minutes. Four minutes later a promising move involving Nigel Aubin and Dimmock released Wingell only for defender Steve MacDonald to scoot in from the left and boot the ball over the sideline.
Swan sweeper Carlo Scali was having a great day behind Justin Everley and Darren Freeman who were undoubtedly the busiest trio on the park and limited their opponents to shooting from long range. Keeping Inglewood strikers Alex Josifovski and Lincoln completely out of the game with some excellent man-to-man marking, the trio were never under any pressure to do their job and cleared any dangers with confidence. For Inglewood it was their flank players Drew Carruthers (left flank) and Daniel Harrop (right flank) that were doing all the work but finding little support from those around them.
By far the busiest man on the park was referee Wayne Oldham who had more influence over proceedings than the players themselves. Quick to award free-kicks for some very soft fouls - which included a couple of bookings for 'nothing' tackles - he regularly interrupted the flow of the game by halting play when waiving the advantage would have been a more sensible response. And his refusal to acknowledge the off-side flags of his assistants saw him quickly earn the wrath of players and spectators alike.
Swan started the second half with a flurry of activity which should have seen them kill off the game within the opening 10 minutes. A great run by Aubin saw him hold onto ball for too long and cut-out his shooting options - instead he knocked it low across the top of the 6 yard box only to find no one there to meet the ball. Then Mouttet turned the ball over to go one-on-one with Zabica but blasted narrowly wide. A few minutes later Aubin glanced a Mouttet corner which kissed the wrong side of the up-right. And a Holmes cross from the right was well met by Aubin, his flick flew past a despairing Zabica but was also off-target.
Having weathered the onslaught, Inglewood came back into the contest to enjoy a prolonged period in possession but never seeing their moves amount to much. Their best - and only genuine - chance came in the 66th minute when Harrop broke quickly into the area where Corey Hugo raced out and stole the ball off his boot. However, Inglewood looked most dangerous at set plays when they were able to use their big men to advantage, but Swan's defence was solid and repelled everything their opponents threw at them. It was an indication of how much the Swan defence was dominating when Hunter substituted both his strikers early in the half, but their replacements could muster little more in the way of shots on goal.
The game was finally put beyond the reach of Inglewood in the 82nd minute thanks to a fantastic strike from substitute Damian Scali. The ball broke to the midfielder who, 25 metres from goal, sent a thundering volleyed beyond the reach of Zabica and into the back of the net. The goal took Scali by surprise as much as anyone in at Dorrien Gardens and sent the Swan bench into raptures as a play-off clash with Perth next week was just minutes away.
Coming somewhat against the run of play, the goal knocked the wind completely out of Inglewood's sails. But they continued to press forward with the remote hope of forcing the game into extra-time. The lead to Inglewood getting caught short at the back with 3 minutes left on the clock, Wingell racing past Jamie Goodman and onto a long ball knocked from the centre circle. The Swan forward hit a scorching drive from 20 metres which whistled just centimetres above the playing surface and tuck itself inside the far post. In the few minutes left, Inglewood's frustration began to get the better of them with Ryan Newhill and Harrop lucky not to be booked for their indiscretions.
Post-match, Swan coach Eric Williams praised the efforts of two goal hero Wingell, who joined the club three months ago from the Bayswater City Panthers. "Dale is getting the rewards for working hard on his fitness for he hadn't done a lot before he came to us," Williams said. "He's got a great touch and a great awareness in front of goal and, if he keeps firing, we might keep surprising a few people." And the Swan coach is looking forward to causing a few more upsets before their season ends. "It's been a great season after coming up from the first division and really everything is a bonus for us. But I think we're the side that no one wants to meet for we have that capacity to surprise. We battle well and never give up."
Inglewood United : Robert Zabica, Jamie Goodman, Stephen MacDonald, Michael Di Fulvio, Daniel Harrop,
Gary Andrews, Alex Cummings, Drew Carruthers (Jamie D'Arcy 83), Lee Crosby, Alex Josifovski
(Ryan Newhill 60), Paul Lincoln (Taki Nicolaides 60)
Swan I.C. : Corey Hugo, Carlo Scali, Justin Everley, Darren Freeman, Trevor Hattton, Rory Mouttet, Anthony Jones, James Dimmock (Chris Perks 83), Elton Holmes (Justin Hugo 83), Dale Wingell, Nigel Aubin (Damian Scali 65)
Referee : Wayne Oldham
Cautions : Josifovski (23), Mouttet (34), Cummings (49)
Dismissals : None
Attendance : 200 (approx.)
STADIUM WILL GO AHEAD
The Minister for Sport and Recreation has hit back at claims that the proposed soccer stadium to be built in the city is looking shakey. Speaking on 100FM on Saturday morning, Norman Moore reassured listeners that the future of the stadium is healthy. "We have a very good deal with Multiplex to do the Convention/Exhibition Centre and stadium as one joint project. It's going to cost the government about $110 million in total, but will deliver some $310 million worth of development including a new stadium for soccer and rugby. We're currently negotiating with Multiplex to finalise the details of the contract. Being such a big project it's very complicated and will take some time to translate the proposal into a solid contract, but we're hoping to be finished by the end of the month."
With the stadium scheduled to be completed by the first quarter of 2002, Moore did concede that there were stumbling blocks still to be overcome. Probably the biggest of these surrounds the exclusive use of the venue by Perth Glory for a 10 year period which is being pushed by Glory co-owner Nick Tana. Moore stated that the stadium will "be used for anybody that wants to use it, under no circumstances would the government permit any club to have exclusivity to that venue." But it's not that simple according to shadow minister Mark MacGowan. "One of the equity partners in the soccer stadium is a company called North East Equity, which is owned by one of the owners of Perth Glory (Tana). A condition of their involvement is exclusivity, and no one, including the Minister for Sport, has been able to explain what's going to happen to the soccer stadium if that part of the consortium pulls out."
But there is one area on which both parties agree. Regardless of what happens at the next election, both the Labor and Liberal parties have agreed the time is ripe for Perth to have a purpose built soccer stadium and that they are committed to getting it built.
CHAMPION OF CHAMPIONS PREVIEW
Fremantle City coach Stuart Kamasz must be wishing his side didn't have to sit out the first weekend of action a more than disappointment loss to Sorrento in the Boral Cup semi-finals last week. They opened the season with 11 wins from their first 14 outings before a mid-season slump looked as though they may not even make the play-offs. But they worked through this hiccup and won their last four games - scoring eight times and conceding just once - to steal the minor premiership from Western Knights and Inglewood United. Their record against the other finalists is the best of any of the five teams in the play-offs. Over the winter they twice defeated the Knights (both 3-0) and Swan I.C. (both 2-1) and shared honours with Inglewood United (0-1, 3-0). Possibly the only team they'll fear in the play-offs is Perth who have won on both occasions more convincingly than the 4-0 and 2-0 margins suggest. Kamasz will be looking for big efforts from midfielders Paul McVittie and Steve Bourne (who had very quiet games against Sorrento) while Michael Mirco will be bouyed by his addition to the Glory training squad. Their defence is also very strong where goalkeeper Alan Dunlop went over 600 minutes without conceding a goal during the season and is supported by quality ball players Craig Surtees and Dave Evans. But on the down side they look like being without striker Kevin Correia for the duration with a niggly groin complaint.
Going into the finals as an in-form team are the Western Knights who are undefeated over their past eight outings, seven of which have been victories. In the past month alone they've racked up some big scores - twice scoring three goals, once four and five on the final round of the winter - which is hardly surprising considering they were the highest scoring team over the home-and-away season. Fremantle have been a bogey team for them this year though, twice going down by 3-0 margins and so they won't be looking forward to facing them in coming weeks. On the up side, they've beaten Perth (2-1 and 2-1) and Inglewood (2-0, 3-2) twice with the points shared with Swan I.C. on both occasions they've met. They way has been lead by John Nicolaou who found the net 13 times in the second half of the winter to top the scorers charts with 17 goals. With talent all over the park which includes the likes of Ivan Ljubicic, Alex Christie, Dean Nicolaou and captain Scott Devine, their already commanding midfield has recently been strengthened by the return of Joe Vaz from trials in Portugal which will not bode well for their opponents.
Like the Knights, Perth have had a great run in to the finals and will be looking to cause a few upsets. Having won their past six games - scoring 12 times and conceding once over that period - they are not a side to score a lot on the day but rely heavily on their defence which is the tightest in the League, letting in only 17 goals over the 22 regular rounds. While they've convincingly defeated City twice this year (4-1 and 2-0) they've struggled to cope with the Knights attacking midfield to lose both contests with them (both 2-1). Honours are shared with Swan at one win apiece. Their form in the second half of the season has been nothing less than brilliant - even after the loss of influential midfielder Adrian Caceras - and the goals have been evenly shared between Boni Botha, Nick Mrdja and David Onoforo. Other key figures are midfielder Mark Pottier and a backline consisting of Aaron Cole, Craig Naven and Stephen Willey.
At Inglewood United there's been a lot of questions asked after a very disappointing August. Having gone eight weeks without a lose and sitting in the No.1 position after 18 rounds, they took just two points from their remaining four matches to end the season in fourth place. With confidence at a low and it widely touted that they have peaked a little too early, things couldn't be much worse at the moment for John Hunter and his young side. Over that last month they lost to finalists City (0-3) and the Knights (2-3), who did the double over their rivals after a 2-0 win earlier in the year. The ledger is even against the other finalists, twice drawing with Perth while and winning once and losing once to Swan. The key for the club is goalkeeper Robert Zabica who has been instrumental in their charge up the table this year and he's been ably supported by a very stable defence of Jamie Goodman, captain Stephen MacDonald and the experienced Alex Cummings. At the other end the goals appear to have dried up for club leading scorer Paul Lincoln but, thankfully for United, midfielder Lee Crosby and Alex Josifovski have stepped in to fill the breach.
After a great start to their campaign which saw them win their opening 6 games, Swan I.C. hit the skids and didn't really recover until the last five weeks of the winter when their record read - won four, drawn one, lost one. None the less, it's been a remarkable return to the top flight for the club and their re-discovery of form has come at the right time and includes two thumping wins by large margins (5-2 over ECU Joondalup and 7-1 against the Bayswater City Panthers). Against the other finalists though things are not so rosey - two losses to City (both 1-2), two draws with the Knights (2-2, 0-0) and a win and a loss against Perth (1-0, 0-2) and United (1-0, 0-4). They'll be hoping Nigel Aubin can locate his goal scoring boots for the finals having seemingly lost them in second half of the winter. It's in the middle of the park that they are strongest where James Dimmock, Justin Hugo and Rory Mouttet will need to be on top of their game for the side to advance.
With the finalists having held positions in the top five for the better part of the winter, it promises to be a very tight Champion Of Champions series. And although all five are worthy of their place in the play-offs, there are only three teams in the running from my point of view. The gap between Swan I.C. and Inglewood United and the rest of the field will be too much for either to overcome and I expect these two clubs to dip out in the early stages. The Knights will be the first side through to the Final but will face the challenge of playing two Cup Finals in the space of a week too daunting a prospect (they face Sorrento in the Boral Cup Final on 8th October). City will dispose of Perth in the Preliminary Final before taking out the decider a fortnight later at Litis Stadium.
Floreat Athena striker Vas Kalogeracos is performing well in trials with NSL club South Melbourne, setting-up the third goal in their 3-1 victory over Carlton last weekend. He is reportedly involved in contract negoiations with the club at the current time.
Robbie Puca has returned from Europe where he has spent several months trialling with several clubs. He immediately re-joined Eastern Pride for the pre-season Tynan-Eyre Cup.
Having put over a dozen players through their paces last week, Bernd Stange and Mich D'Avray have invited back only two players - Alex Josifiovski (Inglewood United) and Micheal Mirco (Fremantle City) - for further sessions with the full Perth Glory squad this week.
Fremantle City midfielder Joe Vaz has returned to his club for the play-offs having been unsuccessful at landing a contract in Portugal. And the two other City boys trying their luck in Europe have moved on from their first port of call Middlesbrough - Michael Vaz is currently training with the youth squad at Sporting Lisbon, while Sydney Blundson is visiting family and knocking on doors in France.
Also abroad at the moment is Balcatta High School student Daniel Stoitis who is on trial at Middlesborough. The 17-year old midfielder, who plays locally for Kingsway Olympic and captained the State Under-16's last year, has put off his TEE in the hope of securing a contract in the UK.
UPS AND DOWNS, NOW BRING ON THE KNIGHTS
Fremantle City coach Stuart Kamasz has had something of a roller-coaster week. Nine days ago he was over the moon at having captured his first trophy with the club, delighted with the way Fremantle had come back from the dead to win the minor premiership. It all came down to the final round of fixtures with the side needing to win against ECU Joondalup to ensure the title came their way. "They probably were the better side in the first half in as much as what they did with the ball. But the goal came at the right time just before halftime, and it was just a matter of keeping the feet on the ground in the second half, but always in the back of the mind there was the worry that Western Knights were banging some goals in. We didn't know what was going on up there until the last nine or ten minutes."
On the weekend Fremantle bowed out of the Boral Cup at the semi-final stage having put in a lacklustre performance at the WACA Ground against Sorrento which left their coach far from pleased. "We were rubbish, we couldn't put three passes together," Kamasz said in reflection on the 0-2 loss. "We wasted an opportunity to show people why we had won the League. It felt like it was a friendly we were playing in, not a Cup semi-final. Half the team were focused and the rest may as well have been over the road at Gloucester Park Raceway."
The team are now focusing on the Champion of Champions series which will be held over the next month, kicking off this weekend at Dorrien Gardens. With Fremantle having a weeks break courtesy of finishing on top of the table, Kamasz is well aware that a finals showdown with the Knights is a distinct possibility, and a game he is looking forward to. "We've done good against them in the last couple of years, they had the wood on us a few years ago and last year we were a bit unlucky. We beat them twice in the League and then went down to them in a penalty shoot-out in the play-offs. This year we've played them three times and we've beaten them three times so they've obviously got to feel a bit uneasy [about playing us]. We've played well against them twice, we played probably our best game away to them at the start of the second round in what was probably the best we've played all year. So they'll be wary of that."
DE VANNA DELIGHTED
W.A. junior Lisa De Vanna is a girl with the footballing world potentially at her feet. Having performed well at the National Schools Championships last month, the 15-year old striker was named most valuable female player - for the second time in as many years - at the Darwin held tournament in which the W.A. girls finished second. She was also selected with teammate Lindsay Jobling for the Australian Under-16 side which will tour New Zealand and Tahiti at the end of the year.
Schoolgirls coach Wayne Baseden praised the teams' efforts with particular mention of the girls impressive strike rate and some impressive individual performances. De Vanna said the WA girls team had played well and acknowledged the coaching by Baseden as an key ingredient in their success. "He is very supportive and did an excellent job," she said. "He gives really good tips, said the right things and everything fell into place." With her long-term aim to play professionally in the USA, De Vanna is hopeful the W.A. can take out the gold medal in next year's competition. "We would really like to beat New South Wales - they always win."
W.A. Schoolboy representative Rhys Graham has been up-graded from the shadow squad to the Australian 'A' Schoolboys squad for their end of year trip to Vanuatu and New Caledonia.
HELP FOR LOCALS
Thanks to the establishment of a new soccer management group, W.A. players will now have increased opportunities to ply their trade on the national and international stage. Under the chairmanship of Denis McInerney, and with the backing of some of the state's most prominent soccer coaches, fitness experts and medical and nutritional specialists, Sportsgroup Soccer International have targeted the pick of the W.A's talented young players.
Sportsgroup director Danny Kuzmanovic, a former State team player himself, said the company had identified 18 youngsters it wanted to manage and to develop with the aim of them continuing their careers in the NSL or overseas. Perth Glory coach Bernd Stange initially helped to train the three coaches aligned with Sportsgroup - former state coach Eric Williams, one-time Socceroos goalkeeper Robert Zabica and former state team striker Peter Murphy.
After an information session held last weekend for W.A. State league club presidents, Kuzmanovic acknowledged that some clubs might be wary of the company's motives. "We don't want to be competitors - and we're not interested in forming a team - we want to help W.A.'s young players and, in turn, help their clubs," he said.
The 18 players invited to join the program are Antonio Naglieri (Cockburn City), Troy Bernard, Scott Daley (Floreat Athena), John Mirco (Fremantle City), Steve McDonald, Oliver Taseski (Inglewood), Jamie Kuzmanovich, Louis Parkinson, Anthony Danze (ECU Joondalup), Stuart Banks, Todd Harnwell (Sorrento), James Dimmock, Elton Holmes, Corey Hugo, Rory Mouttet (Swan I.C), David Annall, Robert Pedri (Western Knights) and Michael Garcia (ex-Glory).
JUNIOR CLUBS ASKED TO SPEAK UP
The Junior Soccer Association of W.A. meeting on 2nd September confirmed suspicions held by the body that "no party has undertaken any consultation with junior clubs in relation to a draft structure being proposed by SAWA for soccer in Western Australia." (JSAWA website) Although JSA are yet to lay eyes on the draft structure, the body is of the belief that responsibility for junior competitions will be split between Soccer West Coast and WAASA.
As a result, JSA have requested all junior clubs to lodge written complaints with the Minister and the Ministry of Sport and Recreation outlining their concerns over this lack of consultation. In addition a petition is doing the rounds that will be presented to the Minister and which highlights the worrying direction being taken in regards to the future of junior soccer in W.A.
A GREAT SEASON BUT ...
Soccer West Coast President David Schrandt was interviewed on Radio Fremantle's Saturday Morning Soccer Review last weekend and spoke opening on the local competition and current moves within the game in W.A.
Schrandt was pleased as punch with the way the Premier League season came to it's conclusion with three teams still in the running to take out the title going into the final round of games. "I think it was a fantastic season," he said. "I suppose that the only downside was the lack of crowds, and some of the football that was produced this year was well worthy of crowds of two or three thousand people. However, we didn't get them but maybe if we continue to provide such tight and exciting soccer as we did this year then maybe the crowds will come back. Let's hope so." He also has high expectations for the play-offs which start this weekend. "It should be a good series, the top five sides have virtually fought it out neck and neck all season ... It's been a very tight competition and I think these sides will provide some good soccer."
The head of Soccer West Coast also discussed a couple of the more contentious issues to do with the game in this state at the current time. "I was a little bit disappointed with the comments Nick Tana made in the paper the other day with reference to a moratorium for 10 years on the new soccer stadium. It hasn't even been built yet and we've already got Nick saying I don't want any other club using it for 10 years, I think that's a little bit unfair," Schrandt said. "I think that if a second licensed team comes from Perth - and I think it will - it'll be terrific competition for Glory. W.A. has shown they'll come along to good soccer. Look at the Glory crowds over the last four years, look at the finals at Subiaco and the WACA. We're ready for a second side - not this year, but next year - and I think the soccer public in W.A. will flock to the game because they enjoy good soccer and that's pretty straight forward."
Fuelled by Mulitplex's refusal to publicly comment on or discuss plans for the new stadium, Schrandt threw a wet blanket over whether or nor the venue would go ahead as has so widely been reported. "Is the stadium going to be built? Is it or isn't it? I don't know. There are a lot of rumours going around that it isn't such a done deal as they say. I don't know, I'll wait and see what the government's got to say. I hear there could be a redevelopment at the WACA which may suit a soccer stadium or a soccer-type situation."
ASHFIELD/BUNBURY vs WESTERN KNIGHTS
In the semi-final played at Dorrien Gardens on Sunday afternoon, the Western Knights cruised to a 3-0 lead over Ashfield/Bunbury after the opening 45 minutes of play. With attacking midfielder Dean Nicolaou in commanding in the middle and winger Carl Medica supplying a stream of quality crosses, it looked like a matter of how many goals the Knights would win by. It took them just four minutes to find the net, Eugene Singeorzan sparking the anticipated deluge by stabbing home an Alex Christie pass. Captain Scott Devine added the second by blasting a smart Medica cut-back into the roof of the net after 21 minutes and it was 3-0 when John Nicolaou side-footed home another Medica cross.
Ashfield/Bunbury came out fired up after the break and it didn't take long for them to claw their way back into the game. Goalkeeper Phil Jackson began the fightback when he drilling home a penalty in the 49th minute and eight minutes later a brilliant diving header from Adrian Spinelli made it 3-2. Ashfield/Bunbury continued to pressure the Knights backline and it was only down to some superb goalkeeping by Darren Williams that prevented the underdogs from taking the game into extra time. The exit of defender Gary Bird for a second yellow card offence five minutes from time killed off Ashfield/Bunbury's dream and allowed the Knights to retain possession for the remaining minutes, knocking the ball around with the same confidence the team had shown in an impressive first-half display.
Fremantle United went one step closer in taking out the WAASSA Premier Division championship on the weekend after it defeated the ECU Joondalup Amateurs 3-0. With 2 games to go, Fremantle United are 4 points clear on top of the table and a win next week against Murdoch University will secure the league title, second placed Forrestfield United remained in the hunt with a 2-0 win over Spearwood Dalmatinac. Down at the bottom of the table sees South Perth United continue to struggle after its 5-0 thrashing from Morley Windmills. With only one win all season, South Perth are already sure to play in the First Division next season, joining them there is likely to be WA Maccabi who also lost by the same score line against Kwinana United, WA Maccabi must win their last 2 games to have any hope of staying up.
Mandurah City won the WAASSA First Division championship with its 4-0 win over Canning/Langford, Mandurah are now 7 points clear and now can not be overtaken. The race for the other promotion race is now hotting up, with Balga coming from 2 goals down to defeat promotion rivals the Cockburn City Amateurs 3-2 to move into second place. Subiaco blew its chance of moving into second spot after University of WA easily beat them 6-2. Lynwood Chile are all but relegated to the Second division after it could only manage a 1-1 draw with Cloverdale Chindits, the other game saw Geraldton La Fiamma travel down to Perth, only to lose by 4 goals to 2 against Carlisle, Belmont Villa had the bye.
Colo Colo already won the WAASSA Second Division league title weeks ago and are now an amazing 19 points clear on top of the table. A number of clubs still have a chance to join them in the First Division next season, with North Perth United on 34 points, the Floreat Athena Amateurs and Morley United on 32 points, North Beach 31 points and the Beechboro White Eagles and Naval Base Wescoa both on 29 points.
Yanchep are on top of the WAASSA Third Divsion, with the Stirling Panthers close behind, while Joondalup United and Kingsley are the WAASSA Fourth Division leaders.
FREMANTLE CITY vs SORRENTO
This Boral Cup semi-final clash between Fremantle City and Sorrento was played as the curtain-raiser to the Perth Glory-Slovakia Olympic team friendly at the WACA Ground. Played on a hard, unfamiliar surface which is the home of cricket in this state, members of the coaching staff on both teams questioned the wisdom of Soccer West Coast for agreeing to play such an important fixture at such an unaccommodating venue. Fremantle went into the game with the same line-up that defeated ECU Joondalup seven days earlier to claim the 2000 Premier League crown while the only changes to the Sorrento squad were the addition of youngsters David Foster and Glenn Thomas who started on the bench.
It was a nervous start from both sides with the ball being raced from one end of the pitch to the other at breakneck speed. Settling quickest were City, who made better use of the ball by utilising their flanks from where they carved out three great scoring chances in the space of four minutes. The first came after 7 minutes - a clever flick by Paul McVittie set-up John Mirco to drive the corner of the area, but Sorrento 'keeper Mike Harkness was well positioned to make the save. Two minutes later Trim Morgan was allowed all the time in the world to line up but, 16 metres from goal and dead in front, shot weakly and wide of the target. A quickly taken free-kick from John Mirco shortly after sailed over the Sorrento defence and onto which Dean Wallace ran, only for his thumping drive to come back off the base of the up-right. City were showing all the early desire but finding poor finishing and luck conspiring against them.
With almost the very next play, Sorrento took the wind out of City's sails by finding the back of the net with a well worked move. Playing the ball quickly through the middle of the park courtesy of some efficient work by Sean Bowyer and Ross Greer, the latter slotted it between two City opponents and into the path of Todd Harnwell. Beating the off-side trap, the winger raced clear of his opponent to hit a low shot under the body of advancing 'keeper Alan Dunlop, who would need treatment after bearing the full brunt of the Sorrento players follow-through.
>From the moment they scored, Sorrento never looked back. They started to string together some fine one and two touch moves to slice their way through the City midfield with Greer, Bowyer and Andew Chapman making life difficult for their opponents. The right flank belonged to Harnwell - when he wasn't bamboozling the defence with his nimble footwork, he was racing onto searching cross-field balls from Chapman and getting into the City defensive zone with regularity. Sorrento were making excellent use of the ball and made a number of very dangerous counter attacks without success.
City on the other hand were playing like a team with lead in their boots. They took far too long to get the ball forward, allowing their opponents plenty of time to get men behind the ball to counter their moves. And when they did eventually get forward, City's attackers were regularly the victims of a very sharp Sorrento defence who sprung their off-side trap with precision. With the ball turned over the port side were equally as slow in getting back into position, often finding themselves with too many men committed in attack and allowing Sorrento to turn defence into attack with ease.
Although Sorrento were dominating possession, it was a game played very much in the middle third of the park with chances on goal few and far between. In the 28th minute a the City defence failed to adequately deal with a high ball into the 6-yard box but Trevor Morgan finished poorly by sending a weak header at Dunlop. Eleven minutes later Dean Wallace did well to keep possession with several Sorrento men in close proximity but his shot on goal had little power behind it.
City came back into the match in the dying minutes of the half but still couldn't get a decent shot on target. As soon as they got the ball into the danger zone, Sorrento closed them down and forced the strikers into hurrying their shots. Harkness made sure his side remained ahead by racing out to take the ball off the boot of Craig Surtees in the 41st minute. Three minutes later came City's best chance of the half - Trim Morgan out-jumped Harkness to flick on a high cross but it caught Michael Mirco by surprise at the far post, the attacking midfielder not having enough time to get into position and ball flew uncontrolled off his thigh and over the bar.
The opening stages of the second period were marred by a few nasty challenges, most of which went unpunished by referee Lou Prospero (who is usually very quick to hand out the cards). Trim Morgan hauled down Harnwell, who responded by holding onto the City players' shirt to prevent him from racing clear. Shortly after Chapman was shirt-fronted by Dean Wallace who appeared to have little regard for taking possession of the ball. There were also several dangerous two footed tackles - one of which resulted in Prospero handing out his only booking of the match, to Sorrento defender Kevin Murphy - but the referee opted to give those involved a stern talking to rather than jotting their name in his book.
Fremantle City were looking for an equaliser as soon as possible after the re-start and twice tested Harkness in quick succession. In the 51st minute Trim Morgan forced the 'keeper into a spectacular diving save after some great lead-up work from Michael Mirco and Steve Bourne. A matter of minutes later it was a 25-metre bomb from John Mirco that saw Harkness at his best, diving to tip the ball around the post.
Despite these chances, the game was still being controlled by the Sorrento midfield and when Jeans was allowed to take the ball forward unchallenged before curling it narrowly wide alarm bells should have been ringing in the City defence. But notice was not taken of the warning and within two minutes they'd pay the ultimate penalty. With Tony Cumace showing a willingness to press forward at every opportunity, in the 65th minute he took possession just outside the area and made his way between a handful of City players before unleashing a blistering left foot shot that went in off the post. It was a top class goal worthy of the semi-final occasion and left City reeling and coach Stuart Kamasz with one last option.
Kamasz's last roll of the dice was a double substitution which came a minute later and initially it looked like being just what the doctor had ordered to revive City's flagging fortunes. They enjoyed a period of focused attack but for all their enterprise still could not find many holes in a Sorrento backline marshalled by Cumace and with Murphy, Stuart Banks and Scott McLeod standing tall by his side. Their best chance to claw a goal back came when substitute Joe Linguan made a stirring run which saw him take the ball almost half the length of the pitch before slotting it wide to Michael Mirco, but he hit it weakly and into the waiting arms of Harkness. In the end the port side were forced to play the ball high over Sorrento's defence in the hope that either Linguan or Anthony Periera would race it, but out-numbered by Sorrento players, they stood little chance of getting a sniff of the ball.
The burst of enthusiasm from City didn't last long and within ten minutes Sorrento were back on top. The way was lead by midfielder Bowyer - who was playing with more confidence the longer the game went - with several weaving runs through the middle of the park to send time City backline into a dizz. Harnwell and striker Ryan Jeans were also working overtime in the quest for a third goal, while experienced campaigner Greer steadied the ship and played a key role in making sure City didn't come back into the contest.
Victory was ensured by using every stalling tactic in the book. Besides a couple of late substitutions to break down what rhythm City could muster, Sorrento ran down the clock by knocking the ball around the back at every opportunity, no longer desiring another goal. But even with this being the case, they still had several opportunities to completely kill off the tie only to be denied the honour by Dunlop who was by far City's best player. The 'keeper dived full-stretch along the goal line to keep Jeans from putting the game out of City's reach with 9 minutes left. A great 86th minute chip from Thomas had Dunlop doubling back to keep it out of his net. A minute later Foster pounced upon an error by Dulio Xavier and the teenager was only prevented from scoring by an alert Dunlop who raced out and blocked his shot. And in injury time Banks sent a speculative shot from long range over the bar which never looked like troubling Dunlop.
At the end of the day Sorrento were worthy winners over a City side that looked as though they'd lost the desire to play, let alone win. It was a game won very much in midfield with the likes of Greer, Chapman and Bowyer eliminating the threat of their opponents usual playmakers and turning defence into attack with a minimum of fuss. Other key performances came from Harnwell, who was fantastic on his flank, and Cumace, who held together the backline and also had a telling contribution at the other end of the park. City seemed to have gone into the match with the attitude that - as Premier League champions - victory over Sorrento was not only assured but their right. Other than a few scattered periods, they lacked any urgency when on the ball and had too far many passengers along for the ride today with only goalkeeper Dunlop and his defence able to hold their heads high.
Thanks to the way Soccer West Coast had structured this season, Sorrento are now left in the position of not playing a truly competitive game before the 8th October Final. They failed to make the Top Five play-offs which will be played out over the intervening weeks.
Sorrento : Mike Harkness, Tony Cumace, Kevin Murphy, Stuart Banks, Scott McLeod, Todd Harnwell,
Ross Greer, Andrew Chapman (Glenn Thomas 81), Sean Bowyer, Trevor Morgan (David Foster 74),
Ryan Jeans (Jared Love 89)
Western Knights : Alan Dunlop, Dave Evans, Craig Surtees, Evan Wallace, Dulio Xavier, Michael Mirco, John Mirco (Anthony Periera 66), Steve Bourne (Cesare De Bartolo 81), Paul McVittie, Dean Wallace (Joe Liguan 66), Trim Morgan
Referee : Lou Prospero
Cautions : Murphy (49)
Dismissals : None
Attendance : 300 (approx. at kick-off)
THREE PURSUE THEIR HOPES
ECU Joondalup teenager Shaun Kilkelly is doing well in the UK where he has been invited for trials with several clubs. Originally at Southampton, he recently switched his attentions to Barnsley where he was involved in a friendly against the England U-21 side during the week. With the national team running out 8-1 winners, Kilkelly spent much of the match marking West Ham United youngster Joe Cole.
Another youngster making an impression abroad is one-time Perth and current Eastern Pride midfielder Robbie Puca. Last heard of in June when he headed to Italy for trials with A.S. Roma, Puca has most recently been spending time in the UK where he is currently involved in negotiations with Third Division Halifax Town after turning in several good trial performances. However, things are not all that clear-cut and it is expected that should the two parties not be able to agree on terms, Puca will be heading back to Australia where he'll see out the final year of his contract with the NSL club.
On more local level, Perth attacking midfielder David Onoforo will spend the better part of the next fortnight on trial with NSL club Sydney Olympic. Recently returned from try-outs in the UK with Southampton, Onoforo is expected to return in time for Perth's National Homes Champion of Champions opening top five game against Western Knights next weekend.
JUST WHO ARE THE CHAMPIONS?
Confusion reigns amongst the W.A. soccer fraternity as to who will be crowned that state's top club in 2000 - the side that finished the 22 game season in the No.1 position or the top five play-off winners? And to make matters worse, Soccer West Coast are staying pretty much non-committal on the issue.
Reading between the lines at what was said at the Spring in the Valley forum, the confusion appears to stem from sponsorship naming rights to the various competitions. Fremantle City, in taking out the minor premiership (for the want of a better term), are the 2000 Cellular One Premier League Champions which seems straight forward enough, they were afterall the best team over the course of the winter season. But wait, W.A. will have two champion clubs in little over a month's time when someone takes out the top five plays-off to be christened the 2000 National Homes Champion of Champions. So the question remains, just who are the state champions?
SWC need make some sort of formal decision one way or the other as to how they are going to decide the state's champion club. Over the course of the past few years we've seen that crown swing between the Premier League and the Top Five play-off winners, but the sooner SWC decide which one it is - and not switch it from year to year - the better for all involved in the game. Either the home and away season is a prelude to the play-offs which is where the state champions are decided, or the play-offs are a separate competition entirely which round out the season in the same way the Midland Brick Night Series kicks it off. At the end of the day, it's just another example of the ground shifting beneath the feet of the Premier League clubs.
ALL THOSE GLORY TRIALISTS
Last week there was mention made of a number of local players being invited to Perth Glory's pre-season trials. The full list of players from the Premier League competition is Antonio Naglieri (Cockburn City), John Mirco, Michael Mirco (Fremantle City), Alex Josifovski, Oliver Taskeski (Inglewood United), Anthony Danze, Ryan Fredericks, Louis Parkinson (ECU Joondalup), Nick Mrdja (Perth), Todd Harnwell, Barry Wiliamson (Sorrento) and Shane McNally (Western Knights).
The NSL outfit cast their net far and wide this year in their search for talent. Also in attendance at the trials were Mauro Capitani (details unknown), Phil Clittam (ex-Mansfield Town, UK), Jason Fermie (details unknown), former Torino junior Johnathon Palmer (originally from Darwin), Remo Pietropaolo and Libero Pietropaolo (from Albany), Davorin Suirac (details unknown), and Dirk Van Der Plank (from the Netherlands).
CHANGES IN THE WIND
Expect to see the face of W.A.'s Premier League undergo a radical makeover in the next couple of years. It begins this year with the relegation of the bottom three clubs who are replaced by the First Division winners, meaning a 10 team top flight competition in 2001. The league will be trimmed even further at the end of that season when the three bottom clubs again make way with only one promotion spot on offer. Come the 2002 season, the Premier League will consist of eight clubs who will play each other three times over the course of the winter.
Rather than create a Second Division, current Soccer West Coast thinking will see the First Division split into two geographical conferences - north and south - for the 2002 season. The top side in each conference at the end of the regular season will play-off for a single promotion spot to the Premier League. Of course, all this is still in the planning and development stage and is subject to the usual changes.
MATILDA'S HOPEFUL OF SUCCESS
Matilda's goalkeeper Tracey Wheeler says women's camp is brimming with confidence going into the Sydney Olympic Games and is of the belief that they are strong enough to be amongst the medals. Wheeler's prediction of Olympic glory stems from the teams successful tour of South Korea and China from which they've recently returned which saw the Australian side gain a confidence boosting win over world No.2 ranked China. "It was great that we could play against them and not concede any goals to start off with. And since we've comeback we've been scoring more goals against the boys we've been playing while attacking wise we're looking better than when we were away as well."
National goalkeeper for near-on a decade, Wheeler is planning to call it a day at the end of the Olympic tournament. She cites on-going knee problems and the less than desirable financial constraints of playing the game at the top level in Australia as amongst the reasons for her decision.
GOLDEN BOOT TO KNIGHT
Western Knights striker John Nicolaou has won the golden boot award thanks to a final round hat-trick against Ashfield/Bunbury to overtake Nigel Aubin (Swan I.C.) at the top of the leader board. It was a remarkable comeback from Nicolaou who found the net 13 times in the final 11 games to finish the winter with 17 goals. Aubin, who raced to an early lead but stumbled mid-season along with his club's fortunes, ended the season with 16 goals. Floreat Athena's Robyn Dyers was third with 13 goals while Carl McDarby (ECU Joondalup) overcame injury early in the campaign to hit 12 and come in fourth place.
LAZARIDIS TOUCHES DOWN
Perth-born wing-back Stan Lazaridis has long held the desire to represent his nation at the Olympic Games. The 28-year-old missed out on playing at the Barcelona (1992) and Atlanta (1996) Olympics, so when coach Raul Blanco named him in the final squad of 18 last month as one of three over-age players the Birmingham City player could not get to Sydney quick enough.
For Lazaridis the Olympic tournament represents something of a sporting rebirth. They mean the chance, after failed World Cup qualifying campaigns and earlier Olympic non-selection, for this elder statesman to be a part of a major international tournament. "I am being given a new lease of life," he said upon arriving in Australia. "I have been resurrected again and given an opportunity that I thought had passed me by. I missed out on Barcelona, and was too old for Atlanta. I want to do well for Raul, for myself, and for my country. This is a very big honour. You talk about the World Cup, but I think the Olympics is like that. It's great to get the opportunity to play in such a major sporting event."
Although Lazaridis hadn't played alongside many of his Olyroo teammates before the mid-week friendly with Kuwait, the pacy left-footer doesn't anticipate having trouble fitting in. He has known Blanco for a long time - their relationship goes back to their days at West Adelaide in the NSL - and several seasons at the highest level in England have given Lazaridis the adaptability and professionalism to adjust his game where necessary. "I know what Raul wants from his players," he said. "I have known him from my earliest upbringing in football. I understand the way Raul sets his teams up, and that's given me an insight into how he wants to play. It would be better if we had had longer to prepare, but now it's about getting the balance right, getting the cohesion and the right players together."
SPRING IN THE VALLEY FORUM
Before last weekend's Swan I.C.-Perth game, the Swan Italian Club hosted a soccer forum featuring an all-star panel which included a number of past and present players and administrators. One of the more intriguing topics of conversation was brought up by host club President Tony Scali who highlighted the need for SWC to stick to their guns and adhere to decisions made before the season kicks-off. Scali pointed out that the relegation situation was in limbo for much of the winter with clubs in the danger zone unsure if it was two or three that were going down after the 22 game season. Although it was said before the Premier League kicked-off that three clubs would be relegated, many clubs were later informed (through informal channels) that it had been changed to two down only for the original plan of action to be returned to just weeks before the season concluded. Another area in which the ground keeps shifting is who will be crowned the state champions this year (see elsewhere). The Swan I.C. President asserted that this sort of to-ing and fro-ing does the game in W.A. no good and that the Premier League clubs, and indeed their counterparts in the First Division, need to know that rules will not bend according to the whims of SWC mid-season.
THAT SECOND NSL TEAM
There are strong rumblings from within Soccer West Coast concerning the second NSL license for which they have made an application. Despite the competition expected to be trimmed next season to 14 or even 12 teams, the state body are confident that entry into the NSL for a second team from W.A. isn't far away. SWC are already making a play to get the majority of local clubs on-side by promising that, should their application for the licence be successful, they give over a 20% stake in the new club to be shared between the state league sides.
CELLULAR ONE PREMIER LEAGUE
Fremantle City chiselled out a gutsy 2-0 victory over ECU Joondalup to secure the Cellular One Premier League minor championship on Saturday. In a tense encounter, Joondalup took the initiative early on and looked set cause an upset with Jamie Kuzmanovic, Andy Mason and Sandy Robertson on top of their game. But it took something special to break the deadlock from home striker John Mirco who hit an in-swinging corner in the 34th minute which evaded 'keeper Gareth Deeg and came to rest in the back of the net. With the game still very much in the balance at half time, veteran forward Trim Morgan settled the contest 12 minutes after the re-start with a 20m shot that Deeg took most of the pace off but still saw roll over the line. Fremantle coach Stuart Kamasz celebrated the final whistle and capturing his first trophy with the port side by pulling off his shirt to reveal a t-shirt emblazoned with the phrase About Time. Having made the move to the club after tasting many years of success at Stirling Macedonia (now the Lions), Kamasz had previously taken Fremantle to runners-up twice and third once in the past three seasons. "It wasn't pretty, we were nervous and had to rely heavily on great work by our defenders, but sometimes the result matters more than how you play," Kamasz said.
Perth travelled to the Swan Italian Club for the Sunday fixture safe in the knowledge that third place on the ladder was already ensured, enabling them to focus their energies on winning the inaugural Spring in the Valley Cup. Played on a home and away basis between the two clubs, Perth started out a goal behind having lost 1-0 at Dorrien Gardens earlier in the season. In a tight opening half, there were scattered chances at both ends of the park with Perth forward Boni Botha in the thick of the best of it. In the final half hour, Botha saw a great effort cleared off the line, had a goal disallowed and was thwarted by a brilliant save by Swan I.C. 'keeper Cory Hugo after being set clear by Rob Giorgi. Scoreless at the break, it came as no surprise when Botha found he net again after 50 minutes to give Perth a deserved lead following some good lead-up work by Jamie Coyne. Swan immediately replied with a fine effort by Carlo Scali but Perth were soon back on the attack and Rory Mouttet had to clear off the line while Hugo was again busy pulling off some good saves. The arrival of Nick Mrdja off the substitutes' bench brought further problems for Swan I.C. as he continually found space losing defenders. Beginning a one-two move, he raced through the centre of the Swan I.C. backline to slot home the move of the match and give his side a 2-0 lead. At the end of the day Perth would thank some solid defending for a victory that provided excellent preparation for the finals in the month ahead.
Elsewhere, Inglewood United were held to a surprising one-all draw with the Bayswater City Panthers who took the lead courtesy of a first half own goal. United went into the clash with three of their regular first-choice players on the bench and found themselves under pressure for long periods before Lee Crosby equalised after the break. It was one point each between Cockburn City and Sorrento with the sides sharing four second half goals - Peter Petkovic and Pablo Caceras got on the sheet for the home side while Sean Bowyer and Kevin Murphy did likewise for Sorrento. Scores were level at the break at the Litis Stadium also where Ian Griffiths and Robyn Dyers scored for Rockingham City and Floreat Athena respectively. But a second half strike from Daniel Abbis made sure Rockingham's dismal season ended on a positive note and the three points.
In the First Division, Bassendean Caledonian clinched promotion to the top flight with a last gasp victory against league leaders the Stirling Lions. The Lions went into the final round with a two point advantage and needing only a draw to wrap up the title, but Caledonian came out with all guns firing in the second half to steal the trophy from their grasp. Two converted spot kicks from Gary James plus additional goals from Willie Grubb and Ivica Markovic made sure that the 4-1 margin would see their side collect the title. There was trouble at the Stirling Suns vs Queens Park clash which was abandoned due a ruckus in the crowd midway through the second period with the scores locked at one-all. Bassendean ended the season on top with 52 points, followed by the Stirling Lions (51), Dianella White Eagles (45) Queens Park (44) and the Stirling Suns (40).
ASHFIELD/BUNBURY v WESTERN KNIGHTS
One of the smallest crowds of the season turned up at Ashfield Reserve to watch the final round clash between Ashfield/Bunbury and the Western Knights. With the hosts already bound for the First Division next year, the Knights went into the game with an outside chance of winning the minor premiership providing they could achieve victory by eight or more clear goals to overtake Fremantle City who were at home to ECU Joondalup.
Played on a slippery pitch in light drizzle, both teams took their time to settle with scattered early chances. In the 5th minute Knights winger Shane McNally drove strongly and beyond the reach of Phil Jackson only for the ball to come back off the base of the up-right. With the visitors having the better of the play and looking the more likely to take the lead, it came as something of a surprise when Ashfield/Bunbury found the net in the 12th minute. The Knights defence was caught napping when a Joe Comito corner was met by Gary Bird who leapt unchallenged to angle a strong header under the body of Darren Williams.
The goal signalled to the Knights that this game was not going to be the walkover they expected and they responded accordingly. Stepping up the pace a notch, they almost had an instant reply when, two minutes later, McNally was again in the thick of the action - wriggling past two defenders he again beat Jackson with a blistering 17-metre drive which crashed into the crossbar. Dean Nicolaou could have put the side back on level terms shortly after but squandered a golden chance in side-footing wide from 4 metres.
The Knights had by now found their rhythm and worked to patiently built their attacks, slowly knocking it around the defence until room opened up further downfield. Within the space of a couple of minutes they'd not only found their equaliser but taken the lead. With 21 minutes elapsed, John Nicolaou ran onto a long, cross-field ball from Ivan Ljubicic to out-pace sweeper Gene Wyllie, evade the out-stretched leg of Daniel Trim and tap the ball past the advancing Jackson. Three minutes later Eugene Singeorzan, recalled after being dropped to the bench last week, put the Knights in the driving seat. A scramble for possession on top of the box saw the powerfully built striker take control of the situation, bussele his way through three defenders and hammer a waist-high ball past the 'keeper.
All the play was by now going the way of the Knights and Ashfield/Bunbury's frustrations began to show. This was none more evident than when Matt Pochroj, who'd just been dispossessed by McNally, hacked down his opponent with a dreadful tackle from behind that amazingly went unpunished by referee Patrick McCaffrey. The home sides only option against a determined Knights outfit was to drop forward David Mayers back into the middle of the park, leaving Matt Pochroj up-front as the lone targetman. As a result they restricted their attacking options to playing long balls over the Knights defence which it was hoped Pochroj would race on to. But he stood little chance against a defence which featured Andy Wright and Ivan Ljubicic at it's heart.
Ray Marinovic and McNally were encountering few obstacles as they drove their team into attack with some penetrating runs the flanks. In the middle, Singeorzan used his strength to muscle his way past opponents and create all sorts of problems for the young Ashfield/Bunbury backline. Dean Nicolaou added menace in his interaction with those around him while brother John was getting behind the Ashfield/Bunbury defence with alarming regularity.
Chances were falling from everywhere for the Knights. With 29 minutes gone Ljubicic came close to making it 3-1 when he sent a brilliant header just wide of the goal after a searching free-kick from Alex Christie. Four minutes later Dean Nicolaou floated the ball to the far post where Christie this time re-directed with powerful header which was brilliantly saved at close range by Jackson. Next up was a golden chance presented to John Nicolaou when sent clear by Christie, but the Knights leading scorer was unable to make the most of his chance with defenders closing him down from all angles. And a well rehearsed move involving Marinovic, McNally, and Dean Nicolaou saw the Knights carve a passage through the centre of the opposing defence only for Marinovic to shoot straight at Jackson.
The home side were finding their path to goal cut out by the Knights midfield and with half time rapidly approaching, looked likely to end up on the wrong side of a thrashing. Missing regulars Shane Fuhr and Damian Trim, the young Ashfield/Bunbury team's problems were further compounded when Daniel Trim was stretchered off after 24 minutes. But two minutes from the interval a slice of luck came their way. With a Knights attack amounting to nothing, the home side broke down the right through Matt Pochroj who skirted the sideline and rounded three opponents in the process. Close to the touch line, he knocked it low past 'keeper Darren Williams to Mayers who had the enviable task of putting the ball into an open net. The goal momentary lifted their spirits but by the time the whistle was blown for half-time the Ashfield/Bunbury players looked like shattered men, visibly exhausted having been out-run and out-played over the opening period.
Word filtered through at the break that Fremantle were leading Joondalup after 45 minutes much to the disappointment of the travelling Knights fans. With the rain increasing to make an already greasy surface all the more difficult, the home side came out fired up and confident of upsetting the Knights apple cart. Gyula Konscek was in particular an inspiration on the flank, going on a several jinking runs to set-up his team mates. Having made his way past a couple of defenders in the 49th minute, he unleashed a long range thunderbolt which flashed narrowly wide of the far post with Williams unsighted. Minutes later Matt Pochroj caused panic in the visiting defence by squeezing between two opponents and racing clear, only for Ljubicic to deflect his close range effort.
But it didn't take long for Ashfield/Bunbury to run out of steam and after spending 15 minutes on the back foot the Knights took the challenge up to the home side in devastating style. Dean Nicolaou forced Jackson into making a fantastic full-stretch diving save to fingertip the ball around the post after he connected sweetly with a McNally cross from the left. The resulting corner was played deep into a crowded 6-yard box by Marinovic where Wright powered a header back over Jackson and into the top corner of the goal.
That was the straw which broke the camels back and for the rest of the game Knights were on total control. Captain Scott Devine got more involved as the game went on with some dogged tackles to win possession in midfield while Christie chimed in with several fine down field runs. In the 74th minute sloppy defending allowed John Nicolaou to get between a couple of defenders on the edges of the area and fire a low shot home from 9 metres. And 10 minutes later came the goal of the day - Dean Nicolaou send a curling cross in from the right which saw John Nicolaou time his jump to perfection and place the ball over Jackson and into the roof of the net.
With the game well and truely over as a contest the Knights should have increased their margin in the dying minutes. Substitute Carl Medica exchanged passes with Damir Mikulic and John Nicolaou to get past the home defence only for Jackson to throw out an arm and prevent his shot from crossing the line. And a minute later Singeorzan sent a header straight into the waiting arms of Jackson when he should have gone for one of the corners.
In a team with very little to play for today, Ashfield/Bunbury's Wyllie put in a sterling performance at the back with good contributions from Konscek and gifted young midfielder Brett Colombera. But it was always going to be an uphill battle against the competition's in-form team who have now gone eight weeks without a loss. With players all over the park putting in and different players excelling each side of the break, the Knights must surely go into the play-off stage of the season as favourites to take out the title of Champion of Champions.
Ashfield/Bunbury : Phil Jackson, Gene Wyllie, Gary Bird, Daniel Trim (Andy Cornelly 24), Gyula Konscek
(Robbie Colollilo 71), David Mayers, Steve Gillibrand, Brett Colombera, Alex Cosenza, Joe Comito,
Matt Pochroj (Brad Pochroj 66)
Western Knights : Darren Williams, Andy Wright, Ivan Ljubic, Leon Russell (Damir Mikulic 66), Ray Marinovic (Tom Radic 89), Shane McNally (Carl Medica 66), Alex Christie, Scott Devine, Dean Nicolaou, John Nicolaou, Eugene Singeorzan
Referee : Patrick McCaffrey
Cautions : Comito (32), Christie (38), Bird (49)
Dismissals : None
Attendance : 150 (approx.)
HOPING FOR GLORY
Perth Glory have invited several players from the Premier League ranks competition to participate in trials at the WACA Ground next week. Trying their luck with the NSL club are teenage goalkeeper Oliver Taseski (Inglewood United), New Zealand international defender Adrian Sutton (Floreat Athena), midfielders Shane McNally (Western Knights), Todd Harnwell and Barry Williamson (Sorrento), and strikers Antonio Naglieri (Cockburn City), Nick Mrdja (Perth) and Alex Josifovski (Inglewood United). Also believed to be attending are ECU Joondalup's national Under-17 hopefuls Louis Parkinson, Ryan Fredericks and Anthony Danze.
CUP FINAL DELAYED
Soccer West Coast have announced that the Boral Cup Final has been put back until October 8th at the request of the sponsors. The game will be played at Dorrien Gardens. "Boral is heavily involved in the Olympic Games and it asked us to change the final date to avoid a clash," said Soccer West Coast general manager Paul Tombides.
The semi-final clashes will be held next weekend with Fremantle City taking on Sorrento at the WACA on Saturday as the opener for the friendly between Perth Glory and the Sloavkian Olympic team. The other game featuring Ashfield/Bunbury and the Western Knights will be played the following day at Dorrien Gardens.
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This page was last updated on the 31st October, 2000