St.George FA will take on Hurstville FC in next weekend’s Grand Final, after overcoming the SD Raiders FC in a dramatic penalty shootout.

St. George FA vs. SD Raiders FC: 1-1 (5-4 pens)

Only a penalty shootout could split St. George FA and the SD Raiders FC this Saturday, with the Premiers holding their nerve to book a spot in next week’s Grand Final.

Both sides started the game conservatively, cancelling each other out with solid defensive work but unwilling to commit too much forward.

St. George’s Fouad Umlil had the best opportunity of the opening exchanges, powering a strike from the edge of the box that was tipped over acrobatically by the Raiders goalkeeper.

This marked a change in momentum, with St. George stepping up their tempo and playing over the top of the Raiders. St. George were dominant down the flanks, but were unable to find the target with their crosses.

The Raiders’ best opportunity came in the 27th minute, with low and hard cross into the box finding Mark Symington. Symington’s shot forced a spectacular reflex save from Terry Dal Broi.

St. George’s Bill Tsanidis was a particular stand out for the Premiers, dominant in aerial battles and strong in to tackles.

A last ditch tackle from Tsanidis proved a saving grace for St. George just before half time, after a quick one-two with Mclintock released Fahmi in the box.

The second half saw the game start to open up, with St. George playing positively and continuing to capitalise down the wings. The Raiders looked to play more directly forward to Mclintock and Symington, but were wasteful with possession.

In the 76th minute, the Raiders had a huge shout for a penalty after Mclintock skillfully beat two defenders in the box and appeared to be taken down. The referee waved play on, much to the dismay of Southern District supporters.

Both sides became increasingly frustrated with their inability to find the back of the net, and things became heated as the game pushed into extra time.

Five minutes into extra time, St. George finally broke the deadlock thanks to a well taken half volley from Nick Napoli inside the box. The jubilation was clear, with the entire team running to the sidelines in celebration.

The Premiers slowed down the pace of the game in an attempt to see themselves over the finish line. Goalkeeper Dal Broi received a yellow card for time wasting.

They were unsuccessful however, with the Raiders scoring a stirring equaliser in the 116th minute. A well placed free kick from Aldin Tuzlic was met by a glancing header from Nicolas Colantonio, angled down into the bottom left corner.

For the second week in a row, St. George would have their fate sealed by a penalty shootout. Spurred on by last week’s defeat to Hurstville, this time the Premiers were more successful.

Both sides took their penalties strongly, until it came time for Raiders goalkeeper Tomislav Romic to step up. Romic sent his shot sailing over the crossbar. Goalscorer Nick Napoli smashed his following penalty down the middle, securing a Grand Final berth for St. George FA.

St. George coach Manny Spanoudakis was delighted with his side’s performance and their application throughout the 120 minutes.

“I felt we were deserved winners and controlled long passages of the game. At the same time, when SD did look dangerous in the middle of the park, our defence stood solid and defused their attack quickly and effectively.”

Spanoudakis says the performance was particularly impressive seeing his side was without attacking stars Sam Messam and Sean Richardson. He commends the performance of Janic and Lazarevski in their stead.

“The team was led well by Club Captain Adrian Webster… playing 120 minutes two weeks in a row was quite draining for the players, both mentally and physically.”

“They kept their nerve, kept working hard and got their just rewards… we are on week away from achieving all of the goals we set in January. It’s been an amazing journey and hopefully the best is yet to come.”

Match Stats

St. George FA  1 (Nick Napoli 95’)

Hurstville FC    1 (Nicolas Colantonio 116’)

Saturday, 17 September 2016

Valentine Sports Park 2

St. George FA: 18. K. Bangura, 31. M. Bozic, 41. T. Dal Broi, 15. D. Dascal, 5. J. Janic, 13. M. Kamara, 4. C. Lawson, 19. J. Lazarevski, 8. N. Napoli, 12. H. Silva Neto, 10. J. Spanoudakis, 2. S. Thomas, 3. B. Tsanidis, 20. J. Tsironis, 9. F. Umlil, 6. A. Webster.

Yellow Cards: 6. A. Webster

Red Cards: N/A

SD Raiders FC: 11. M. Atlagic, 24. J. Cenatiempo, 29. N. Colantonio, 15. M. D’Alessandro, 10. J. Fahmi, 21. D. Martinez, 9. M. Mclintock, 18. J. Mensah, 4. N. Niski, 5. G. Opacic, 8. J. Raiti, 19. R. Romeo, 23. T. Romic, 17. D. Smith, 14. M. Symington, 20. A. Tuzlic.

Yellow Cards: N/A

Red Cards: N/A