Victoria and NSW Thunder have emerged as the front-runners after Day Two of the FFA National Futsal Championships in the Men’s Open Division with both teams winning their two matches played at the AIS Arena in Canberra. But the pressure is certainly on from both ACT teams, the Colts and Cobras, and Southern NSW Flame who are not far behind at the conclusion of three rounds of action.
The ACT Colts produced the surprise of the morning round as they stunned their ACT counterparts, the Cobras, with a thrilling 2-1 win. A brace of goals from leading scorer Misko Naumoski did the damage at one end whilst custodian Kieran Stroh once again outlined his importance to the team with some outstanding goalkeeping including a triple save that was out of this world. Naumoski gave the Colts an early lead when a slick break involving Kristian Collins, Elia Salloum and Lukas Cole ended with Naumoski tapping into an empty net. The Cobras response was, as expected, frenetic with Robbie Cattanach shooting on the turn to equalise before half-time. An equally entertaining second half started with Naumoski re-establishing the Colts lead with a poachers finish following a goalmouth scramble before his participation in the match was curtailed after a robust challenge from Cobras ?keeper Angelo Konstantinou. The Cobras threw everything at the Colts to gain parity again but Stroh was in top form and the underdogs held on to record a memorable victory.
Earlier in the morning Tasmania showed the seeds of recovery after their 8-2 hammering by the ACT Cobras on Day One by producing some excellent Futsal in a absorbing 3-3 draw with Southern NSW Flame. Tasmania led 1-0 and 3-1 in the match thanks to goals from Andrew Clark, his second in successive matches, Liam Scott and Jacob Clamp as the greens clicked into top gear and showed a ruthless streak that was missing from their Day One performance. The Flame though was not to be denied and in Danny Ristevski had a player very much in form. Ristevski netted a well-taken hat-trick, including a late leveller, as the Flame notched up a second draw in as many matches.
Last years beaten finalists, Victoria, showed they will again be a force to be reckoned with even in the absence of their 2011 leading light Fernando De Moraes. The Victorians were simply far too quick and strong for their Southern NSW opponents and looked sharp in attack and formidable in defence winning 5-1. Andre Caro was in sparkling form and grabbed the first three goals of the match for his team, his second and third goals sandwiching a strike from Southern’s Mitchell Del Turco. Jonathan Barrientos and Kui Mu added to the score sheet in the second half in a commanding display that will have pleased Coach Paul Vidic.
The final match of the morning session was the highly anticipated all-NSW match-up between Thunder and Lightning. History tells us that games between the two are usually close affairs and this edition in the long-standing saga was no different. There was plenty of huff and puff and no lack of effort from both teams with some staunch defensive play from the Lightning’s Tim Simpson keeping the Thunder at bay. In attack the Thunder appeared to have slightly more imagination than their opposition and in Chris Zeballos a striker of some repute. It was therefore no surprise when Zeballos spun to pen the scoring in the first half. That goal was the difference between the teams until late in the second half when excellent approach work from Jarrod Basger allowed Greg Giovenali the simplest of finishes to make it 2-0 Thunder and ensure they emerged triumphant.
The Thunder were first on court in the afternoon session and wasted little time in despatching Tasmania 5-0 in a match severely disrupted to a nasty looking thumb injury to Tasmanian goalkeeper Liam Ferrall. The shot-stopper injured himself making one of a number of astonishing saves that kept the Thunder out. The favourites had taken the lead on five minutes via a cute deflection from Chris Zeballos and doubled that nine minutes later when Daine Merrin flicked a delightful finish over Ferrall from close range. Miles Downie added the first of his hat-trick with a scintillating drive before half-time as the Thunder moved into cruise control. Despite the stop-start nature of the second half Downie was able to add two more goals to his tally to complete a routine victory.
A ding-dong battle ensued in the next fixture of the day as Southern NSW Flame preserved their unbeaten record with a third draw in three matches as their clash with ACT Colts ended 3-3. A blistering drive from Doug Woodwiss had the Flame in front early on only for a wonderful free-kick from Lukas Cole to draw the Colts back on even terms. Just before the break the Flame went in front for the second time when Michael Oliveria hit a low shot beyond the reach of the impressive Kieran Stroh to give Southern a 2-1 lead at the interval. After the break the Colts made it 2-2 when a shot from Elia Salloum deflected in off Kristian Collins for a fortuitous goal. There was also a touch of fortune about the way the Colts took the lead as Cole hit a shot from distance that deceived the Flames keeper and squeezed into the net. Any thoughts of a home win were dispelled though as Danny Ristevski reacted quickest to a shot that was parried by Stroh to knock in his fourth goal of the championships from close range and earn team two points.
After their loss to the ACT Colts the ACT Cobras needed a response in the afternoon match against Southern NSW and they responded by racking up a convincing 5-1 victory. Southern were looking to surprise their hosts and took the lead in the first thirty seconds when Robert Foti put away a half-chance. The Cobras though were far from undaunted and replied in quick-time with George Cattanach striking less than three minutes later. Cattanach added his fourth goal of the tournament shortly afterwards, tapping in off the post from close in as the Cobras took a lead into the break. It was very much business as usual in the second half as well with further goals added by Daniel Fulton, sliding the ball under the keeper after a slaloming run, Pat Ross-Magee, crashing in a shot on the turn, and Travis Dries.
In the final men’s open action of the day Victoria built on their 5-1 morning win over Southern NSW Flame with perhaps their best showing of the tournament to date as they defeated a strong NSW Lightning 5-0. The Victorians were effectively home and dry by the mid-point of this tie with the speedy Joao Da Silva notching a brace within the opening ten minutes to leave the Lightning chasing the match. As they attempted to force their way back into the game, Victoria hit them on the break and Oner Simsek made it three with a shot that deflected off a hapless Lightning defender. Da Silva continued his hot streak in front of goal in the second half completing his hat-trick with Ahmed Azzam rounding off the scoring with goal number five.
Tasmania 3 (Andrew Clark, Liam Scott, Jacob Clamp) Southern NSW Flame 3 (Danny Ristevski (3))
Victoria 5 (Andre Caro (3), Jonathan Barrientos, Kui Mu) Southern NSW 1 (Mitchell Del Turo)
ACT Cobras 1 (Robbie Cattanach) ACT Colts 2 (Misko Naumoski (2))
NSW Lightning 0 NSW Thunder 2 (Chris Zeballos, Greg Giovenali)
NSW Thunder 5 (Miles Downie (3), Chris Zeballos, Daine Merrin) Tasmania 0
Southern NSW Flame 3 (Doug Woodwiss, Michael Oliveria, Danny Ristevski) ACT Colts Lukas Cole (2), Kristian Collins)
ACT Cobras 5 (George Cattanach (2), Daniel Fulton, Pat Ross-Magee, Travis Dries) Southern NSW 1 (Robert Foti)
NSW Lightning 0 Victoria 5 (Joao Da Silva (3), Oner Simsek, Ahmed Azzam)
3pts ? WIN, 2pts ? Score Draw, 1pt ? No-Score Draw
4 George CATTANACH (ACT Cobras), Danny RISTEVSKI (Southern NSW Flame)
3 MIsko NAUMOSKI (ACT Colts), Miles DOWNIE, Chris ZEBALLOS (NSW Thunder), Joao DA SILVA, Andre CARO (Victoria)
2 Robbie CATTANACH, Travis DRIES, Daniel FULTON, Jason O’DWYER (ACT Cobras), Lukas COLE (ACT Colts), Andrew CLARK (Tasmania), Oner SIMSEK (Victoria)
1 Trent FLANIGAN, Pat ROSS-MAGEE (ACT Cobras), Kristian COLLINS (ACT Colts), Giacomo DI MENTO (NSW Lightning), Greg GIOVENALI, Daine MERRIN (NSW Thunder), Peter GAFFNEY, Mitchell DEL TURO, Robert FOTI (Southern NSW), Russel CRIGHTON, Michael OLIVERIA, Doug WOODWISS (Southern NSW Flame), Jacob CLAMP, Joshua QUAN, Liam SCOTT (Tasmania), Ahmed AZZAM, Jonathan BARRIENTOS, Kui MU (Victoria)