Title and Relegation done and dusted?
As the conclusion to the 2011-12 NIKE V-League season edges ever so near, Round 20 was kicked off by 7th placed Ashburton and lowly Mickleham who sit in 11th. By looking at both sides recent form, one would have thought that this clash would have been quite low in quality – a statement that could not be more further than the truth! With last placed Richmond finding late season form, the pressure was ever building up on Mickleham to earn a result. Whereas Ashburton needed the three points to solidify their top flight status for next season. But it was the underdogs in Mickleham who came out firing as towering target, Ilce Koteski completed a perfect turn and shoot past keeper Harry Kitharidis. After smashing the post, Leonardo Correa and Tom Robinson scored two quick – and much needed – goals to swing the game in the green machines favour. As the first half grew older, it seemed that Ashburton were going to ‘park the bus’ and kill off any chance of a Mickleham comeback, but it was young Hammers’ debutant Luke Visevic who equalised before the break. The second half saw a lot more desperation from both sides as a total of 9 goals were piled on in what was very much a goal for goal scenario. Ilce Koteski put up his hand for a man of the match performance as he scored a further two goals to complete his hat-trick, along with setting up young Visevic for his second. While big Ilce was proving a tough ‘physical’ task to deal with for the Ashburton defence, Leo Correa proved the match winning difference at the other end with his fine touch and skill completing his hat-trick. Tom Robinson, in the absence of the red-carded Sofiane Soufi, had his best game of the season bagging a double and setting up Daniel Aranda. The best was certainly left till last as the Hammer’s Simon Pinsic had a shot from half way just before the final whistle, adding respect to the 7-6 score line. There was a massive sigh of relief coming from green’s manager Maurice Christiano as he has guaranteed his sides place in the upcoming FOz Cup and the V-League for yet another season.
Brimbank FC v FC Richmond (11-10)
Although the next clash on the card saw two teams in the relegation zone pitted against each other, both Brimbank (10th) and Richmond (12th) were desperate for the win as they chased FOz Cup action and mere survival respectively. As always, Brimbank fancied their chances against the unpredictable Richmond, although the Killer Bees had other ideas on their mind as a win would see them finally leap-frog Mickleham and out of the automatic relegation position. And it was Richmond who started the game the more hungry of the two relegation threatened teams as they booted three quick goals through Richard Arow, Roger De Melo and Guiseppe Amanoial. As has been the case all season for Brimbank, key forward Adem Alicevic was again on hand to single handedly pull his side back into the contest with a quick double to make it 3-2. De Melo missed a golden chance in front of goal to extend the Bee’s lead from less than 5 metres out – and with a vacant goal no less! – the crafty defenders inability to score came back to punish Richmond in the end as Brimbank scored a further two goals through Fikret Causevic and Emir Ameti to take the lead at 4-3. In the last major piece of play before the break, Richard Arow was yet again on hand to steady the Yellow and Black ship after he slotted past Mo Kuzucu from close range for his second of the match and more importantly made it 4-4. The second half was one of the most attacking, end to end displays of futsal that has been seen this season. Almost every shot on target went in for a goal as both teams defences broke down as many as thirteen goals were scored. Amanoail was yet again amongst the goals for the Killer Bees as he added four more goals to his first half single, but the small forwards efforts were cancelled out by the ever-present Alicevic who bettered Amanoail’s match tally by scoring 6! Similar to a Shakespearean play, the leading strikers (actors) in Amanoial and Alicevic, both had their supporting acts in the dramatic finale as Richmond’s Noor Khoshaba and Brimbank’s player/manager Admir Kablar – who last scored in round 12 – scored a double and a hat-trick respectively. But when the final whistle blew it was Brimbank who would be walking away with the chocolates and claiming their fifth win of the season. It is fair to say that Richmond probably won’t find themselves with a better chance of getting off the bottom of the table as they have their 3 remaining games against Balwyn, Brunswick and Pascoe Vale. It could be curtains for the Bee’s for what has been a very disappointing season. Brimbank on the other hand keep their dreams of survival alive, and with a league cup semi final on the horizon the immediate future for Admir Kablar’s men looks very positive indeed.
FC Prahran v Pascoe Vale FC (5-8)
Following one of the most poorly played games of the season, many were hoping for a more structured and controlled game of futsal, and that’s exactly what the crowd were treated to! One wouldn’t expect any less, being a blockbuster clash between two of the leagues biggest sides. Although Prahran is a side brimming wth talent, their task was made that little bit tougher as their captain and talisman, Maxi Avram was reduced to a managers role due to injury, where Pascoe Vale were able to recall silky defender and captain Mark Burton – who had been absent since round 15. The first half opened with a bang, as Pascoe Vale’s Ernie Simsek sent a darting strike to the bottom corner of the Prahran goal but fearless keeper, Michael Chami was on hand to produce a fine save. Chami’s efforts were soon rewarded as the Warriors took a surprising lead in a surprising fashion as Vadim Mazurskiy mis-controlled a Cam Holmes cross and turned it into his own net. Upon his return, Mark Burton led by example for his side by drilling home a much needed equaliser mid way through the first half. Soon after, more shenanigans were being had by Pascoe Vale as James ‘the Mercurial One’ Blackburn was not at his mercurial best as he turned in yet another own goal to gift back Prahran the lead. But when called upon, quality players are always able to bounce back and that’s exactly what Blackburn did, scoring a much needed equaliser. The Warriors probably should have found themselves in front of their higher ranked opponents as Marcus Barbosa and Cam Holmes were both denied by the upright, but in any case, ‘Paco’s’ Joao Da Silva scored a free kick in the dying seconds to give his side a slender one goal advantage heading into the interval. Former black and white hard man, Ahmed Azzam was facing his old team for the first time since making the shock transfer to Prahran in round 15 and it was to no surprise to witness the jubilation in his celebration when he equalised to open the second half proceedings. But Azzam’s smile was soon wiped off his face as the Pascoe Vale lads picked up the pace, with a second half double from Blackburn and a hat trick from Da Silva to kill off any chance of an upset. The scoring went right to the wire as Clint Mogoai and Azzam added some respect to the 8-5 scoreline, but Pascoe Vale were always in control. It was a great response from Paul Vidic’s men as they looked to bounce back from the disappointment of last week’s loss to North Melbourne, they with stood a hefty challenge from a talented side and can now look to the league cup semi-final and FOz Cup with a bit more confidence now. Prahran on the other hand desperately missed the presence of Maxi Avram on the pitch. Although on the bench, Avram leads best by his actions and it was clear what the Warriors were lacking. That ‘Magical Maxi Magic’!
Fitzroy FC v North Melbourne FC (3-5)
After seeing the fierce title rivals overcome a dogged Prahran, everyone in the North camp knew that nothing less than a win would suffice. In the aftermath of last week’s epic ‘El Clasico’ there were a few hefty suspensions that directly put the Viper’s title hopes in jeopardy, as Thiago Priori (14 Games), Adam Cooper (1) and manager Milton Sakkos (1) were all banished to the side lines. But in North’s favour, inspirational leader and last season’s M.V.P Fernando De Moraes made a his first appearance since round 8! On the topic of surprise appearances, former Richmond defender, Tony Masinde made a return to V-League action for the first time since round 12, but this time in Fitzroy colours! It was a good piece of business by manager Adrian Dortenzio whose line-up lacked an out and out defender. The first half saw a very cautious style of futsal played by both sides, but the difference between the two sides was a man called Fernando, who set up both Jonathan and Jason Barrientos for a 2-0 half time lead. Haider Noor came closest to opening Fitzroy’s account when he chipped keeper Christos Apostolakis with the outside of the foot, only to be denied by the crossbar. Moments beforehand, Apostolakis found himself in hot water when he found himself 1 on 1 with Tony Masinde, only to slide at his feet and clearly hand ball outside of the ‘D’ an offence which referee George Memiteas deemed as yellow. The second half started quite brightly for the Fitzroy lads as Juan Sastre hit a sweet strike into the top right corner which had Apostolakis well beaten. With only a goal in it, Fitzroy seemed to be heading the momentum swing, only for one of their own – debutant, Karim Jaik – to shatter any chance of getting a result. With no more than 5 minutes on the pitch, Jaik’s lack of awareness on the fast paced futsal pitch paved way for North to score three goals in quick succession from Alex Jankovic, Fernando and of course the mercurial Jonathan Barrientos. Once substituted, Jaik’s omission allowed Fitzroy’s free-flowing futsal to continue and as a result, Sastre – for his second – and Masinde both scored to add some respectability to the 5-3 final result. There were a lot of positives for the new-look Fitzroy as Masinde’s inclusion seemed to be the missing piece to Dortenzio’s jig-saw, whereas on the other side of the fence, if that man called Fernando wasn’t available…. Could it have been one of the greatest upsets that this league has ever seen? Coulda, Shoulda, Woulda. Now the Vipers look like they have wrapped up the club’s 4th league title in their history and the 3rd piece of silverware under the Milton Sakkos regime.
FC Balwyn v Metropolitan FC (11-10)
In keeping with the theme of ‘every result shaping the ladder’, there was no bigger game than when Metropolitan in 4th took on Balwyn in 5th. After being labelled ‘the unluckiest team’ last season, Balwyn were looking to continue their fairytale rise up the ladder and cap off a brilliant season in the top 4, but standing in their way were top 4 regulars and season campaigners, the ‘sky blues’. Immediately after the first half whistle, Balwyn pocket rocket Robbie Zadwarny continued his blistering form by scoring two goals in as many minutes to stun the blues faithful. But as has been demonstrated week-in-week-out by Metro, they seem to play their best futsal when under pressure and that’s exactly what happened as they added four quick goals from Tomo Grgic, Irzad Spijodic, Dino Redzepovic and a Mark Saric own goal to add some salt to the wound gave them a 4-2 lead. Moments later, young Mark would get his redemption as he bagged a quick double, including a header which would be the goal of the week, the Bullets would soon after regain the lead at 5-4 as Zadwarny scored from a ridiculous angle. But before referee Peter Kyriopoulous could blow the whistle for half time, Tomo Grgic bobbed up for his second to equalise. The second half was played out in similar fashion to that of Brimbank and Richmond where both teams defences were discarded in order to out score the other, with a total of 11 goals being scored. The Bullets showed their grit and determination to capture that 4th spot by out scoring their more experienced opponents by 5 to 1, making it a 10-6 scoreline with goals from Ivan Zilic (2), Tony Saric, Ben Bodo and the man of the hour Robbie Zadwarny. With the momentum heavily in favour with Balwyn, Metropolitan somehow found a way back into the game as Alija Redzepovic scored a hat-trick after a quiet first half and a close range tap in from Alex Stevanovic sent the Bullet’s hearts racing making it 10-9 late in the final half. But it was Balwyn’s M.V.P hopeful, Ivan Zilic who yet again settled the nerves and delivered the win for his side when he hit his third goal of the night into the top left corner and make it 11-9. But the drama was not yet over as Dino Redzepovic’s second yet again reduced the deficit to a solitary goal, and if it were not for some top shelf keeping from Balwyn’s Frano Saric, the Sky Blues would have snatched a late win as he saved a Stevanovic close range penalty along with a long range strike from opposing keeper Yane Coceski and with almost the last kick of the game he saved from Grgic only 5 meters out who in all honesty should have punished the young keeper. With that hard fought win, Balwyn’s dream of a top four finish seems all the more likely as they also have a game in hand against Richmond. It could also be said that Metro also have one eye on their ‘titanic’ semi final in the league cup against North Melbourne this coming Friday. It’s quite understandable as the Sky Blues have all but qualified for the end of season FOz Cup and in which they will probably end up playing Balwyn anyway!
FC Essendon v CF Brunswick (3-6)
To round off what was an action packed round of NIKE V-League futsal, top 4 hopeful Essendon took on an in form and determined Brunswick outfit who were on the edge of the top 8 – and safety! Looking at the ladder, it could be said that Essendon would be considered favourites, but in recent weeks the Wanderer’s form has taken a massive nose dive, where Brunswick on the other hand are in more favourable form, with a narrow loss to ladder leaders North Melbourne and a hard fought win over third placed Prahran. With Fitzroy suffering an earlier loss to North Melbourne, Brunswick clearly sensed a golden opportunity to climb into the top 8 on goal difference and it showed through their first half performance as they raced to a comfortable 4-0 lead in the first half. Mike Sharples was the chief catalyst scoring two goals, striking the post and setting up captain Mathieu Piga for his first of the game. Essendon’s only real involvement in scoring a goal came in the opening minutes as Diego Assaeda an own goal trying to head clear a Piga cross into the ‘D’ but all the Brazilian could do was sit back and watch as the ball went over his own keeper. The Red’s continued their white-hot form well into the second half as Ruz Roslan was quick to make sure that his side would be in the 8 for the for the first time since round 5 with a well taken double. But although with a 6-0 lead, it was not all smooth sailing for Brunswick as Essendon’s Peter Meletis scored a hat trick in less than three minutes to really send the Red’s too hit the panic button. But it was a case of too little too late as Nikos Ignatiadis’ lads overtook Fitzroy on goal difference and Essendon’s chances of survival look all the more uncertain with two rounds remaining.
Top Goal Scorers:
- J. Da Silva PVFC – 48
- S. Soufi AFC – 38
- A. Redzepovic Metro FC – 38
- M. Avram FCP – 37
- I. Zilic FCB – 30
Round 20 Clashes Wednesday April 4
- 6:30 Ashburton FC v Mickleham FC 7 – 6
- 7:20 Brimbank FC v FC Richmond 11 – 10
- 8:10 FC Prahran v Pascoe Vale FC 5 – 8
- 9:00 Fitzroy FC v North Melbourne FC 3 – 5
- 9:50 FC Balwyn v Metropolitan FC 11 – 10
- 10:40 FC Essendon v CF Brunswick 3 – 6
Round 21 Clashes Wednesday April 11
- 6:30 FC Richmond v CF Brunswick
- 7:20 Brimbank FC v Metropolitan FC
- 8:10 FC Essendon v Pascoe Vale FC
- 9:00 Ashburton FC v North Melbourne FC
- 9:50 FC Balwyn v Mickleham FC
- 10:40 FC Prahran v Fitzroy FC