National Youth League - 2011/2012 - Season 4

Victory in Melbourne youth thriller
By Zee Ko

2011/2012 National Youth League - Round 14
3:00pm, Sunday 5 February, 2012
at Kingston Heath Soccer Complex, Cheltenham (Vic)

Melbourne Victory FC 2
(Tom Pondeljak, 16', Christopher Cristaldo 70')
Melbourne Heart FC 1
(Adrian Zaha 23')

(Photo - Zee Ko for BOTN)

The senior match up the previous day may have ended goalless, but this was one derby that had a clear winner as Melbourne Victory Youths gained local bragging rights over 90 minutes at Kingston Heath Soccer Complex.

Senior players Tom Pondeljak and David Williams ran the rule for Victory and Heart respectively early on, but it was left to two of the youngest players on the park to finish off the job in the second half.

If you needed any evidence that a healthy competitiveness is brewing between the cross-town rivals, this was as telling an example as any as the largest crowd uet descended on Kingston Heath. The wild weather proved no barrier as fans of both sides crowded the stands and clubhouse on both sides of the pitch, eager to see the opposing teams do battle.

The warm-up was held in 32 degrees weather, but the forecast was rain and the ominous dark clouds above promised as much. Sure enough, it took but 10 minutes of the game just as Kamal Ibrahim came up against Jimmy Jeggo on the left flank. Feinting and juking for all he was worth, the Heart winger beat his man before Paulo Retre came thundering in with a brave sliding tackle to clear the ball behind. As the players trooped up for the resulting corner, the heavens opened up and the rain came bucketing down.

Both benches began covering up, the Victory staff pulling out raincoats and an overmatched umbrella while the Heart coaches and players cleared the seats and made for cover a short distance away. No such luck out on the field, as the players got stuck in. David Williams was full of running at this stage, driving through the Victory defence and playing cute one-twos with his teammates before the ball was finally cleared.

The Heart fans were giving it their all too in the stands, clambering onto the benches to give a rousing rendition in support of their heroes on the pitch. And a few opposition players too, it turned out. "You're a f***ing hack, Pondeljak!" they sang as the Victory stalwart turned their defence inside out. Victory's number 7 might have heard those lines plenty of times before, but surely never in such a location as this. If anything, it seemed to energise him as he worked tirelessly up and down the right flank.

The opening goal came soon enough, and from none other than Pondeljak himself. Striding into the box, the Victory winger knocked the ball into the bottom corner, before sprinting towards the opposition fans to take a sarcastic bow. Jeers rained down, as their volume increased accordingly. The home fans, seated and relatively well-behaved in comparison, celebrated with unconcealed mirth.

The rain slackened a little, and the sense of urgency that had driven the players on minutes ago seemed to die down a little. But it was no more than a false dawn as Adrian Zaha burst past a pack of players on the edge of the Victory box to arrow the ball beyond a diving Tando Velaphi in goal to even the scores at 1 - 1. "I just can't get enough," sang the Heart support.

Victory rightback Kwabene Boahene was having a torrid time so far as David Williams speed left him all at sea on a few occasions. "Kobbie quicker! Stop the cross!" Victory coach Darren Davies yelled out to his charge as Josh Groenewald found space for yet another cross into the box in the 30th minute. Someone in the stands gleefully mimicked Davies as the danger was cleared.

Williams was pulling all the strings as the game wore on, cutting in before blasting the ball straight at Boahene from point-blank range. As the away fans clamoured for a penalty, Velaphi collected before being tripped by Groenewald. Things threatened to become heated for a split-second before the referee stepped in and flashed a yellow card at the Heart defender. It was all getting a bit scrappy in the Victory box, with Heart in the ascendancy since their equaliser.

It was up to the old warhorse Pondeljak to seize the initiative once again, driving repeatedly at the Heart defence on the right flank. Breaking clear in the 33rd minute, Pondeljak cut the ball back across the defence but Luke O'Dea took too much time to compose himself and the opportunity to shoot was lost. Three minutes later, the ball runs loose across the Heart box and it was Pondeljak once again who was lurking, unleashing a venomous shot that flashed across the face of the goal and out.

Halftime saw the introductions of Stipo Andrijasevic and Billy Liolios for Heart, as David Williams and Paul Reid went off. Billy Celeski and Hernan Espindola were similarly withdrawn as John Buceto and Christopher Cristaldo, the pair of sixteen year olds, were brought on.

Pondeljak was still in the thick of things early on in the second half, orchestrating the attack as he cut into central midfield from time to time. Melbourne Heart's attacking duties had fallen to Dusan Bosnjak with Williams's removal, but the captain seemed surprisingly off-colour today.

Christopher Cristaldo's fresh legs were making all the difference on the left flank, and he showed a sign of things to come by beating two markers and motoring for goal. The opposition fans simultaneously suffered heart attacks as the lone defender desperately backpedalled to cover. With three defenders converging on him, Cristaldo managed to get a shot away that just cleared the top right corner of the goal. It was a difficult chance and a decent shot given the circumstances.

Conditions were getting really wet out on the field, and the wet ball was causing all sorts of problems. The game was by no means spiralling into a free-for-all, but the referee was booking every player that entered into a fifty-fifty challenge, much to the ire of both coaches on the sideline. One final throw of the dice from both sides, as Bradley Patterson replaced the ineffective Maycon, while Luc Jeggo joined older brother James in midfield.

However, it was the earlier subs who combined to devastating effect as John Buceto's cross was inadequately dealt with by the Heart defence. Cristaldo had snuck into the box and half-volleyed a sweet goal into the bottom right corner past the despairing dive of Nikola Roganovic.

Melbourne Heart's task was made all the more difficult as Josh Groenewald received his second caution of the day and his marching orders for a trip on Luc Jeggo. In fact, it was all Victory from there on as Heart's three men in defence were saved twice by the offside flag from the far-side linesman. Luke O'Dea had two final opportunities to put the result beyond doubt, but first his smart header was saved by Roganovic before his injury time effort was just wide of the right post after good work from Cristaldo to set up the chance.

Victory's win was their third of the season, after a winless first half of the campaign, while Heart's losing streak continued, mirroring the senior side's recent poor form.

2011/2012 National Youth League - Round 14
3:00pm, Sunday 5 February, 2012
at Kingston Heath Soccer Complex, Cheltenham (Vic)

Melbourne Victory FC 2
(Tom Pondeljak, 16', Christopher Cristaldo 70')
Melbourne Heart FC 1
(Adrian Zaha 23')

    Crowd: 4-500 est.


    Melbourne Victory FC :
    Player listing: 1. Tando Velaphi (gk), 2 Kwabene Boahene (15. Luc Jeggo +61'), 3 Nicholas Ansell, 4 Rodrigo Vargas, 5 James Riccobene, 6 James Jeggo (c), 7 Tom Pondeljak, 8 Billy Celeski (14. John Buceto +46'), 9 Luke O'Dea, 10 Paulo Retre, 11 Hernan Espindola (17. Christopher Cristaldo +46')

    Substitutes not used: 20. Marko Stevenja (rgk)

    Coach: Darren Davies

    Yellow Cards: Christopher Cristaldo 57', Luke O'Dea 75', James Riccobene 85'
    Red Cards: Nil

    Melbourne Heart FC :
    Player listing: 1 Nikola Roganovic (gk), 2 Adrian Zaha, 3 Kristian Konstantinidis, 4 Bradley Treloar, 6 Paul Reid (14. Billy Liolios +46'), 7 Maycon (8. Bradley Patterson +61'), 10 Dusan Bosnjak (c), 11 Josh Groenewald, 12 Phil Petreski, 15 David Williams (9. Stipo Andrijasevic +46'), 16 Kamal Ibrahim

    Substitutes not used: 20. Thomas Dunn (rgk)

    Coach: John Aloisi

    Yellow Cards: Maycon 30', Josh Groenewald 31', Bradley Patterson 80'
    Red Cards: J Groenewald 72'

    Referee: Brenton Hayward 5/10
    Assistants: Patrick Chaplin, Bradley Ower; Fourth Official: Greg Gontscharow

    BOTN players to watch (pts 3,2,1):
    3. Tom Pondeljak (MV); 2. David Williams (MH); 1. Christopher Cristaldo (MV)

    Game rating: 9/10

    Pitch rating: 6/10

    Match Report and ratings: by Zee Ko

(Photo - Zee Ko for BOTN)

Disclaimer: The content of this report is the responsibility of the writer. Stats are either as recorded by the writer at the game, or as supplied by FFA, or a mixture - no responsibility can be taken for their compete accuracy although we do strive for that. Any photos used here, unless attributed, are as supplied by FFA and used by permission.

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