Saints slay Tigers this time

By Corinthian (Paul Green):

NSW – PS4 NPL 2 Men – ROUND 10
3pm, Sunday 24th May 2015 – Mills Park, Asquith

Northern Tigers FC 0
lost to
St George Saints FC 3 (Stevan Ilic 55′, Joseph D’Elia 60′, Wassim Hijazi 88′)


Northern Tigers appear to have hit the wall lately, after a fairly bright start to their season.

They came unstuck again at Mills Park on Sunday afternoon, succumbing to a rapidly-improving St George side that made the most of their chances and defended well as a team, to continue their recent run of good results.

The Saints took away a solid 3-0 win from their visit to the northern suburbs and nobody could say they weren’t deserving of that, after a stout first-half and an opportunistic second.

The winners welcomed back defender Daniell Zeleny from suspension and the centre-back put in a solid shift in the centre of defence, alongside another recently suspended man at the back, Emanuel Elali, forming a formidable backline that gave the Tigers little room in which to wreak any form of havoc.

Zeleny, incidentally, married the previous day, was suffering from a chest infection, something he later revealed to ‘Back of the Net’, which made it hard for him to breathe properly, but you’d never have known it, such was the dominance of the St George defence on this occasion, with him playing a prominent part.

The Tigers were missing some regulars, Shervin Adeli and Daniel Stuart, for instance, but they still looked strong enough on paper to bounce back from some recent disappointing showings and they made plenty of running in the first-half, creating many chances that unfortunately they could not put away.

All that changed in the second-half , however, with St. George seizing the initiative and getting their noses in front by the 56th minute.

A second goal, four minutes later, made the home team’s task even tougher and in truth they never really got going again after that one went in.

Gun striker, Tai Smith, combined well with Lucas Dawson and Matthew West, in a strong move after only 19 minutes of the first-half, but West sliced his shot wide of the post, much to the relief of the Saints’ rearguard.

Smith was his usual busy self on the left flank and got something worthwhile going again in the 26th, putting Dawson through, only for the visiting defence to clear the ball to safety.

In the 35th Smith and West combined to set up Paul Davies, who’d arrived at the far-post, 12 yards out, but was denied by a top save from Saints’  custodian , David Hamilton.

At the other end, St George showed that they were far from being mere bystanders, with Joseph D’Elia on the right sending over a great cross in the 36th which Steven Ilic latched onto and fired goal-wards with a fierce volley, that brought out a big save from Tigers’ keeper, Matt Nemes.

A long ball from Zeleny, ferried on by their impressive wide man, Lennox Tweneboa, found Ilic two minutes later and the big number 19 produced another volley, though on this occasion the ball flew wide of the target.

Tweneboa tried a long-range shot on the stroke of half-time, after strong work by both D’Elia and Ilic, with keeper Nemes getting down well to make the save, only to spill the ball and then reclaim it before any Saints’ predator could pounce.

A relatively even first-half, then, with both sides able to take something from it after the break and see things optimistically.

Warning signs came early in the second period for the Tigers, though,with Nemes needing to race off his line to confront Ilic, who’d come steaming onto the outskirts of the penalty area to chase a long through-ball.

For a moment it looked as if Nemes might not get there in time and would tangle with the St George man, but if Ilic did appear to stumble, referee Jerry Bitas saw nothing amiss.

But those early warnings weren’t heeded, regarding St George’s ability to break speedily out of defence.

Lennox Tweneboa caught the defence out again with a withering run down the left not longer after that and with the keeper committed out wide, it was easy for the wing-back to tuck the ball across for the waiting Ilic to stab home, unchallenged, in the 56th.

Ilic was having a good time as the main opposition striker, showing a clean pair of heels to his markers repeatedly.

In the 59th he burst clear again, only to put his effort over the bar.

But that was of little comfort to the Tigers, as they soon fell further behind.

Saints’ skipper,  Michael Yarnold, played a key role in the second goal, sending D’Elia through, with the midfielder stroking the ball well past the keeper, after arriving in the goalmouth like a steam train.

Northern Tigers tried to regain some kind of foothold on the game after that, but were quite luckless, with Smith heading over from Julian Lim’s cross in the 69th and then Paul Davies, who tried to fashion something via his right-channel runs and crosses, as well as dead-ball situations, unable to find anyone able to translate his industry into goals.

In the 77th Davies’ cross, intended for West at the far-post, proved a ball too far for the Englishman, the ball sailing well past the latter, who was given a start on this occasion, after being more of an impact player in some recent matches.

Lim also provided an opportunity for Liam McConaghy, who worked tirelessly through the middle, for most of the game, but Saints’ keeper, Hamilton, was able to make another good save.

The third goal came in the 88th, via the trusty boot of substitute, Wassim Hijazi,  who’d come off the bench in his team’s most recent win against Fraser Park to score within seconds, this time taking a few minutes longer, but proving no less lethal.

St George have a chance to consolidate their mid-table position, when they meet strugglers, Sydney University, at home on Saturday night.

Northern Tigers, by contrast, will want to arrest a recent slide that has seen them slip from first-place to a few spots further down the ladder and a number or points adrift of the top two trailblazers, Spirit FC and Central Coast, who are beginning to put a gap between themselves and the rest of their main rivals.

The Tigers travel to Macarthur Rams, who are also out of form at the moment and will go to Lynwood Park with a degree of steely determination, no doubt.

Perhaps some of their missing men will return to give coach Steve Hurd more options.

It would be wrong to say that Northern Tigers played poorly in this game, but they did lose out in some areas, tactically, it might be said.

St George managed to exploit some perceived weaknesses, though that’s something their coach would not want to talk about too much, as he keeps his players’ minds on the job and leaves this match to the historians.

Match details

Crowd: about 75

Northern Tigers FC: 1. Matt Nemes (gk); 14 Julian Lim (17 Braden Cheng 81), 12 Russell Farrell, 4 Michael Rolston, 5 Samuel Porter (13 Jamie Craig 74); 6 Paul Davies, 16 Steve Baveas, 3 Lucas Dawson; 18 Tai Smith, 9 Liam McConaghy, 7 Matthew West
Subs: RGK 21 Harrison Devenish-Meares,

Coach: Steve Hurd
Yellow cards: Matthew West 12; Red cards: Nil

St George Saints FC: 17. David Hamilton (gk); 15 Peter Pelekanos, 5 Daniell Zeleny, 3 Emanuel Elali, 13 Lenox Tweneboa;  14 Andrija Petkovic, 10 Michael Yarnold (C) (18 Anthony Abi-Arrage 74), 8 Tarek Ercan (20 David Wilson 64), 16 Joseph D’Elia (11 Wassim Hijazi 83), 7 Matthew Sadler; 19 Stevan Ilic
Subs not used:  RGK 21 Lachlan Kerr, 1 Aaron Liddell, 40 Alexander Kontellis,

Coach David Perkovic
Yellow cards: Michael Yarnold 22, Tarek Ercan 32, Emanuel Elali 70; Red cards: Nil

Points, ratings, etc.

Referee:  Jerry Bitas; Assistants: Joon Park and Andreas Lyndon

Weather: Mostly sunny and dry, little or no breeze, cool.

Match: 7/10
Pitch: 6/10

Players noted:  Tai Smith (NT), Liam McConaghy (NT), Lennox Tweneboa (SG), Daniell Zeleny (SG), Stevan Ilic (SG), Michael Yarnold (SG)