Lions wear down Rage

By Corinthian (Paul Green):

NSW PS4 – State League 1 Men – Round 6 Catch-up – feature game

7:30pm, Wednesday 24th June  –  Rydalmere Park

Rydalmere FC Lions 1 (Lloyd Owusu 90′)
Granville Rage FC 0


Rydalmere Lions would have been well aware that their Wednesday night catch-up game  against closest neighbours, Granville Rage, had the potential to give them problems.

Even if there were six places separating the ambitious Rydalmere outfit and the Granville side, bragging rights as members of the same association in this derby game would bring a different complexion to proceedings.

Granville would argue that their lowly position on the State 1 ladder had more to do with their number of deferred fixtures than their abilities and the statistics certainly showed that they were a tight unit with a goal difference that was by no mean shabby.

So approaching this game Back of the Net expected it to be close, with the Lions keen to take all three points to assist with their very realistic title aspirations.

These Parramatta River rivals had different boats to row, but  they were certainly heading in the same direction. Progress.

One had the ‘Shore’ in their sights, while  the other had safe harbour to think about.

Regular Rydalmere keeper, Harrick Sinpraseuth, was suspended for this fixture, so in came Ali Jalilibaleh to take his place and an outstanding job he did too.

Before the game Granville coach, their former outstanding creative-force and frequent goalscorer, Mauricio Islas, confided that Wednesday night games were difficult for him and he only had eight First Grade players available, due to work commitments and some players being out of town.

Rydalmere not only had their regular-keeper missing, but their in-form striker, Lloyd Owusu, was nursing a hamstring strain and others, including some new signings, were sitting on the bench alongside Owusu, awaiting their turn to go on.

Well, ‘sitting on the bench’ was barely an accurate description in the case of Owusu.

The former Ghanaian international prowled the warm-up area behind the touchline almost from the moment the game kicked off, doing his own form of preparation that he needed, at age 38, to be ready if called upon, despite being far from fully fit.

Rydalmere coach, Tony Basha, well aware of his man’s capabilities, kept engaging his player in conversation, offering encouragement that he might get onto the pitch at some stage, if he needed him.

And that he did.

Basha, however, first sent on Daniel Vickers in the 59th and then Japanese recruit, Ryunosuke Hayashi, seven minutes later, so Owusu must have been wondering when would be the right tactical moment for him to be thrown into the fray.

The game was a real ding-dong affair and was quite physical at times, especially in the first-half.

Experienced referee, Dale Fuda, kept talking to the players of both teams throughout a gripping contest and was not averse to having a word or two with both coaches as well, when there needed to be an essential exchanges of words, urging the players to be more restrained at times.

When the tempers began to reach boiling point in the 36th minute, Fuda issued three cautions and an apparent caveat that he wouldn’t stop at cautions if they didn’t ‘cut it out’.

The second-half was a little more one of industry and a little less one of petty arguments over tackles and referee’s rulings.

There really was nothing between the two sides, however, this being a typical derby in every sense and it was impossible to tell which team had gathered the most points to this half way stage of the season, simply by watching the game unfold.

Rydalmere, beaten only once, by competition leaders North Shore Mariners, 5-1 just recently, would climb to second-spot, were they to win, while Rage, down nearer the bottom than the top, could improve their own standing with a few more wins under their belts.

Problem was, they weren’t scoring enough goals and were losing too many games by the odd goal.

They were boosted by the return of their captain and long-time team member, David Harding, who’d missed their last five games due to illness, but put in a solid shift, never looking likely to leave the field at any stage, despite being rusty in terms of his match-fitness.

In fact, Harding was probably ‘best on park’, as they say, at least until Basha at last threw on Owusu in the 70th minute.

There had been some anxious goalmouth moments for Rydalmere, with their stand-in keeper, Ali Jalilibaleh, kept busy as well as defenders making hasty clearances and Granville players being off target.

Not a lot was happening at the other end for Rydalmere who were working hard, but finding the Rage defence highly disciplined as well as hard working and Harding was at his imperious best in the middle of the park.

Rage keeper, the familiar Carl Mcmahon, who’s played at or above this level for many years now, was equally important to his team’s defensive effort, always looking in command of his area and ready to make the vital save.

Once Owusu took the field, though, things began to happen almost immediately.

He soon became a very effective presence in the penalty-area, bossing the game with his excellent first-touch and his instinctive combinations with fellow attacking players.

Rydalmere began, at last, to look capable of scoring and breaking Granville’s grip on the home team’s strike force, which had given nothing away.

Then,  Owusu struck the crossbar and the goalpost withing five minutes of coming on and there was a sense that Rage would need to step up even another gear to combat the power and physical presence of the former English Championship veteran.

Also Zakeriya Elrich began to become more adventurous, with Owusu beside him and tried his luck from 30 yards as well as setting up Amaury Gauthier twice for shots that the alert Mcmahon was equal to.

The minutes ticked away and still Rydalmere could not make the breakthrough that would earn them all three points, rather than merely one.

The ninetieth minute was looming and just as everyone was wondering how much stoppage-time there would be, Owusu struck.

He played the ball out to Elrich on the left and then raced into the six-yard box just as Elrich got to the byline, past a tired Granville defender, sending a low cross towards goal, where Owusu made contact with the deftest of touches to send the ball in off the right-hand post and into the net.

It was too late for Granville to do much about it, though of course they tried.

Every sinew had been strained by every player on the field in what was truly a magnificent derby match, full of industry and not a little skill at times.  Certainly both teams played with passion and dedication.

Defences were on top, for the most part, admittedly, but it was such an absorbing contest that few would have found time dragging at any stage.

Recounting the missed chances won’t help much now, but certainly Granville did enough to suggest they can win more games and begin to move up to a higher place on the ladder.

As for Rydalmere, as long as they can get Owusu fit and reproduce their best football week-in and week-out they can still make a bid for top honours.

The recent loss to North Shore Mariners was a real six-pointer and conceding five goals in that match would have hurt.

The return game towards the end of the season should be a beauty, but they have to hope the Mariners drop points before then, as they have a decent lead now and Rydalmere can’t afford to drop any more points if they want to overhaul the Northbridge-based side.

The Lions will be hoping Stanmore Hawks can do them a favour by taking something off the Mariners at Arlington Oval on Sunday afternoon, while Rydalmere themselves had better not slip up against Balmain Tigers on Saturday night, either.

Match details

Crowd: Approx 75

Rydalmere FC Lions: 45. Ali Jalilibaleh (gk); 8 Addison Sayan, 5 Salman Hassani, 3 Kim Cheong, 2 Daniel Kamel; 7 Zakeriya Elrich, 6 Julian Aguirre (C2), 10 Ballamodou Conde (42 Daniel Vickers 59), 12 John Fahmi (48 Ryunosuke Hayashi 66);  24 Amaury Gauthier, 23 Chris Camilleri (C1) (18 Lloyd Owusu 70)
Subs not used: RGK 14 Khalid Allybokus, 32 Anthony Frangie

Coach: Tony Basha
Yellow cards: Chris Camilleri 36, Zakeriya  Elrich 25, John Fahmi 36, Salman Hassani 89; Red cards: Nil

Granville Rage FC:  1. Carl Mcmahon (gk); 17 Jess Casey, 20 Matthew Paras, 18 Marko Mijkovic, 5 Mitchell Luc; 16 Calum Hedge, 7 David Harding (C), 10 Terry Pannowitz (4 Lucas Wilkinson 87), 15 Adin Scalone (14 Adrian Razov 83), 19 Stephen Vukovic (9 Charbel Haddad 68), 8 Daniel Bortalazzo
Subs not used: RGK 21 Kane Wallace

Coach: Mauricio Islas
Yellow cards: Stephen Vukovic 31,  Calum Hedge 36, Marko Mijkovic 66, Charbel Haddad 77; Red cards: Nil

Referee: Dale Fuda
Assistants: Dale Bromfield and Christian Layland

Ratings and miscellaneous

Match 8/10
Pitch: 7/10
Weather: Mild and dry, very light breeze

Players noted: Kim Cheong (RL), Salman Hassani (RL), Lloyd Owusu (RL),  RL), David Harding (GR), Carl Mcmahon (GR), Adin Scalone(GR)