Fate sealed but University fight to the finish

By Corinthian (Paul Green)

NSW PS4 NPL 2 Men – Round 22
7.30 pm, Saturday, August 22, 2015 – Lambert Park, Leichhardt

Sydney University SFC 1 (Peter Crevani 90+1)
drew with
St George FC 1 (Michael Yarnold 35)

There was far more at stake on Saturday night than merely the wooden spoon in First Grade when Sydney University met St George at Lambert Park than the outcome of this First Grade match under review here.

There was the important matter of survival in NPL2 for another season, with Sydney University trailing their opponents on the Club Championship ladder and needing, effectively, to record wins in all three of the day’s matches.

Had they not achieved the same feat a week earlier when beating Fraser Park in all three games then, they would have no lifeline whatsoever, but after that outcome they faced St George with a chance of making up the points difference if they could take all 21 points available, for the second week in a row.

As Lambert Park was needed on the Sunday for NPL1 Finals matches, this match could not be played on the same day as all of the other NPL2 matches in the final round.

But as these two teams were the only ones affected by the outcome — even if Mount Druitt began the day behind St George — but they were virtually safe anyway.

Due to other commitments, Sydney University and St George had to play their Under-18s fixture in the morning and then wait until 5.30 pm to play the Under 20s.

The students won the Under 18s 2-1 and thus spent the afternoon aware that they still had a chance.

But come 5.30 pm and with St George ensuring that all eligible players were available, things did not pan out at all well for the University side.

A win in Under 20s would be enough to save St George from relegation to State League 1, which would be the lowest division they had been asked to compete in since their formation.

Therefore the outcome of the First Grade was less vital and playing more experienced players here was to prove decisive.

University had to win in First Grade as well, so they could not afford the luxury of playing some of their more experienced players in the Under 20 contest, though they did resort to using Peter Crevani as a second-half substitute as a desperation measure.

With Zoran Ilic coaching the St George Under 20s here and his two sons, Stevan and David, in the side, the Saints were able to win the Under-20s, 3-0, thus guaranteeing their survival for another year at the second tier.

The students, by contrast, were doomed and all they could salvage from the day was avoiding the wooden spoon in First Grade.

Sydney University fell short of second-last-placed Mounties Wanderers in the Club Championship, but it would still have not been enough even had they won all three Grades on the day.

As St George were not at risk of coming last in First Grade, they had less to play for, even in that evening game.

Liddell heroics keep goal intact until …

The First Grade match was not going well for the students until the last minute of the game when Peter Crevani, a former St George man, scored an equaliser to save his side the ignominy of finishing in last place in First Grade, as well as the Club Championship, with the main game finishing 1-1.

Crevani had come on at half time in the Under-20s in order to try to rescue his club, with the Under-20s already down 2-0.

He was unable to make an impact in the 45 minutes he played and then went on to complete 90 minutes here, coming up with the equaliser at the death.

Stevan Ilic, gamely, also tried to play the First Grade match for his St George team, but he was too fatigued to last more than a short time.

The Saints had a man sent off late in this game, but had relied on a sensational showing from their keeper, Aaron Liddell, to keep the students scoreless for much of the game, otherwise the score could have been quite different and the hosts could have won their last First Grade match instead of drawing it.

Drawing this one allowed the University team to finish three points above Mounties Wanderers, who lost their final match at home.

In light of the day’s earlier matches, there was an air about the main game of far less urgency than there might have been, but all the same neither side wanted to lose.

Khushaba Khushaba found the net early for the students, but his sixth minute strike was ruled out for offside.

Peter Crevani took the captain’s armband in the absence of regular skipper, Nathan Sansom, who was suspended.

Having been unable to help his younger club mates in the Under 20s match, he gave it his all in this one to at least salvage some pride.

But, as with many of the others in his team, he was to be thwarted time and again by the heroics of St George keeper Aaron Liddell, who had been out of action for much of the season after fracturing his jaw earlier in the campaign.

He returned only recently and here was seen at his very best, saving from Crevani in the eighth minute. Tayfun Buyukkopru was also disappointed in the 34th and Stefan de Jesus towards the end of that first period.

But St George, meanwhile, did draw first blood in the 35th.

Michael Yarnold, another who had also played in the Under 20s game, found the top right corner of the net with a well-struck free kick.

Not only Liddell came to the rescue of the Saints in a busy second half; defender Daniel Zeleny was there to clear off the line in the 66th after a corner had seen shots raining in from close range from a number of University hot-shots.

Finally the lone goal came for the home side, Crevani weighing in with seconds of stoppage-time left and as a weary St George — with players having backed up and tiring badly, plus having lost defender Joseph D’Elia to a red card in the 72nd minute — could hold back the tide no longer.

Had the game continued any longer there’s little doubt that Sydney University would have prevailed, as so many Saints’ players were dead on their feet well before the 90-minute mark.

But for them, it was Mission Accomplished.

They finished third last in both First Grade and the Club Championship and that’s what the day had been all about for them and the proud old club who had to contemplate relegation at the start of the day and dug deep to ensure that it didn’t happen.

Uni’s half time substitute, Brian Caulker, must have thought he’d done enough with a 52nd minute header off a Crevani cross, but Liddell decided otherwise brilliantly tipping the effort over the bar.

Match stats:

Sydney University:
1 Marko Bozic (21 Patrick Ferrara) (gk); 14 Daniel Mifsud; 4 Kim Gyubeom; 43 Marton Vass (24 Jacob Blundell 69); 16 Adrian Porcu; 13 Alexander Sopina; 8 Khushaba Khushaba; 32 Tayfun Buyukkopru; 10 Santiago Rodriguez (7 Brian Caulker 46); 17 Stefan de Jesus; 40 Peter Crevani (c).
Subs not used:  28 Claudio Rosano
Yellow cards: Daniel Mifsud 36, Adrian Porcu 53
Red cards: Nil
Coach: Raul Blanco

St. George:
1 Aaron Liddell; 16 Joseph D’Elia; 3 Emanuel Elali; 5 Daniell Zeleny (c); 10 Michael Yarnold (20 Lenox Tweneboa 75); 6 Ali Nasreddine; 15 Peter Pelekanos; 18 Anthony Abi-Arrage; 27 Jacob Sullivan; 11 Wassim Hijazi; 19 Stevan Ilic (7 Matt Sadler 18, 30 David Ilic 55).
Subs not used: 17 David Hamilton (gk); 38 Thomas Menton
Yellow cards: Wassim Hijazi 42, Aaron Liddell 90+1
Red cards: Joseph D’Elia 72
Caretaker-coach Mark Abi-Arrage

Referee: Ryan Shepheard

By Corinthian (Paul Green)