Challenge game was a win-win for both clubs

By Corinthian (Paul Green):

Johnny Warren Community Challenge – Feature report
7:30pm, Wednesday 22nd July 2015 – Leichhardt Oval, Lilyfield

Earlwood Wanderers FC 0

lost to
Sydney FC 7 

(Shane Smeltz 8 pen, 29, Aaron Calver 27, Alex Mullen 38, Chris Naumoff 60, 69, Charles Lokoli-Ngoy 66)


Earlwood Wanderers, the former club of Socceroos’ legend, Johnny Warren, and recent Sydney FC and Central Coast Mariners’ star, Bernie Ibini, among others, hosted Sydney FC in the Sky Blues’ first shake-down run, ahead of the new Hyundai A-League season.

This was not the same Earlwood side that had lost 13-0 to Hurstville FC back in April in the FFA Cup Preliminary Round, as that game had come a little too early for the club to field a competitive side from their District team’s playing resources and that team had been cobbled together in an almighty rush.

Here, they were different again from their Canterbury District club side, in fielding an Earlwood Wanderers Selection team, boasting some invitees, along with a few of the club’s own regulars.

Some of their players were drafted in from nearby State League clubs and were perhaps hoping to catch the eye of Sydney FC, or other A-League club, scouts.

While the game was limited to two 35 minute periods and Sydney FC, still rusty from their two-month lay-off, won 7-0, it was a successful exercise for both participants and conducted at the popular facility, Leichhardt Oval.

It was a win-win for both clubs.

Ahead of their opening FFA Cup Round of 32 fixture in Perth against WA League side, Sorrento, Sydney FC were able to showcase their new-look line-up for enthusiastic fans, who had the chance to sign up for new season memberships, as well as purchasing souvenir Beanies sold by the Earlwood club, to commemorate their old-boy, Australian legend, the late Johnny Warren and his legacy.

While exact figures on how much was raised have not yet been totted up by the hard-working Wanderers’ officials, they did declare the evening a success, as well over 350 people turned up with the lead-in time limited to ten days, due to the need to fit in the game well before the Sky Blues’ were back in competitive action over in the West, early next month.

Sydney FC, on the other hand, whose Head Coach, Graham Arnold, was missing on this occasion, attending the pre-season Coaches’ seminar in Melbourne, had Arnold’s assistant, Steve Corica, proving an able deputy

The club set up a Membership Marquee near the Keith Barnes stand, behind the goal at the Lilyfield end and reported that the drive for new members was well worth the effort, though, again, no figures were forthcoming after a hectic evening’s work.

Earlwood gave it their all against Sydney FC and although they had to put off playing a domestic catch-up game to fit in this charity match, they gave a good account of themselves on the field.

Rolling substitutes certainly allowed them to keep fresh players on the pitch as they came under the pressure from a well-drilled and highly-polished Sydney FC, still in early pre-season mode.

Sydney FC had a couple of players watching from the stands, including captain Alex Brosque and the returning Ali Abbas, who’d been sidelined through injury in the second-half of the 2014-15 season.

Brosque had an able deputy in striker Shane Smeltz, who opened the scoring for his team after eight minutes, from the penalty-spot, as is his wont.

Chris Naumoff had been brought down, after displaying some slippery work on the right flank and proving too much of a handful when he cut inside into the penalty area, later scoring two goals of his own, in a game where he maintained a high profile all match.

Smeltz was able to add a second goal of his own in the 29th minute, just two minutes after a good cut-back from the byline by Naumoff had allowed centre-back for the day, Aaron Calver, to stoop low to head home clinically.

A mistake by the Sydney FC defence gave a surprised Earlwood one of their few chances in the match, in the 35th minute, with Vandy Kanneh firing just wide, after shaking off the attentions of a number of anxious Sky Blues’ defenders.

A tap-in, three minutes into the second-half, by half-time substitute Alex Mullen made it 4-0, before Naumoff was denied by a good keeper’s save in the 44th  and Mullen missed a chance to earn a brace in the 55th, when he scooped Robert Stambolziev’s pass over the bar.

But five minutes later Naumoff was more fortunate, as he easily struck from ten yards.

The remaining ten minutes of the abbreviated game saw another substitute, Charles Lokoli-Ngoy, a triallist, net nicely from close-range in the 66th and finally Naumoff got his second, after Lokoli-Ngoy had nodded the ball back into his path in the 69th.

It may have been one-way traffic for long periods, but Earlwood fans would not have minded too much, after playing two earlier junior warm-up matches on the pitch and sticking around to see their A-League heroes and make the most of the autograph and selfie-photo opportunities, this being the modern era when proof to the world that you’ve met your share of stars, not only had them sign your shirt or book, is essential.

Steve Corica enjoyed the night air too, by the sound of things. And it was a pleasant night too, for attending a game, with no rain about and no wind to speak of, on a pitch that was slippery at times, but mostly in good order.

“We were pleased with the result, we’ve been back a week training now, so it’s a vital hit-out leading into the FFA Cup in two weeks time,” said the stand-in coach.

“The longer we went on, the better we looked.

“I thought the new boys and the triallists (Yianni Perkatis, Mullen and Lokoli-Ngoy) did well.

“Brandon O’Neill, Riley Woodcock and Andrew Hoole did well and looked dangerous at times, but there’s a long way to go with those boys, because that’s their first hit-out and we haven’t worked with them tactically yet; but I was happy overall.”

Match details

Crowd: 400 approx.

Sydney FC: GK 20. Vedran JANJETOVIC (12. Anthony BOUZANIS 36’);  23. Rhyan GRANT, 25. Aaron CALVER. 5. Matt JURMAN (4. Zac ANDERSON 46’), 13. Brandon O’NEILL;  2. Seb RYALL (35. Yianni PERKATIS 36’), 7. Andrew HOOLE (38. Alex MULLEN 36’), 16. Riley WOODCOCK; 8. Robert STAMBOLZIEV, 9. Shane SMELTZ (39. Charles LOKOLI-NGOY 46), 11. Christopher NAUMOFF

Yellow cards: Nil; Red cards: Nil
Acting head Coach: Steve Corica

Earlwood Wanderers FC selection: GK 1. Samuel THORNE, 2. Foday KAMARA, 32. Oli SUTESKI, 14. Lincoln CHARLES, 31. Lahai TENGBEH, 10. Vanny KANNEH, 39. Anthony CLINOFF, 9. Dean BEREVESKOS, 54. Kosta NIKAS, 42. Addison SAYAN, 16a. Amaury GAUTHIER
Subs (Interchange): 53. Pietro NIGRO, 33. Jason DA SILVA, 16b. Elia TRITSARIS, 35. Anthony CHARBEL, 13. Scott MCGRAW, 15. Andrew PIRRILLO, 8. Peter KOFINAS.

Yellow cards: Nil; Red cards: Nil
Coach: Andrew Dia
Assistant coaches: George Markos and Tom Alexakis; Team Manager (and Supporting coach): John Doyle

Referee: Chris Young
Assistants: Leigh Pigram and Andrej Giev

Weather:  Dry and cool, little breeze
Pitch:  8/10
Game: 7/10

leichhardt oval2