NPL Men’s NNSW Finals Week One Review: Weston end Maitland’s campaign and Magic join Lambton in the major semi-final

Qualifying Final 
Broadmeadow Magic FC 4-2 Charlestown Azzurri FC  

Broadmeadow Magic are through to the major semi-final following a 4-2 victory in front of a home crowd at Magic Park against Charlestown Azzurri on Sunday. 

The hosts opened the scoring in the 14th minute when Will Ingram beat Charlestown’s goalkeeper Ben McNamara at his near stick with a powerful strike from the left after charging into the 18-yard box onto a Keanu Moore pass. 

The crossbar denied Magic a second goal in the 20th minute when Ben Diamond got onto the end of a Bailey Wells free kick, only for his headed attempt to strike Taylor Regan and bounce away off the woodwork. 

McNamara also denied Magic a second goal, who was instrumental as he made eight saves in the opening half hour to keep his side in the game. His eighth led to a corner kick in the 31st minute as the Magic onslaught continued and this time there was no stopping the hosts. Wells curled in the cross from the left and Jayden Stewardson headed the ball into the bottom right corner. 

But Azzurri muscled their way into the match and pulled one back before half-time when Jacob Melling buried a penalty kick into the bottom left corner after Harrison Frendo had pinched the ball off Dominik Brymora in the box before being fouled by Xander Woweries. 

Broadmeadow came out of the half-time break full of intent and a sensational strike from James Kresnar from 25 yards out restored the home side’s two-goal lead as the score became 3-1. 

The task at hand became much more difficult for Charlestown when they went down a man in the 72nd minute after Jethro Elkington received a second yellow card only 14 minutes after entering the field as a substitute,  

But Azzurri continued their pursuit of their second goal and they found it in the 79th minute when Callum Bower made a brilliant overlapping run down the right edge and picked out Rene Ferguson with a pin-point cross, and the striker headed his shot across Magic’s goalkeeper Cesar Serpa and into the bottom right corner. 

Charlestown then pushed hard for an equaliser to force extra time, but Magic put the game away 40 seconds into injury time when Riley Smith tapped home a misguided Sam Kamper strike at the back stick to make the final score 4-2. 

Broadmeadow Magic’s coach John Bennis was thrilled with his side’s performance in what was his maiden first grade finals match as a coach after he won many as a Magic player. 

“The boys were really good today and I’m super pleased,” Bennis said. 

“Our group are very intelligent and they pick up things really quick. The way they execute game plans, I have to give them a lot of credit. They are really clever and it’s really impressive to watch. They are only young men too and still have years left in them. It’s really exciting. 

“I thought we brought a lot of effort and energy into the game. We controlled the tempo for most of the game and played it at the speed we wanted to. 

“There were times that we lost our way a little bit, but I’m really happy overall.” 

Magic’s victory has set up an intriguing match-up in this weekend’s Major Semi-Final against Lambton as two of the most dominant clubs in NNSW NPL history go head-to-head for a spot in this year’s Grand Final. 

Charlestown are still alive despite their loss and will have a chance to meet the loser of the major semi-final in the preliminary final if they can knock off Weston in the minor semi-final this weekend.  

The Bears won 2-0 against Maitland away from home on Saturday in the Elimination Final to advance to week two of the finals series and book a contest against Azzurri, in which both sides’ seasons are on the line. 

Elimination Final 
Maitland FC 0-2 Weston Workers FC  

Weston produced a classy 90-minute performance against Maitland at Cooks Square Park on Saturday where they won 2-0 to advance to the semi-finals and end the Magpies’ season. 

Both sides had their chances in the opening half of the elimination final but neither were able to find the back of the net.  

Weston had the better of possession and opportunities and they came close to scoring on several occasions but were denied by the woodwork, quality goalkeeping and scrambling Maitland defence. 

Weston continued where they left off in the second stanza and gained ascendancy once more. Their ball movement and build-up play were superb and there was a sense around the ground that a goal was coming. 

The pressure eventually broke through in the 58th minute with a stunning solo effort that put the Bears in front.  

Weston’s right fullback Joseph O’Connor charged onto a Yuta Konagaya pass just inside the Magpies’ half and drove forward, beating several defenders on his way to the left edge before unleashing a powerful left-footed strike from just outside the 18-yard box that soared across Maitland’s goalkeeper Taylor Pate and into the top right corner. 

Connor Evans was superb throughout the contest as he, Konagaya and Paul Sichalwe controlled the game well in the midfield.  

Evans was rewarded in the 68th minute when he doubled Weston’s lead after intercepting a pass between Maitland defenders and running away to place a one-on-one strike into the bottom right corner. 

Maitland pushed hard to pull one back in an attempt to keep their season alive, but Weston were simply too well-organised and limited the Magpies’ chances. 

The hosts almost struck in the 92nd minute but Weston scrambled well to keep them out as skipper Chris Hurley was flew into action with adiving header to deny a Lachlan Webb strike before Aaron Niyonkuru cleared a Damon Green headed shot off the line at the back post off the resulting corner kick. 

There was just no way through for Maitland as the Bears prevailed in their first finals match since the 2014 grand final. 

Weston’s coach Kew Jaliens was pleased with his team’s performance but immediately turned his focus to the minor semi-final contest this weekend, which he and his men discovered on Sunday they would be playing against Charlestown. 

“Nothing to be proud of yet but a good feeling and confidence going into next week’s game,” Jaliens said. 

“We had a clear game plan before the game and it played out as expected, with lots of space on the sides, and we kept playing from a good organisation, which made it difficult for Maitland to counterattack. 

“We had some chances in the first half but didn’t score, so that was something I told the boys at half-time. Don’t be the team that just play well, you have to score goals to win the game. 

“Very pleased (with the clean sheet). The plan was to keep good possession and not to lose the ball in dangerous areas but be mindful of the passes you give and where on the pitch, and the boys executed that well.” 

Jaliens thought that O’Connor’s goal was sensational and an important moment in the game. 

“It was very important. As a coach, you can only do so much, it’s up to the players to create the magic and step up in big games like this, and Joey’s goal was one of those,” Jailens said. 

The Bears are now looking forward to another must-win match against Charlestown Azzurri this weekend in the minor semi-final.  

Azzurri went down 4-2 away from home against Broadmeadow Magic on Sunday in the qualifying final and will now meet Weston in the elimination match, with a spot in the preliminary final on the line. 

Maitland were one of the more exciting sides in the 2023 season, most notably winning 10 games in a row to fly up the ladder and into premiership contention after picking up just nine points in their first nine games. 

They only earned one point from their final three regular season games and were then eliminated on Saturday.  

The Magpies coach Mick Bolch was disappointed that the season had come to an end, but conceded Weston deserved to progress to week two of the finals series. 

“They were the best side on the day,” Bolch said. 

“I didn’t think we put on one of our best performances. We still had some decent opportunities in the first half, but over the 90 minutes Weston were better. They scored a really good first goal and they forced some good saves out of our keeper in the first half, and they hit the post as well. 

“They move the ball very well and they have good combinations, and they rotate their players really well through the top third. They were just a bit better than us on the day. 

“It was a disappointing way to finish the last month of the season, but there are no excuses. We weren’t good enough on the day. Credit to Weston and best of luck to them in the finals.”