NPL Men’s NNSW Finals Week Two Review: Lambton outgun Magic to storm to into the grand final, while Azzurri end Weston’s season tough it out to end

Major Semi-Final 
Lambton Jaffas FC 4-2 Broadmeadow Magic FC  

Lambton Jaffas will have a chance to defend their championship after winning their way through to the 2023 grand final with a 4-2 victory against Broadmeadow Magic in an entertaining major semi-final clash at Arthur Edden Oval on Saturday. 

It was a match full of attacking flair, quality goals, outstanding saves and brave efforts all over the park, which the neutrals among the large crowd were wishing went to extra time so they could watch the two form sides of the competition go at it for another 30 minutes. 

Unfortunately for Magic, they were not able to overcome the two-goal deficit from the 48th minute onwards and they will now need to go through the preliminary final to book a spot in the big dance. 

Most of the midweek talk during the build-up to the major semi-final match involved Jaffas' striker Kale Bradbery and his overturned suspension, but it was Reece Papas who stole the show on gameday as he scored two long-range efforts to seal the win for the home side.

The contest came to life in the fourth minute when Riley Smith opened the scoring for Magic with a tidy shot across Kennedy and into the bottom left corner after he’d run in behind the home side’s defence and onto a perfect Xander Woweries through ball. 

Lambton equalised in the 13th minute when Nikolai Topor-Stanley charged onto an in-swinging Riley McNaughton free kick from the left edge and headed it home at the back stick.  

Shortly after Jaffas’ Ben Hay rocketed a volley past Broadmeadow goalkeeper Cesar Serpa at his near stick after beating Ben Diamond one-on-one with a cheeky chip past the defender. 

Broadmeadow fought back to equalise in the 29th minute when Smith got in behind the Jaffas' defence down the right edge again after charging onto a Bailey Wells pass. But this time he squared the ball to Will Ingram at the back stick whose strike was too powerful for Kennedy. 

Papas’ first goal put Lambton ahead 3-2 in the 43rd minute. Papas picked up the ball just inside Magic’s half down the right edge and made his way forward, and with no one pressuring him, he unleashed a low strike that made its way into the back of the net off the left post.  

Papas then struck again just three minutes after the break was even better than the first as he drove a swerving and dipping free kick from about 30 yards out that flew just inside the left post. 

Lambton defended their two-goal lead to earn their spot in the grand final despite the best efforts of the young Magic side that forced a few quality saves out of Jaffas goalkeeper Ben Kennedy during the second stanza. 

Jaffas’ coach David Tanchevski was thrilled that mostly everything went to plan on the day, most importantly the result. 

“It’s awesome. We’d just gotten over the emotion of finishing first and then the boys backed it up and we’re straight in the grand final,” Tanchevski said.  

“It’s a bit of pressure off now and the boys can enjoy the next couple of weeks. 

“Matching it with them early and then coming home strong was our plan. Magic seem to punish teams in the first half and they came out hard again against us. Our plan was to try and get to half-time in front or level, so we could take it home in the second half.  

“We’ve got some really mature and experienced players that know how to bring games home, and going in a goal up at half-time had put us in the right place we need to be to win the game. 

“Magic are a good team and they score goals, so we knew it was going to be tough to keep a clean sheet against them, but overall, I’m pretty happy with how we played. 

“In the second half, I’m just a little disappointed that when we got two up, we went back into our shell a little bit. But it’s finals football and you don’t have to win pretty; you just have to win the game.” 

Tanchevski said that while he was proud of his entire team for getting the job done against a quality opposition outfit, he thought that experienced duo Papas and Topor-Stanley both produced match-winning performances. 

“You’re looking for your big individuals to stand up and win games in the finals, and I thought that Papas and Topor had really big games. They were huge for us and made a big difference on the field,” Tanchevski said.  

“Topor, defensively, was outstanding, and he pretty much won everything in the air and contributed with a goal. Papas dominated in the midfield and scored a couple of goals too. That’s what we want from our players. 

“Benny Hay did really well and put a big shift in too. Everyone played well.” 

Broadmeadow’s coach John Bennis thought that his side also played well in patches but admitted that conceding four goals in 90 minutes is not the way to win a finals match. 

“There were certainly a lot of goals in the game, but to be on the wrong side of the result was difficult,” Bennis said. 

“I thought we played well at times and had really good passages of play. A couple of things we forced when we could have made better decisions. But overall, we probably had the better of possession and the game. 

“Scoring so early with a good goal was pleasing. It was really well taken.  

“When it comes down to it though, you can’t concede four goals and win the game. At the end of the day, that’s what happened, and that’s not good enough from us.” 

The Jaffas won’t play this weekend but they will have a training session planned for Saturday to stay sharp ahead of the grand final at Jack McLaughlan Oval on September 9.  

Magic will now turn their attention to this Sunday’s do-or-die preliminary final against Charlestown Azzurri.  

Minor Semi-Final 
Charlestown Azzurri FC 1-0 Weston Workers FC  

The fighting spirit of Charlestown Azzurri was on show for all to see on Sunday when they downed Weston 1-0 in the minor semi-final to end the Bears’ season and progress to this weekend’s preliminary final against Broadmeadow Magic. 

A 35th-minute Regan Lundy finish was the difference at Lisle Carr Oval in the knockout clash and it was an uncharacteristic Joey O’Connor mistake that gifted the Azzurri striker the chance.  

The Bears’ right fullback missed a routine interception, which saw Rene Ferguson’s misplaced pass reach Lundy who then charged into the box down the left edge and fired a left-footed strike across Weston’s goalkeeper Gerard Roebuck and into the bottom right corner. 

Despite them having more possession and chances throughout the game, the Bears were unable to find the back of the net themselves and Azzurri held on to score a memorable win on their old boys’ day. 

Azzurri were under the pump early, but their goalkeeper Ben McNamara was up to the task early as he pulled off two brilliant saves in the opening three minutes. 

The home side was dealt an early blow when attacking weapon Miguel Fernandez went down injured in a tackle and after attempting to run it out, was forced off in the 11th minute. 

That brought Jacob Melling onto the park earlier than expected off the bench. Melling was later substituted off as an elbow injury he suffered during the game took its toll. 

Despite the chaos that Charlestown had endured leading up to and during the match, they still managed to get the job done and book their ticket into the preliminary final, which coach James Pascoe was absolutely thrilled with. 

“It’s just nice for the boys. They’ve worked hard since the start of January,” Pascoe said. 

“Performance-wise, it’s all relative in terms of where your squad is at in terms of health in lots of ways. We’ve been in a situation where a combination of injuries and suspensions have meant we haven’t been able to have a stable team on the park for the last six weeks. Some boys have missed three, four, five even six weeks of that period, which takes away your match sharpness and fluency. Against teams that haven’t had that, it tends to put you on the back foot a little bit. 

“The performance itself was gritty and everything it needed to be to get the result. 

“Weston are a good side. We knew going into the game that they’d have a lot more possession than us. But our plan was to make a lot of that possession be in front of us and around the halfway line. They may have had 500 more passes than us throughout the game. I actually think that might be a conservative estimate. But most of those were sideways and backward around the halfway line. We dealt with it pretty well. We can get away with setting up that way because of the cattle that we’ve got.” 

The winner of this weekend’s preliminary final showdown between Broadmeadow and Charlestown will advance to the grand final to take on premiers and defending champions, the Lambton Jaffas, after they downed Magic 4-2 at Arthur Edden Oval on Saturday. 

Weston’s season has come to an end following Sunday’s loss but it was certainly a success as the Bears qualified for the finals for the first time since 2014 and played produced some quality football from start to finish this year.