FLAME SECURE HISTORIC FINALS BERT
For a club that is in its second season, Flame went into Round 22 knowing anything else but a win would end their year. Goals to Andrew Christie and Yuki Mandai in each half paved the way to a 2-0 win over Hurstville FC which sees the team end the season in fourth spot and qualify for the playoffs for the first time in any of their senior grades.
The result should not be underestimated as Flame went into this match without their two top scorers (Matthew Mazevski – suspension, Hiroaki Ushijima – injured). It caused a reshuffle but the experience of Darren Jones in the midfield was perhaps the difference in the end.
It was apparent very early on that there wasn’t going to be many chances in this one as both teams struggled to get used to the wind and ground conditions.
In terms of chances, the closest either side got in the opening 15 minutes was when Hurtsville’s Daniel Kocina who was played through one on one but was denied by Flame shot stopper Matthew White.
Hurstville FC perhaps frustrated, resorted to long range efforts, Nicholas Kougious seeing his shot fizz wide shortly after.
Despite playing into a stiff breeze, Flame started to get themselves into the match and midway through the first half, Flame took the lead courtesy of Andrew Christie. Flame won a freekick on the edge of the box and Julio Mushaba whipped in a cross that was flicked on by Louis Connell and found Christie lurking on the back post to tap it in.
It was a crucial goal in the context of the match as it took a little bit of the pressure off Flame having now gone ahead.
Hurstville were forced to respond and Kougious was looking most likely but his effort from a failed corner clearance sailed over the scoreboard and perhaps landed in the creek next door.
There was no further score in the first half as both teams would have had very contrasting discussions during the break.
Hurstville FC retuned from the break with intent and they had the better of possession and half chances in the early stages however Flame looks reasonably comfortable repelling the home side.
Flame did however suffer a scare when White and his defence seemed to get their wires crossed leaving Hurstville in possession 30 metres out and an empty net however neither Jesse Gagro or Kougious could get effective shots away to capitalise.
Just minutes later, South Coast Flame doubled their lead. Julio Mushaba showed some fancy footwork in beating the defender and playing a delightful ball across goal. The reliable Yuki Mandai snuck in between the defence and goalkeeper to get a touch that beat Matthew Massarotto in goal.
Now two goals up, Flame looked to be in control and gaining in confidence. Shortly after, Justin Smith got in behind the defence and cut it back to Louis Connell whose goal bound shot took a deflection and out for a corner.
With their season now on the line, Hurstville FC pushed forward looking to get back into the match.
A neat ball from the right found Sebastian Coello on the far post but he couldn’t turn it in with the goal begging. Moments later, Cristian Di Meglio saw his shot fumbled by White however Flame scrambled well to clear the ball to safety.
Flame saw out the game and the result to ensure the players and their travelling supporters all went home happy.
South Coast Flame coach Neil Mineef lavished praise on his team, “There was only way we could make the post season, we prepared for this throughout the week and they delivered. The boys showed a lot of heart, it wasn’t the prettiest game but definitely one of the most important in the club’s history.”
Hurstville FC coach John Gagro was disappointed by his teams attacking efforts, “We were totally outplayed today, they transitioned well and punished us. We’re lucky to be there given we haven’t scored in recent weeks. Just hopefully the boys step up next weekend.”
The result sets up a spicy rematch between the same two sides next weekend in the elimination final which we hope to confirm shortly as a home semi on Saturday.
Hurstville FC: 0
South Coast Flame: 2 (Christie 27’, Mandai 64’)
Hurstville FC: 1. Matthew Massarotto, 4. Sebastian Coello, 6. Koichi Ohtomo, 7. Pedro Almeida, 8. David Pavey, 9. Jesse Gagro, 10. Paul Gagro, 11. Adrian Livio, 12. Daniel Kocina, 13. Aleks Trenoski, 14. Daniel Maras, 15. Nicholas Kougious, 19. Cristian Di Meglio, 20. Rhys Turner, 21. Anthony Vrinat.
South Coast Flame: 1. Matthew White, 3. Darren Jones, 8. Andrew Christie, 9. Louis Connell, 13. Alexander Boardman, 15. Jayden Smileski, 17. Justin Smith, 18. Yuki Mandai, 22. Toru Suzuki, 35. Wade Wilton, 39. Julio Mushaba
Substitutes: 4. Daniel Lucas, 30. Ethan Lehn, 32. Lachlan Morgan, 37. Preston Ridley, 44. Deakin Southern.
In the younger grades, despite winning 2-0 on Sunday, Flame finished the season in 6th place in the Under 18 which is an improvement from last season and the boys will look to be better again for the experience.
The Under 20 also finished sixth and missed out on the playoffs by a point. They too defeated Hurstville 2-0 on the weekend to end their season on a high.