FLAME KEEP THEIR SEASON BURNING
This season’s team is writing their own history. They progress through to the Preliminary Final next week against Fraser Park after accounting for Western Condors 3-1 in their semi final at Valentine Sports Centre on Saturday night. After falling behind, Flame equalized and then ran over the top of a tiring and ill-disciplined Condors side in extra time.
With their season on the line, it was a bright start to the match with both sides showing an attacking intent right from the opening whistle. Neither side was able to muster a genuine chance though in the early exchanges.
The first real chance came the way of Condors on 14 minutes. Chun Him Yau intercepted a stray pass through the midfield. Running at the defence, Yau unleashed from just outside the box but he skied his shot which went well wide.
It was Condors again who came close on 22 minutes when Cristian Leiva Martinez weaved his play through the Flame defence and curled a shot to the near post, but it struck the inside of the post bouncing across goal before it was cleared.
It took nearly half an hour for Flame to create their first real threat. Darren Jones whipping in a free kick that found the head of Andrew Christie however the lanky defender just couldn’t keep it down.
Condors dominated the first half chances to be fair. They had three good chances just before half time as they finished the half strong. Gustavo Maya Valiente firstly found himself unmarked at the back post but his header flew over the bar. Minutes later, the same player was cleverly put through with Matt White forced to make a strong save on his near post. Right on the stroke of half time, Leiva Martinez latched onto a spilled save from White who made a spectacular recovery to smother the second attempt.
No score at the break but Flame were playing some good football however they just weren’t able to break down a well-organized Condors defence. The Condors on the other hand probably went into the break disappointed they hadn’t converted any of their opportunities.
Condors came flying out of the blocks in the second half and a stray pass from Matthew Mazevski was intercepted by Levia Martinez who burst into the box. He was adjudged to have been brought down by Christie and Condors had a penalty inside the opening minute of the second half. Martinez stepped up and sent White the wrong way to put Condors ahead.
Just 10 minutes later, Yuki Mandai made a darting run where he was upended inside the opposition penalty area and the referee was given no option but to award Flame a penalty this time. Mazevski made amends for his earlier error to convert and draw Flame level.
With 15 minutes to go, Daniel Lucas and debutant Jonathan Mushaba were thrust into the game just as Flame were enjoying their best spell. It was Lucas though who almost made an immediate impact as he had two good chances in the space of a couple of minutes however neither found the target.
It was a tense last 10 minutes as Condors looked to arrest the momentum with a golden chance falling to Maya Valiente who could not find the net from 8 yards. Into injury time and an amazing goal mouth scramble sees Jayden Smileski clear off the line and to safety.
Full time and it finished 1-1 with the game forced into extra time.
Condors looked to start where they left off and two fantastic saves inside the opening 2 minutes of extra time from White off Jay Takahashi proved pivotal.
Flame weathered the early storm and started to control the midfield as Condors looked a little weathered. All of a sudden, it was Flame with the running and Jonathan Mushaba was starting to look menacing as his pace and strength became a concern.
On 98 minutes, Mazevski created a yard of space with some dazzling footwork and let loose a dipping shot that had Condors shot stopper Jake Mendes scrambling to his left. Mendes managed to parry the shot to his left however Jonathan Mushaba reacted quickest to turn it back into the net and put Flame 2-1 up. To score a goal in a semi final is one thing but to score it on debut in such a big game must have been a big thrill for the young man. It was also reward for coach Neil Mineef who had faith in the youngster.
Condors were clearly rattled at this stage and their frustrations turned to the referee. Just a minute before half time in extra time, Condors defender and captain Gabriel Gomes saw red after having received a second yellow card for a foul on Mushaba.
The second period started with Flame controlling possession. Condors were fortunate to not find themselves down to 9 players when Alex Boardman intercepted and burst through the middle. He was upended in what surely was a last man tackle however the referee played advantage where Lucas forced a strong save from Mendes.
Just three minutes later and Lucas made amends. Mandai played Lucas through who this time made no mistake tucking the ball under Mendes to put Flame 3-1 up. Lucas was taken out in the process and replaced by brother Ben.
Condors clearly had their wings clipped and Mazevski nearly made it four when his thundering shot grazed the cross bar.
There were some more crude tackles from Condors as the game whittled away. Most notably, Boardman was forced from the field with what looked like concussion following a heavy tackle.
In the end, it was a 3-1 win to Flame who now find themselves playing for a shot at Central Coast in the Grand Final. In their way is Fraser Park. Match details to be released shortly.
This team has had to endure setbacks throughout the year however to find themselves this close to a Grand Final in just their second season with a squad probably young enough to compete in the Under 20 competition is a credit to the club, players, coaching staff, medical team and board.
We should also give a shout out to the many AYL and lower grade player families who also came out to support the boys.
Saturday 31 August 2019 @Valentine Football Park
Western Condors – 1 (Levia Martinez 47’)
South Coast Flame – 3 (Mazevski 57’, Mushaba 98’, Lucas 108’)