FLAME KEEP FINALS HOPES ALIVE
Two unanswered goals in the second half saw South Coast Flame overcome a 1-2 half time deficit and turn it into a 3-2 win over UNSW at Seymour Shaw Park on Sunday night. The win may just prove pivotal in the washup as we move into the last two rounds of the regular season.
Flame got off to a wonderful start maintaining strong possession and putting UNSW on the back foot in the opening exchanges. They were rewarded as early as the 7th minute when Yuki Mandai picked up the ball just outside the penalty area and unleashed a shot that found the bottom left corner of the goal beating Uni shot stopper Nic Nelson.
Moments later, Hiroaki Ushijima found some space on the edge of the area but his shot ballooned over the goal as Flame were looking ominous. In fact, on 16 minutes, some high pressure from Flame caused a turnover and it was that Japanese duo that combined to put Mandai through on goal however his shot eluded keeper Nelson and brushed past the wrong side of the post in a big let off for the home side.
Midway through the half, keeper Nelson cleared a long ball which sailed over the heads of the Flame defence and Ilan Kessler got a toe in ahead of the advancing White and the ball popped up over the keeper and bounced into the goal to level the scores. It was effectively the first real chance UNSW had had to this stage.
The goal seemed to lift the home side as they had a good little spell thereafter despite a couple of half chances to Flame. Nima Beik saw White off his line and tried a speculator from 40 yards out that had White scrambling however it only just cleared the cross bar.
Beik though was not to be denied as we ticked over to 45 minutes. Some good lead up work from Kessler saw Beik collect the ball 7 yards out with his back to goal. He somehow managed to turn his defender and volley it past a hapless White who had little chance from that distance. UNSW went into the break incredibly 2-1 ahead despite being dominated for much of the first half.
South Coast Flame came out firing in the second half and within a minute, Mandai had Nelson pulling off a fine save as he nearly found the near post from an acute angle. From the resulting corner, UNSW failed to clear well and the ball dropped to Louis Connell who half volleyed his shot into the top right corner of the net giving Nelson no hope and to restore parity 2-2.
Just like the first half, Flame had UNSW pegged back in their own half in the early stages and Ushijima had a great chance to put Flame ahead on 54 minutes after some good lead up work from Mandai saw the Ushijima hit the side netting from 8 yards out.
Just a couple of minutes later, Matthew Mazevski played Louis Connell through however Nelson rushed out to smoother Connell’s attempt.
With just under 20 minutes remaining, Mandai who looked lively throughout the match tested Nelson once again with a near post effort that was pushed aside.
With time running down and Flame becoming more desperate, Smileski pressed high and when he got a toe to the ball ahead of his opponent inside the area, the was brought down unceremoniously and earned his team a penalty on 81 minutes.
Up stepped the reliable Mazevski who sent Nelson the wrong way to give Flame a 3-2 lead.
UNSW then pushed hard inside the last 10 minutes and threw everyone forward including their keeper in the dying stages to try and steal a point however Flame were resilient and tough as they scrambled well to deny the opposition and see out the game.
The win sees Flame make it seven points from their last three matches to maintain fourth spot in what is a tightly contested competition with two rounds to go. They have been in good scoring form having found the net ten times over the last three matches.
Earlier in the afternoon, the under 18 went down 1-0 to a late penalty to UNSW which now makes their task to make the playoffs incredibly difficult. The under 20 were 2-0 up in the first half courtesy of Johnny Vicoroski and Daniel Lucas however UNSW pulled one back from the penalty spot when Flame responded almost immediately through Ethan Lehn. UNSW scored again late in the game but it was too little too late as the boys hung on for a crucial win.
Flame are back home next week for the last time this season as they host Fraser Park in the penultimate round of the season. So much as stake for all three teams. Get on out and support the boys. Games are on Saturday 10 August at Ian McLennan Park kicking off 3.00pm, 5.00pm and 7.00pm.