Hurstville and South Coast have played out a dramatic encounter which saw Hurstville fight with nine men to win 2-1.
Hurstville dominated the opening period of play, forcing the Flame to sit deep in their own half attempting to defuse the dangerous Hurstville attack.
Jesse Gagro had the first real chance for either side after Jacob Ritchie spotted him in the box for an open shot, his shot fell just wide of the sticks.
Gagro found himself in line for the opener once again. This time managing to get his shot past Thomas Matthews but not as far as Terrence Jah who desperately cleared the ball away from the path of goal.
Matthews began to prove his worth for the Flame after he made a world-class save to deny Edoardo Panizzari’s effort.
Hurstville’s early pressure paid off in the 36th minute with the opening goal after Jaefar Al Khulaifawi’s first shot was cleared off the line but fell only as far as Caleb Bartier as he slotted it into an open net.
The Flame began to come alive in the later stages of the first, seeing their real first chance through Matthew Mazevski’s long-range effort that was stopped by Michael Rutherford.
Hurstville entered the break leading South Coast 1-0. The Flame were a determined outfit in the second half, creating a more competitive game.
They began more assertive but struggled to get past the valiant Hurstville defence which looked tough to break down.
Hurstville were thrown a spanner in the works after Jacob Ritchie was shown his marching orders for a second yellow in the 64th minute.
The Flame capitalised on the extra man finding their equaliser in the 78th minute. Cody Waller made an imposing run down the line and cut in on a good angle as he managed to slip it past Rutherford for their first.
The Hurstville defence were again dealt a huge blow, this time Stephan Perak was shown a straight red for a last-man challenge right outside the box. The ensuing free-kick was deflected away by the wall.
The 9-man Hurstville side couldn’t be denied as they found their winner in the 86th minute through Michael Kotzambasis. After being put through one-on-one, his chip was initially saved by Matthews, however, the ball fell into the path of an open net where he made no mistakes, giving Hurstville the win.
Flame Coach George Kulcsar was left to ponder about the game that got away.
A very old football cliche of “close up shop” should have been executed to reward the team for their excellent work rate and efforts, but a couple of key moments where we lacked football smarts ultimately cost us points against a quality team.
Hurstville FC 2 (Bartier 36’, Kotzambasis 86’)
South Coast Flame 1 (Waller 78’)
By Dominic Criniti (FNSW)