On Saturday, the Senior Men hosted Western Rage at the Furnace in Round One, with the Under-20s getting off a winning start and the youthful First-Grade side sharing the points in the later match.
First-Grade | South Coast Flame 2 Western Rage 2
Whilst it was a tentative start from both teams in the season opener, Flame looked the more positive in the early exchanges. Both sides traded half-chances early with neither keeper really forced into any great action.
The game needed a spark and it got it midway through the first half. Through some enterprising play, Flame found some space out wide with one of four debutants, Ned Glasgow whipping in an excellent delivery which saw Alex Gailbraith volley it at goal which forced Rage goalkeeper Samuel Bortolazzo into a fine save.
Just a minute later though, Flame hit the front and two other debutants featured. Youngster Louis Miller-Tamsitt played a neat ball through to Matthew Mazevski who cut the ball back across goal where Lucas Ayala forced the ball over the line to draw first blood and score on debut.
Rage’s Giuseppe Camera was keeping the Flame defence on their toes however it was Mitchell Whalley who levelled the scores on 37 minutes. The home side turned the ball over deep in their own half following an errant back pass. Whalley still had a lot of work to do and he managed to beat a defender and round keeper Luke Morgan before neatly tucking it away.
Western Rage started the better in the second half as they looked to control possession with Flame guilty of regular turnovers early. The best chance looked to fall to Daniel Bortolazzo who just failed to get a touch to a wonderful cross on the far post.
On 68 minutes, a Rage corner failed to be cleared properly with a scramble ensuing. Camera got a toe a loose ball just before he was brought down in the penalty area. An easy decision for the referee. Alessandro Tolomeo stepped up and buried his shot bottom left to put the visitors ahead for the first time.
This set up a frantic finish with Flame now desperate to get something from the game. With the home side bombing on, the game opened up and one sensed we weren’t quite done with the goals. Flame coming close on a number of occasions as the clock ticked down.
They were finally rewarded just six minutes from time when Mazevski’s header across goal from a corner found the top corner. Rage were now hanging on trying to see out the game, and in the dying seconds, another Flame debutant in 17-year-old William Aston found himself in acres of space on the edge of the box however his shot went straight at Bortolazzo.
In the washup, both sides would perhaps feel disappointed they did not go home with the three points however given the circumstances, a draw was perhaps a fair result.
U20s | South Coast Flame 2 Western Rage 0
In the Youth fixture, Flame opened the season with a 2-0 win courtesy of goals to Jordan Wright and Hasan Ayoub.
Flame looked to control the opening stanza however the first half drew no major chances till virtually the last kick of the half when Ayoub made a dazzling run which saw him get through on goal however his shot ricocheted off the post and away.
Whatever Coach Stan Pappas said at halftime appeared to inspire the players as Flame looked far more efficient and dangerous. The introduction of Alex Pappas also seemed to spark the hosts in an attacking frenzy.
It wasn’t till 65 minutes though that Flame would be rewarded. Jordan Wright took advantage of a stray back pass out from the back before tucking his shot away to give Flame the lead.
On 78 minutes, Flame doubled their lead. Pappas put Ayoub through on goal with a delightful pass dissecting the opposition and Ayoub made no mistake in putting Flame two goals to the good.
Just five minutes from time, Under 18 player Jay De Gouveia had a big chance as Pappas squared a ball across goal however he skied his opportunity to get on the scoresheet on debut.
Right on fulltime, Pappas himself created an opportunity that forced the Rage keeper into a terrific save.
Nevertheless, Flame would not be denied the win and it is a great start to the season for a side that was also missing several players through promotion to the first team.