There was plenty of feeling in the third round of the 2021 Steeline Limestone Coast Football Association season as teams strived for something more than premiership points on Sunday.
The bragging rights were sky high at Webb Street where traditional rivals Apollo and International fought for the Peter “Petros” Thomas Cup.
Apollo was determined to fightback from its narrow defeat in the preseason Steeline Cup, but current holders Inter set the pace early.
The visitors controlled possession from kick off and locked the ball in their offensive third.
Despite putting the hosts on the back foot, Inter did not threaten until the nine-minute mark when the intensity went up a notch.
Kaleb Gentile created the chance with a brilliant cross and a header from Christian Cella narrowly missed the goals.
However, the moment woke the crowd up and International rose to the occasion.
A free kick on the wing was all the incentive the visitors needed as the entering kick from Austin Rossi was perfectly placed for Matthew Bueti, with a header past the goalkeeper.
The early goal for Inter put Apollo on notice and in an effort to stay in the hunt, the side started to gain more possession and found the equaliser out of nothing.
The ball was trapped in Apollo’s pocket and Thomas Inglis managed to find an avenue out of the sticky situation to cross it towards goal.
The kick appeared to be destined for the gloves of Inter goalkeeper Tyler Johnston, but Say Say Wah threw himself towards the ball and knocked it over the line just in time.
It brought Apollo to life and shortly after Wah was kissing the club’s badge celebrating another score.
After Kaleb Gentile and Wah clashed Apollo was awarded a free kick taken by Sar Hay Moo, who kicked it towards goal.
Wah positioned on the goal line did not need a second invitation to send his team into the lead and scored from point-blank range.
The first half drama did not end there with Inter certain it levelled the scores at the 27-minute mark when Sam Bueti outfoxed the Apollo goalkeeper.
However, Sam Bueti’s successful strike was ruled offside and the Inter crowd went berserk when he received a yellow for the same offense two minutes later.
All results were possible with Apollo leading 2-1 at half time, but one man ensured International’s stranglehold of the Peter “Petros” Thomas Cup stayed strong.
Apollo looked to play out from the back after a goal kick, but Connor Prior intercepted the ball from Jack Donahue and scored in the bottom right corner to level the scoreboard.
Prior was also the man who kicked the match-winning goal which occurred from a free kick and sent into the left hand side of the net.
Although Apollo did not give up until the final whistle, Inter held on to win a thrilling game 3-2 and remain undefeated.
The reigning premier has another huge game this Sunday night against Gambier Centrals at Casadio Park.
The Lions warmed up for the battle with a resounding performance against Millicent United.
Millicent would have hoped to offer a sterner fight at MGA Park, but was blown away by Centrals’ strikers.
Kynan Sheedy showed his ability at the top level with two goals, while Sam Shoemark, Broc Linden, Meereh Htoo and Jake Blackwell also found the back of the net in the 6-0 win.
Over at Malseed Park, Naracoorte United got its 2021 season rolling with an impressive performance against Blue Lake United.
The yellow and black were dealt with a tough fixture to start the season against Inter and Centrals, but displayed plenty of promise.
Naracoorte coach Daniel Sribar said he has been nothing, but impressed with how his men have played so far in 2021 in contrast to 12 months prior after some departures over the preseason.
“Playing the two best teams in the league was always going to be hard, but our boys really took it to them and I am very proud of them,” he said.
“This time last year we were already had a goal difference of negative 16 and at dead bottom and now we have a win which is very good.
“We have progressed well and changed a few philosophies, but we lost a couple of young talented kids to state leagues in Adelaide which was fantastic, but did hurt us.
“We brought through a few young kids and their attitude, effort and willingness to succeed has been phenomenal.” Jawad Hassani and Cedar Sopha have injected the side with plenty of youth and Naracoorte had its chances to seal the game early in first half, but poor finishing kept Blue Lake in the hunt.
The home side was boosted by a fantastic long-range goal from Lay Bae Htoo, while the visitors scored to ensure the scoreboard was locked at half time.
The Rangers continued to press hard after the break, but Naracoorte’s method proved a winning one.
Goals to Muhammad Haidar and George Matutuva gave the yellow and black the initiative, but a Hossian Panahi double added the finishing touches to the 4-1 win.
Naracoorte hopes its winning form away from home carries on all the way to Millicent’s McLaughlin Park this weekend, while Apollo hosts Blue Lake.