International v Centrals
There was a vibrant atmosphere at Casadio Park for the showpiece fixture of the ninth round of the 2022 Steeline Bendigo Bank Limestone Coast Football Association Senior Men’s Premiership Cup on Sunday.
There were donations aplenty for the annual FoodBank Food Drive at the gate, while on the pitch the International teams turned heads sporting their stunning Indigenous Round kits celebrating NAIDOC Week.
But one thing not part of the home team’s celebrations was a Gambier Centrals win and the Lions ensured they soiled the party.
With the ladder lead on the line both of the rivals went at it hell for leather early on.
The home crowd found their voice quickly as Inter created a few chances and everyone wearing black and blue held their head in their hands after Matt Bueti took a shot at goal, but hit the near post.
The close call was a big enough warning for the Lions to lift their game and they went on the counterattack.
Centrals enjoyed greater freedom moving forward and Sam Shoemark found an opening down the wing.
Shoemark then swung hard at the net and found Cam Saint at the back post, who was switched on enough to slam the ball into the open goal.
It brought the orange army to life and the Inter faithful to its knees and only heightened the tension around the pitch.
The hosts came firing back with a couple of close moments created by Matt Ferguson, Sar Hay Moo and Henry Haywood, but the Lions defence stayed strong thanks to the likes of James Davey, Steven Crowther, Jensen Childs and keeper Alex Hill.
Their efforts protected the 1-0 lead at half time and gave both sides a chance to have a breather before unleashing themselves into what would become an even more spirited second half.
Once again, the black and blue made some moves and could not convert and Centrals made them pay with Jake Blackwell opening his account and doubling his team’s lead.
Despite more than hour of gutsy work, International faced a must-score scenario and like usual Bueti stepped up.
Sar Hay Moo laid the foundations for the side’s key striker to take centre stage and launch his team back into the game.
However, Centrals was not giving up its lead and immediately found a response through captain Blackwell, who found top gear to perform a header to solidify his team’s position.
But Inter and Centrals games are never complete without a late twist and with only three minutes of regulation time left, Bueti earned a penalty after being brought down in the box.
The star striker went back and converted to give his team a sniff, but the clock beat Inter and Centrals won to snatch the ladder lead.
Lions’ coach Brodey Koop said his boys had the answers in the big moments.
“It was another tough test the squad was excited for as it was a hotly contested game with every possession earned throughout the day,” he said.
“Although we held the lead at half time we were a little scrappy on the ball and could have lifted a bit more and to the boys’ credit they did.
“Jake used his blistering pace to burn past the defenders to solidify the 3-2 win which puts us clearly on top of the ladder heading into the business end of the season.”
Blue Lake v Apollo
Apollo travelled to Malseed Park with a job to do and completed it, outscoring Blue Lake with a fine performance.
The Rangers entered the clash on the back foot with many players taking on back to back games, while coach Andy Armandi made a comeback wearing the gloves after sickness struck keeper Eh Mwee.
Captain Jacob Phillips and Lay Bae Htoo scrapped hard to shut down Apollo’s attack, but soon the visitors became an overwhelming force.
After creating 15 unsuccessful scoring chances in the first half, the blue and white broke the shackles,
Jack Donoehue led from the front scoring back to back goals to confirm the 2-0 win and bring the team back to the winner’s circle.
Naracoorte v Millicent
Naracoorte put on a show for its home fans by scoring a huge confidence-boosting win over Millicent on Sunday.
The visitors were forced to play individuals out of position and it showed as they struggled to develop cohesion.
Sam Adie showed some spirit, but he could do little as the hosts went on a scoring spree.
Ciaran Shouksmith had the time of his life scoring four goals, while Daniel Sribar was not to be outdone and booted a hat-trick.
Augustine Halumwane, Cedar Sopha and Murtaza Jafary also joined in the fun to seal the 11-0 win.