Title fight tight at the top

The fight for the Steeline Limestone Coast Football Association Premiership Cup is closer than ever after another exciting weekend of round-ball action.

For the second time in a row, nothing could separate flag contenders Gambier Centrals and International during an intoxicating 90 minutes at MGA Park.

The excitement started moments after kickoff as the heavyweights slugged it out.

Inter pressed hard and struck first after captain Christian Cella rose to the occasion by finding the back of the net in the opening stages.

With a lot of bragging rights on the line, the players struggled to settle down from the lively start.

Both sides’ pressure forced their opponents into errors especially crossing towards goal.

After a successful penalty off the boot of Sam Shoemark to level the scoreboard, the pattern of passing errors had a dramatic impact on Inter’s hopes.

A misdirected kick from Austin Rossi proved costly as speedy Lion Broc Linden forged a path through the midfield and fired a shot at goal.

Inter keeper Tyler Johnston saved the strike, but could do anything about Lewis March, who pounced on the rebound and sent the home side into the lead moments before half time.

To add to the theatre, mother nature unleashed a heavy shower onto MGA Park and the battle turned into scrappy contest in the slippery conditions.

The Lions struggled to find their feet once play resumed and conceded an own goal and the lead straight after the break.

Tensions are always high whenever Inter and Centrals collide and with the game on the line, more cards were handed out following a war of words.

Once the atmosphere cooled down slightly, the battle for possession remained fierce.

The Lions found an opening in the midfield which allowed Shoemark to run free.

Shoemark found himself face to face with Johnston, but managed to hop over the diving keeper whilst keeping the ball in front of him.

As a result, Centrals’ number-one striker was celebrating with both arms aloft after running into an open goal and scoring with an impressive piece of athleticism.

The Lions appeared to gain the upper hand and firmed to repeat the result of the Steeline Cup final.

However, the Inter coaches had one last trick up their sleeves.

With full time approaching and the game starting to slip away, Federico Pepa was brought onto the pitch and five minutes he was the man of the moment.

The black and blue were lining up to make one last roll of the dice and unlikely hero Pepa flashed a shot at goal and it stuck.

The super sub saved the day for Inter and was lofted high in the air during the passionate celebrations.

A 3-3 draw was a fitting result after yet another nail-biter between the rivals.

Another high-scoring draw took place at Naracoorte, where the home side could not be separated from Millicent.

George Matutuva and Hossain Panahi both found the back of the net for the hosts, but Nickel Chand and James Davey did the same for the visitors.

Apollo travelled to Malseed Park and met a spirited Blue Lake United outfit.

After Rangers’ captain Luke Harris scored his first goal of the season, an upset was on the cards with the scoreboard locked at 1-1 at half time.

However, the likes of Say Say Wah, Sar Hay Moo and Jack Donehue rose to the occasion and guided Apollo to safety.

Victorious coach James Stephenson said conditions and luck were huge influences on the game.

“The conditions were absolutely appalling,” he said.

“There were 60-70kph tailwinds, so it was very hard to pass with the ball moving in the air.

“We kept pushing very hard and eventually luck went our way in the second half.

“One of our three goals in the second half hit the back of Sar hay Moo’s head and went past the keeper.

“We also had some youngsters come up from the Under 18’s, so it was a fantastic opportunity for them as well.”

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