The top teams flexed their muscles with International, Gambier Centrals and Apollo recording big wins in the second round of the Steeline Limestone Coast Football Association season on Sunday.
After a week off for the country championships, the big three were determined to get the ball rolling and build momentum for the season ahead.
The Lions’ two-hour road trip to Naracoorte was a fruitful one after they returned home with a 4-0 win.
The biggest plus for Centrals coach Chris Fleetwood was the return to form of striker Sam Shoemark, who positioned well and scored two goals.
Lewis March and Broc Linden also found the back of the net.
It was a significant result for the Lions, as they joined the winner’s list for the first time in the 2021 premiership season and bounced back from the opening round defeat to Apollo.
But the blue and white continued their winning form by accounting for Millicent.
The away fixture at McLaughlin Park shaped up to be the closest battle of the round and with both sides looking to build on their impressive season-opening performances.
With Apollo only leading by one goal at half time, a tight finish was in prospect.
However, the visitors were dominant when play resumed and bombarded the home side’s defence.
Say Say Wah and Reuben Van Eyk were the biggest dangermen scoring two goals each, while Jack Donehue also beat the goalkeeper.
Limited to just 10 men after the red card of Nickel Chand, Millicent could not keep up with Apollo’s pace as the latter cruised to a 5-0 triumph.
But the biggest sign of intent was shown by Inter.
In the club’s first home game of the premiership season, International stole the show by destroying Blue Lake United 11-0.
The comprehensive performance started from the first whistle as Inter combined beautifully to dominate possession.
Blue Lake managed to sneak a couple of plays towards its scoring end, but it did not take long for the side to be worn down and completely overwhelmed by the hosts.
Matthew Bueti opened Inter’s account at the 22-minute mark with a successful penalty shot.
It did not take long for the star striker to double his tally after he teamed up with Erike Irakoze to beat the defence in play setup by the returning Dan Bronca.
The goals started to flow as Irakoze put his name on the scoring sheet after his header sailed over the back of the pack in a corner, while Sam Bueti’s unstoppable performance on the wing was completed with a goal of his own.
But the highlight of the dominant first half was created by Inter captain Christian Cella, who nailed an awesome long-range strike from outside the box.
With the scoreboard reading 5-0 at half time, things could not get much worse for the visitors, but they did as the black and blue upped the pace again.
Matthew Bueti topped off his fine day with a bag of four goals, while Bronca and Sam Bueti also doubled their tallies.
Youngster Austin Rossi put his name on the scoring sheet as the reigning premiers displayed their best.
International co-coach Vlada Gajic said the big win was sparked by his side’s ability to find holes in Blue Lake’s defence.
“It was a great overall team effort,” he said.
“For us it was about how do we counteract Blue Lake’s defensive structure and adapting to our new possession-based style, so it was good to have at least 70% of possession.
“It worked even better in the second half because the more you do that, the more they tire and gaps open up in the middle.” Two big wins to start the premiership season is the perfect response from Inter after its shock defeat in the preseason Steeline Cup grand final.
Gajic warned the loss only added to his side’s motivation and hunger for more premierships as attention now turns to this Sunday’s big clash with Apollo.
“You do not have to dangle any carrots for the boys because they always want to win,” he said.
“The loss hurt them a little bit, but we were missing Dan Bronca and a few other players, so I do not read too much into that game because we were not able to impose our style and we learnt a lesson.
“Dan Bronca came back and he just understands the game very well and helped us out a lot and we have some good young talent coming through which is fantastic.
“I am sure Jamie being quite an experienced coach will have his team up and ready for us.
“It is always a good contest and I do not think there will be too much in it.” All three games will be in Mount Gambier this weekend with Apollo enjoying the home-ground advantage against Inter, while Centrals host Millicent and both Blue Lake United and Naracoorte search for their first win of the season at Malseed Park.