After a history-making season in 2017, Avondale FC was creating history once again with their first game of NPL Victoria’s 2018 Season.
A long an arduous pre-season campaign ceased on Friday night as Avondale FC took on Green Gully SC in arguably the most anticipated match of Round 1 in NPL Victoria. Two clubs that media pundits have made early front-runners who would be battling it out to be crowned champions at season end.
Both teams come into the game relatively interrupted and strong pre-season form made for the anticipation of the heavyweight clash. After the 2018 Season Launch on Tuesday night for Avondale FC, the players and coaching staff were ready to hit the field running.
The starting line up saw 4 starting debuts for the club with Ross Archibald, Joey Katebian, Elvis Kamsoba and Liam Boland. Kaine Sheppard was also back in the starting line up as a last-minute International Player Clearance went through after returning back to the club from a short stint in Finland. It was a welcome return also for newly elected captain for 2018 Phil Riccobene after spending most of the 2017 season on the sidelines with a hip injury.
As expected the match started with both high quality and intensity. Ball movement was fierce and it wasn’t long before Green Gully deployed their counter-attacking tactics making a couple breaks forward with four high attackers. Avondale FC held the best record for conceding the least amount of goals in 2017 and with Green Gully looking to break on the counter, the back four, and NPL Victoria 2016 goalkeeper of the year Chris Oldfield, were on high alert.
On the 12th minute, Green Gully successfully launched a counter-attack down the left side that was put into the box a slotted home by a Green Gully player to take the game 1-0. Only a few short minutes later it was our captain Phil who forced Anthony Barbieri into a substation due to injury, which saw another debut for the club in Dillon Jakupi.
Avondale managed to wrangle back some ascendancy in the following period after the substitution and on the 26th minute after a poor punched clearance by the Green Gully goalkeeper, former Brisbane Roar player and Melbourne Victory Youth product Joey Katebian was able to pounce on the loose ball, take a shot from just outside the box and find the back of the net for his first goal in the Avondale blue, levelling up the score 1-1.
Only three minutes later, Elvis Kamsoba who finished in the top 5 of the NPL Gold Medal for NPL Victoria in 2017 with Melbourne Knights, was able to win the ball and fight through two Green Gully defenders and put the ball in the box, where Liam Boland, a previous Green Gully player, was able to rise highest above the Gully defenders to header the ball into the underside of the crossbar and over the white line into the goal. As momentum swung in the favour of Avondale FC the boys walked into the halftime break leading 2-1.
The attacking potency of Avondale FC was on show once again in the second half and area that was clearly identified by Head Coach Anthony Barbieri to improve on in Season 2018. A brilliant run from the pacy substitute Jakupi down the right side of the pitch only 10 minutes into the second half, saw a great cross into the 6-yard box, where Kaine Sheppard was able to get a foot onto the ball and volley the ball past the keeper to take the lead out to 3-1.
A Gully midfielder error on the 64th minute saw Avondale pounce on the ball and get it up to the imposing physical striker Liam Boland, but it was a deft back-heel pass that had the crowd going to a streaming forward Kaine Sheppard who put the ball through his defender’s legs before making the keeper go the wrong way and putting the ball into the opposite side of the net and taking the match score 4-1 Avondale FC’s way, at Green Gully Reserve.
The crowd was silenced after the period after the 4th goal, Avondale was finding it all too easy getting past the Gully defenders and creating 1 on 1 with the keeper scoring chances, however, Avondale was unable to capitalise on the chances. With these chances converted Avondale could have made the score become very ugly for the high hoping Green Gully side.
To their credit, Gully fought back. In the 75th minute a very close to being offside chance was converted by Gully, and with no changing the referee’s mind Gully had the game back to 4-2.
A long ball forward from Gully in the 88th minute had Oldfield in two minds whether to come out or stay back. As goalkeeper Oldfield retreated back to goal the quick Gully winger was able to get to the ball before his defender and slot the ball across Oldfield to take the game to 4-3.
A very nervous period ensued and Gully supporters who headed for the exits early nearly missed out on a three-goal comeback, for it was an offside call to a Gully player to disallow the goal in extra time. After 5 long extra time minutes the referee finally blew the match whistle with the game finishing 4-3 in Avondale’s favour.
The win created history for the club as it was the first time Avondale FC had beaten Green Gully SC in a competitive match. Three previous years in NPL Victoria and Avondale weren’t able to get the three points, but in 2018 the attacking strike force in the Avondale squad was just too much for the Gully defenders to handle.
A man of the match performance went to Kaine Sheppard who was able to Will Grigg terrify the Gully defence and score two goals past the keeper.
“We had our hearts in our mouth toward the end there, but all around it was a great performance… it was great to get a couple of goals [personally], as a team we felt we could have got a few more goals, but that’s the way football goes”. – Kaine Sheppard
Earlier in the night, a strong Gully U20 side was able to put a very young Avondale FC’s U20 side to the sword, with the game finishing 4-1 to the home side at Green Gully Reserve.
The attention turns to next Friday night as Avondale FC take on Kingston City FC at Paisley Park, Altona. Avondale’s home game venue whilst the Reggio Calabria Club gets redeveloped to be game ready by April.
U20’s kick off at 6:15pm and Seniors from 8:15pm. Make sure you get down and show your support.