The most anticipated game of the 2018 season where two undefeated teams meet after 10 rounds of NPL Victoria. The winner would go outright top of the table and take solid lead moving into the mid-way point of the season.
Both teams are still involved in the FFA Cup and it was Avondale FC who had to contend with a mid-week fixture leading up to the match whilst Bentleigh Greens SC completed their Round 6 FFA Cup fixture the week prior.
With a 4:0 win over North Sunshine Eagles FC on the Tuesday night in the FFA Round 6 match, it was Avondale FC’s first time ever reaching the seventh round and confidence was high leading into the Saturday night fixture, having been changed from a home game on the Friday night to a Saturday night game at the Kingston Heath Soccer Complex.
The media build-up was fantastic and really set the tone for the night with a good crowd and an expectancy of a high quality attacking affair between both sides. Avondale FC made a few changes from their midweek cup win, with Liam Boland returning from illness, as well as Phil Riccobene and Jeff Fleming returning to the starting line-up from being rested as substitutes.
Making way was Yitay Towns, Jem Berkant and Anthony Strano who moved to the substitutes and John Mark Offeh returning to the U20s after making his first-team debut in the FFA Cup match.
With the anticipation of both teams to play attacking football, it was Avondale FC who took the game to Bentleigh in the opening ten minutes putting the host side on the back foot early. With the attacking intent of Avondale FC so evident, it forced Bentleigh Greens SC to become defensive and look to close the spaces by being tight and compact. This allowed the wingers to have freedom and Stefan Zinni was busy working the ball down the flanks to try and draw the Bentleigh team from outside of their box.
In the 15th minute, Avondale FC had their best chance of the match with a set piece James Riccobene free kick which found Liam Boland out the back unmarked but was unable to capitalise and punish the Bentleigh Greens SC defence. It was much of the same story for the remainder of the half with opportunity after opportunity on the Bentleigh Greens goal, Avondale FC wasn’t able to take their chances and at the halftime break scores were 0:0.
It was the same story of the second half with Avondale FC showing more urgency on the attacking front and the more likely of the two sides to get the opening goal. Elvis Kamsoba came close with a neat turn but flashed the ball across the goal face as a great opportunity went begging.
In the 62nd minute, the league top scorer Kaine Sheppard made way and created an opportunity for last game’s man of the match Yitay Towns to make an impact. An instant impact he did with his ability to go past defenders and the only way to stop him was to foul the player and drew two yellow cards in as many minutes to create a worry for the Bentleigh Greens defence.
But in the 74th minute, a free kick was awarded to Bentleigh Greens and a well taken set piece saw a Bentleigh Greens player rise highest in the box to nod the ball across Chris Oldfield and into the back of the net. A complete run against play goal but showed how top teams find a way even with their backs against the wall.
Stefan Zinni continued to create chances until the final whistle, and a good cameo from the substitutes with returning Jem Berkant wasn’t enough to find a equaliser and create a more fair result then what the result was. With first versus second it was Bentleigh Greens SC who took all three points with a 1:0 win and means that they move five points clear on the top of the NPL Victoria table.