Image: Mark Avellino
Contrasting fortunes for the league leaders as Langwarrin slipped up against cellar-dwellers Mooroolbark, while Altona didn’t have such issues against Sydenham. Caulfield made up ground in the South-East, while North Sunshine and Geelong also kept their points tallies ticking over.
Altona Magic maintained their eight-point lead at the top of the North-West standings after a narrow derby victory against Sydenham Park at Keilor Park Lodge. Adamson Ajayi’s sensational 82nd minute strike proved to be the game winner, with the Nigerian forward netting his eighth of the campaign, while goalkeeper Michael Stark produced a fantastic reflex save late on to preserve the scoreline.
Geelong won the other Macedonian Derby of the week by going to BT Connor Reserve and defeating Preston Lions 1-0 on Sunday afternoon. Canadian striker Daniel Kuczynski netted the only goal of the game in the 13th minute as the visitors managed to keep Lions star Robert Stambolziev goalless for the first time since his arrival four weeks ago. In other news, Lou Acevski’s outfit has been strengthened by the signing of midfielder Andrew Milicevic who last year featured for St Albans and Whittlesea.
The North Sunshine Eagles edge out Geelong in second place on goal difference after a 3-1 win over the out-of-form Keilor Park at Larissa Reserve. Golden Boot leader Diellon Memishi and Ryan Dragovic found the back of the net once more against the visitors, having also scored in the reverse fixture earlier in the season. Shane Rexhepi also scored for the Eagles in what was his third goal of the season, while Matthew Sirgiouanni was the visitors’ scorer on the day.
Banyule City are fourth and two points behind second place after a dominant 3-0 win over the bottom of the table Altona East Phoenix, who returned to the park after a fortnight-long hiatus due to ground works. The hosts welcomed new signings Julien Cassano (Werribee City) and Anthony Giannopoulos (Malvern City) into the starting XI but were ultimately undone by goals from Massamba Dione, Thomas Andrews and Troy Pennycooke-Morgan.
The Western Suburbs and Essendon Royals played out a goalless stalemate at Ralph Reserve on Sunday afternoon while Yarraville ran out 3-0 winners over Westgate at McIvor Reserve. Goals from Japanese midfielder Kazuki Okada, Ghanaian youth international Kojo Brown and Okada’s fellow Japanese import Akira Koizumi saw the Glory move five points clear away from the relegation spots.
In the South-East, last-placed Mooroolbark produced the upset of the season after a stunning 3-2 victory over Langwarrin, with all five of the games’ goals scored in the last 15 minutes of the contest at Lawton Park. Ross Clark opened the scoring for the Barkers in the 78th minute only for Connor Belger to level things up seven minutes later after a fluid passing move. Powerful midfielder Mat Luak thought he had given the hosts all three points soon after with his third in four weeks only for Sam Klepac’s penalty to restore parity in the 90th minute. Klepac then pounced on a defensive mishap to score his seventh of the campaign in the dying seconds of the game to evoke jubilant celebrations in the visitor’s dugout for what was only their second win of the season.
The Caulfield United Cobras kept their triple promotion hopes alive with a 1-0 win over St Kilda to move within six points of first place and establish themselves as the most likely of challengers to Langwarrin. Daniel Topping scored the only goal of the encounter as the Celts slumped to their second consecutive defeat while also losing former Northern Irish youth international Johnny Black to injury.
Third-placed Manningham United Blues are four points behind the Cobras after a 2-1 defeat away to Warragul United at Baxter Park. Rory Wagner’s double cancelled out a Lucas Johns strike, with the visitors also debuting new signing Rudi Saglam off the bench.
Mornington’s promotion aspirations are all but over after a 3-2 loss at Dallas Brooks Park against the rejuvenated Casey Comets. That defeat was the Mornington’s fifth home loss of a campaign which began with high expectations for Adam Jamieson’s men. Ryan Paczkowski joined North Sunshine’s Memishi on 11 goals for the campaign to give Mornington the lead, only for Ray Markley to pounce on a defensive mistake from the hosts to level proceedings. An own goal each had the game poised at 2-2 only for Canadian import Allando Matheson to claim the winner with his seventh of the season and propel Jamie Skelly’s men to seventh on the league ladder.
Eighth-placed South Springvale and ninth-placed Clifton Hill could not be separated in a 1-1 draw at Warner Reserve with Michael Kariuki and Welshman Casey Thomas the respective scorers on the day.
Finally, Morwell Pegasus leapfrogged Malvern City into tenth and out of the relegation zone after a 4-0 drubbing over their hosts at Kooyong Park. Former Dandenong Thunder pair Godwill Benjamin and John Kuol got their names on the scoresheet as did Hamied Zanani who netted a brace as Carlos Retre’s men secured their second win on the bounce.