The opening round of the 2016 APS season saw the 1st XI team travel out to Keysborough to enjoy the hospitality of Haileybury College on a beautiful, sunny morning. The only cause for concern was a very strong northerly breeze that blew throughout the match and made the old cliché of ‘a game of two halves’ very much a reality. With three players made unavailable through illness and injury on the eve of the opening match of the season, the squad was reduced to 14 available players and went into the match under immense pressure to perform.
XC took the game on from the outset and before parents and the coaching staff had even had time to settle, Mikhail Capodistrias made an instant impact in his 1st XI debut, finding Captain Seb Lock on the right flank and from an acute angle, Seb fired home a delightful goal that the diving HY keeper was only able to watch fly into the back of the net in only the 2nd minute of the match. For large periods of the first half, the match was a ding-dong battle fought in the midfield. Marius Sorace worked incredibly hard in the heart of midfield, trying to deliver useful possession to Mikhail Capodistrias and Lee Gellis. On the flanks, Nicky Edwards worked tirelessly on the left, but wasn’t able to get his feet on the ball as often as he would have like. On the right, Aaron Fabris saw more possession, but was normally closed down before he was able to deliver effective passes into the box on many occasions. Having said this, it was a delightful pass from Lee Gellis on the edge of the HY penalty area to Nicky Edwards that would break the match open in the 19th minute of the match. Nicky stopped, propped and expertly curled the ball around the outstretched arms of the HY keeper and bulged the HY net to take XC to a 2-0 lead with a quarter of the match gone. This is how the score would remain at half time as neither team was able to exert enough pressure to break the opposition defence down again. Dylan Garofalo, Tom Petricca and Sam Iacono all made their debuts today in the backline, alongside the tower of strength on the day – centre back Oscar Bertelle. Whilst they were exposed at times at the back, something that will need to be addressed at training this week, the defensive cohort was able to snuff out almost every attacking move HY attempted to make.
The second half was a curious affair of a very stop-start nature. XC were unable to mount meaningful attacks and press home their advantage, and indeed it was HY that had XC camped on their goal line, mounting defensive efforts over and over again. XC never broke until an astonishing decision to award a penalty to HY after a call by the referee that caused confusion to everyone at the ground on both sides. HY converted the penalty in the 68th minute of the match and it was now game on. HY tried to mount wave after wave of attack, and looked better going forward than they had in the first half, but Luke Dais stood up strong in goals and kept HY at bay, making some excellent saves. The final five minutes saw normal service resume – XC gained a degree of ascendancy with Tom Natoli showing great strength after being subbed into the match and dominating possession in the middle of the park. Daniel Roccioletti, another second half substitute caused huge problems for the HY defence and late in the game broke forward on the right flank where he crossed the ball into the box in the final minute of the game where he found Fabio Sacchetta waiting in perfect position. Fabio fired the ball at the HY goal; the ball slammed into the underside of the HY crossbar and then bounced over the goal line. The score moved to 3-1 in XC’s favour and the match was secured. This would be the final act of the match as the final whistle blew shortly after goal celebrations had ended.
Ultimately this was a scrappy affair at times, with little opportunity for flowing play due to the 35 free kicks that were awarded in the match – 15 in XC’s favour, and 20 in HY’s favour, not to mention the four yellow cards. The team must now reflect upon the positive performance today, improve our discipline, and come back hungry for a victory in our opening home game of the 2016 season against arch rivals St. Kevin’s College next Saturday. Put simply, nothing other than victory will suffice against our traditional foes.
Mikhail Capodistrias had a very positive debut for the 1st XI today. He worked hard in the midfield, and was very creative at times. He set up the first goal of the match and had his own chance to score in the first half of the match in close, and under pressure, but he wasn’t able to convert. Now he knows what to expect, it’s time for him to step up against SKC next weekend.
Nicky Edwards was back to his skilful and wily ways after a quiet preseason. He worked extremely hard throughout the match, both on the left wing and when he was moved into midfield in the second half. Never one to let a goal scoring opportunity pass him by, his curler in the first half was a joy to behold. Ever enthusiastic, he could be heard throughout the match offering advice and encouragement to his team mates.
Aaron Fabris roamed on the right flank for the team today and had a short stint at striker early in the second half of the match. His attacking instincts were on full display today and did cause the HY defence a few concerns, especially in the first half. He will need to be more aware of his defensive responsibilities too as the focus now shifts to SKC next weekend.
Dylan Garofalo made his debut off the bench in the 12th minute of the match and slotted superbly into the right back position. He demonstrated excellent pace and determination throughout the match, and his efforts were critical in keeping HY at bay in both the first and second halves of the match. A calm, measured and positive performance.
Sam Iacono debuted at left back for the team today. Undoubtedly nerves played their part for him at times, but he eventually settled nicely into his defensive duties and seemed to be in the right place at the right time throughout the first half of the match.
Seb Lock led the team in fine form from the striking position in the first half. He was a constant menace for the HY defence and delivered a telling blow in only the second minute of the match. He was shifted back to his natural centre back position in the second half of the match, and whilst he was responsible for conceding a dubious (at best!) penalty, Seb’s strength and power were on full display through the second half. Time for SKC.
Tom Natoli came into the match in the second half of the game and made an instant impact, shoring up the midfield and dominating possession in the middle of the park, particularly late in the game with many players tiring rapidly. A strong performance from Tom this morning.
Tom Petricca debuted in the most pivotal of positions, in the heart of defence and did not disappoint. His poise under pressure and cool, calm disposition was on full display and he was never nested by any HY attacking player. A fine opening performance from Tom today.
Daniel Roccioletti came into the match at the beginning of the second half and the HY defence didn’t know what to make of him. Daniel’s capacity to get around the HY left back was demonstrated time and time again, and he was eventually able to convert his attacking threat into a Sacchetta goal in the dying minutes of the match. I have no doubt Daniel is relishing a SKC re-match on Saturday.
Fabio Sacchetta made a stuttering start at right back in the first half and was subbed in the 12th minute. To his credit, Fabio didn’t drop his head and he came back on in the 46th minute of the match, going up front as a striker and he followed the coach’s instructions to “cause some problems up front” to the letter. Fabio put himself in the right position to score on at least two occasions and was able to score his first goal for the 1st XI in an APS fixture in the final minute of the match.
Marius Sorace was a tower of strength in the middle of the park today. He secured more possession than any other XC player today and always looked to move the ball forward at any and all opportunity. A work horse in the midfield and an astute defender, Marius’ performance was critical to the team’s positive performance today.
Lee Gellis returned to form with a bang today. After an inauspicious preseason, Lee’s skills were on full display today. Gone was the over-possession and back was the astute passing and determination to dispossess his opponent and desire to get the ball forward. Lee set up the second goal of the game and played very well today throughout the match.
Luke Dais stood up today and never looked under pressure once. Today was his best performance under pressure for the 1st XI team. High balls in the blustery wind wreak havoc for goalkeepers, but not for Luke today. The few goal scoring opportunities that HY did have (barring the penalty) were snuffed out by Luke without an issue. If he continues in this sort of form, Luke could complete one hell of a season between the sticks.
Oscar “white line fever” Bertelle was outstanding for the team at the heart of the defence today. Whilst he went about his work quietly and calmly in the first half, the second half would see the best and worst of Oscar. He seemed to be everywhere when HY were gaining a sense of ascendancy, keeping any and all attack at bay in a superb performance. Having said this, Oscar must learn to control his emotions and not talk to the referee under any circumstances!