Wrap-Up 1st week of Finals 2019-20205 min read
After a long campaign, interrupted by the Covid-19 enforced break, the highly anticipated finals campaign commenced with 3 tantalising matches, all finishing with the higher ranked sides overcoming their opponents in very close encounters.
Elimination Final: Fremantle FC 3 – 1 Perth Longobarda FC
A confident Fremantle (4th) overcame a gallant Longobarda (5th), to record their 7th win in a row and progress to the next round of the finals. Fremantle started the match with purpose, creating several guilt-edged opportunities. But it was an organised & determined Longobarda who took the lead with a classic counter-attacking goal via the ageless Jeevan Krishnan. Longobarda maintained that lead into the half-time break, and, having eliminated Fremantle at the same stage of the competition last season, they started the 2nd half with confidence. But Fremantle player-coach Luke Tidy had other thoughts, applying a high-press against a tiring opponent. Youth eventually trumped experience with a majestic late game hattrick from 18 year old Benji Mikhael taking the plaudits. Brian Watkins called a late time-out and played 5th man, to no avail, as Fremantle recorded a famous victory to progress to an elimination semi-final against Stirling, with the winner facing off against Murdoch for a place in the Grand Final. A fine season for Longobarda ends, as they announce the re-signing of head coach Watkins, and early trials for next season.
Elimination Final: Stirling Braza Ginga FC 6 – 3 Cockburn EWA FC
An elimination final for the ages, with the last 2 SFL champions facing off in a winner-takes-all encounter. Stirling (3rd) outlasted a fearless Cockburn (6th) in an encounter between the meanest defence & the strongest attack in the SFL. EWA started brightly, forcing man-of-the-match Glenn Sheldon into some of the most spectacular saves that we have seen all season. Braza made them pay for those misses with 2 quickfire goals from AJ Martino & Chris Rocchi, with the 2nd goal in particular a work of magic, and straight from the training ground. Deklan Burdle responded late in the 1st half to give Cockburn a glimmer of hope heading into the half-time break. A trade-mark free kick from young gun Connor Crews early in the 2nd half restored Stirling’s 2 goal advantage. From there onwards, every time EWA scored (Mark Gavranic), Braza responded in kind (with Robert Ftynogiannis & Martino’s 2nd). Late on, Daniel Canicas called a timeout & played 5th man, scoring via the ever-present Alex Gamble to restore Cockburn’s interest in the match, only for player-coach Thiago Mesquita to seal the final nail in the coffin with a very late goal, assisted by the charismatic Victor Brauner. Stirling march on to an elimination semi-final against familiar foes Fremantle, with the winner playing Murdoch for a spot in the Grand Final. The end of the road for Cockburn, who battled hard all game, but found Sheldon in spectacular form, and their defence with work to be done for next season.
Preliminary Final: Rockingham Cambio Cumbre FC 2 – 1 Murdoch Warriors FC
Rockingham (1st) reached their 4th Grand Final in a row, with an effective performance against a brave Murdoch (2nd). Two side that were difficult to split all season, battled in a game more akin to a chess match, with both goalkeepers excelling in the 1st half. Whilst Rain Blauberg was the busier of the 2 goalkeepers, Ethan Hardy was also called into action in The Warriors goal. The evenly balanced match was blown wide open late in the 1st half with a goal via the silky Faris Noor Rani. Murdoch were not to be denied responding early in the 2nd half via their charismatic leader Massimo Basolu, to restore parity. In a match of fine margins, Noor Rani pounced on a defensive error to regain the lead for La Cumbre. With time running out, Murdoch played 5th man, holding possession for long periods & created some chances. But Rockingham held on, to the delight of their faithful & head coach Alex Lalovic. Cumbre will be delighted with the 14 day break, to allow their star players to rest after an arduous few weeks. Murdoch get a 2nd chance against the winner of the Stirling vs Fremantle elimination semi, with the victor of that match meeting Cumbre in the Grand Final.