Campbelltown City have claimed the final place at the NPL Finals Series, following their 2-1 grand final win over Adelaide Blue Eagles.
Campbelltown City have claimed the final place at the inaugural NPL Finals Series, following their 2-1 victory over cross-town rivals Adelaide Blue Eagles in the South Australia Premier League grand final last night.
Playing in front of a crowd in the vicinity of 3,500 at Coopers Stadium, Campbelltown came from a goal down to complete an amazing finals run. The club claiming just the second top-flight premiership in its history, to put an exclamation point on their 50th anniversary celebrations.
The Red Devils from the north-east of Adelaide will now play South Hobart, who did the double in Tasmania-s football federation, for a spot in the final of the national competition. The fixture will be played in Hobart next month, after City's Oliver Totani slotted the decisive goal from the penalty spot.
The night didn't get off to the best start for Campbelltown, gifting their more fancied opponents an opportunity on six minutes and Blue Eagles striker Kym Harris duly obliged to open the scoring.
However Campbelltown fought their way back into the match and were rewarded for their perseverance with an equaliser on the cusp of half-time.
Man-of-the-match Totani picked out teammate Michael Matricciani with a pin-point pass inside the Blue Eagles area. The striker, who has represented Australia in beach soccer, made no mistake to draw the Red Devils level in injury time.
The match looked like it could be headed to extra time, with neither side managing to carve out a winner deep into the second-half. However Campbelltown, who had survived two penalty shoot-outs en route to the grand final, were awarded a penalty with just over ten minutes remaining.
Blue Eagles were judged to have deliberately handled the ball in the area and Totani converted from the spot what proved to be the winner.
Campbelltown assistant coach Joe Lagana was elated with his side's performance and said the club were worthy winners of the premiership title.
"We've waited a long time for this, it's a very emotional thing," he said. "Grand finals are always huge but being a derby against our neighbours who are also of Italian heritage made it extra special.
"They came at us like a bull out of the gate and really put us under pressure but we were able to turn the tide and get back into the match.
"I thought the goal just before half time was a big turning point as it gave us the ascendency in the second half and once we went ahead they were never going to catch us."
The victory completes a remarkable finals run for Campbelltown and they can now look forward to the National Premier Leagues Finals Series which commences next weekend.
Having finishing the regular season in fourth place, the Red Devils have booked their spot by virtue of the fact South Australia were the only federation in the country that will send their grand final winners as opposed to their minor-premiers to the debut event.
Despite having under a fortnight to prepare for the trip to Hobart, Lagana said the club would have no problems sending a full-strength side and that they'd prepare for the match like any other.
"All the boys are really excited to have made it and we'll definitely give a good account of ourselves," he said. "We'll treat it just like any game, where you can't take anything for granted but we'll be confident in our own ability."
Image courtesy of Football Federation South Australia
The NPL 2013 Finals Series schedule is as follows:
Elimination Final 29 September 2013 Game 1 Sydney United 58 FC vs Canberra FC (3pm kick-off)
Semi Finals 5/6 October 2013 Game 2 (5 October) Olympic FC vs Winner of Game 1 (6pm kick-off) Game 3 (6 October) South Hobart FC vs Football Federation South Australia (12pm kick-off)
Grand Final 12/13 October 2013 Game 4 Winner of Game 2 vs Winner of Game 3