Balmain summoned their best performance of the season in dishing out a 4-1 hiding to Hakoah at Lidcombe Oval last night. With Merlino suspended, Little injured, Cremasco and Byrne unavailable, and Gothe-Snape late due to CityRail and car trouble, coach Luke Andrews was once again forced to ring the changes. In came Grant Burgess and Gavin Buddis at the back, Luis Soares replaced Merlino in midfield, and Sean Foley partnered flu victim Daniel Totaro up front. Hakoah started as expected, sitting deep, content to defend and play on the counter attack. On the quarter hour Eric Lynch brought back memories of Ronaldinho vs England in the last world cup and the days the Wests Magpies used to grace the Lidcombe turf, humping a high bomb goalward from miles out. The crowd craned their necks and watched with baited breathe as the ball dropped perfectly into the top corner of the goal, leaving the keeper looking for some sand to stick his head into. This galvanised the Tigers and they began to overpower their opponents with some quality passing and vigorous tackling. Sean Foley got a little too vigorous in the 25th minute though and was perhaps harshly sent from the field after a mistimed tackle hit too much leg and not enough ball. As so often happens in football when a side finds themselves a man short, the Tigers lifted a gear and were soon two up. Anthony “Cement” Trieste (he’s hard and loves putting the ball in the mixer) smashed a shot that was deflected into the path of Dave Hardwick, and from six yards out he couldn’t miss. Despite the 2-0 half time lead, the match was evenly poised with the prospect of a 10 vs 11 second half contest.
Any doubts that the Tigers would carry on with the job were dispelled just 3 minutes into the second period as they produced one of the finest team goals you will ever see. A Richardson tackle saw the ball roll out to Buddis on the right side of defence, who hit the ball long to Totaro, who headed first time square into the path of Hardwick, who hit a first time defence splitter wide to the left, and the flying Swede Henrik Andersson rounded off the move with a first touch lob that gave the keeper no chance. Eric Lynch added the fourth 10 minutes later when Julian Bracewell, who had come on for Totaro, chested a cross into his path leaving him with a simple finish from six yards. The Tigers were then unlucky not to have a fifth when Richardson smashed a cross from Andersson in at the far post, only to have it called back for another player who did not touch or go near the ball being judged offside. Hakoah squeezed in a late consolation goal to ruin Charlie Sosa’s clean sheet on debut aspirations, but in the end it was only a minor blemish on a spectaular night for Balmain football. Among a host of outstanding performances all over the park, tricky winger Jem Richardson was awarded the Exchange Hotel man of the match award.
At the post-game press conference, the opposition and match officials were full of praise for the Tigers’ performance. In particular the referee commented “that was Premier League standard” (NSW Premier League we assume).
Earlier, the U21s did their semi-final chances no good in going down 4-0 to Hakoah. The less said about this game the better, suffice it to say that the four goals were served up to the opposition via a stir-fry of poor defending and goalkeeping. Down 2-0 at the break the Tigers had a magnificent chance to pull one back from a corner just after the restart. On another day it might have gone in but in the end it didn’t, Hakoah made it three within minutes and the rest, as they say, is history.
A crowd in the tens turned up to Pratten Park to see the U19s upset the heavily fancied Hakoah 2-1 on Thursday night. The night started badly when the Tigers were unable to clear a cross effectivley and the ensuing shot slightly deflected off Grant Burgess’ arm past the stranded keeper Vince. On the half hour, Simon Roddy surged into the box and was crudely hacked down resulting in a penalty. The big bloodnut Burgess hammered it home, sending the tights-wearing, head-banded, mulletted keeper the wrong way. Balmain’s defense did well to keep Hakoah at bay for the remainder of the half, with Jamie “Seb” Oliver and Dave “Cucumber” Pye proving especially solid. Spurred on by the rowdy travelling Balmain crowd, the Tigers scored a deserved winner on 70 minutes, with the boy with the world’s longest name scoring after a goalmouth scramble. So another solid result from the U19s against one of the competition leaders – is it the start of a surge into the mid-table comfort zone?