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Perth SC matchwinner Michael Domfeh
Domfeh sends Azzurri into NPL Finals semis
Report by Tommy Doleman
Substitutes Aleks Jovic and Michael Domfeh struck in extra time as Perth Soccer Club defeated Heidelberg United 3-2 in a pulsating NPL Finals Series clash in Port Melbourne.
Heidelberg’s Andrew Cartanos cancelled out Paul Zimarino’s early goal to take the match into extra time, before Jovic curled home to put the Azzuri on the cusp of becoming the second NPL WA side to win interstate, after Bayswater in 2015.
Perth keeper Francis Soale then made a superb double save early in the second period of extra time to thwart the 2017 NPL Finals winners, before Domfeh countered up field, cut inside and fired low, left footed, into the bottom corner.
Alex Schiavo pulled a goal back for Heidelberg just before the final whistle but Perth saw out the match. The win continues a remarkable season for the Azzurri, who having completed back-to-back domestic doubles in the NPL WA and now advance to the national semi-final at former NSL powerhouse Wollongong Wolves next weekend.
“We took plenty of belief from last year’s game against Sydney Olympic and I thought the boys played like warriors tonight,” Perth coach Ramon Falzon said after the game.
“We hit the ground running immediately. The first 20 minutes were really good and scoring first was a different challenge to last year as we weren’t chasing the game.
“We had done our homework on Heidelberg and were looking to get the ball into our central midfielders often – for them to link up and find our forwards in the right areas, and I thought we kept the ball well.
“I’m not sure what to expect from Wollongong just yet, but we will do our research and I’m pretty sure we will need a similar performance to tonight to qualify for the final.”
Unlike 12 months ago where Perth conceded inside 10 minutes to Sydney Olympic, the WA team found themselves ahead at JL Murphy Reserve when Kristian Santich threaded a pass through for Zimarino to lob over Theodoridis and into an empty net.
Heidelberg gradually grew into the game as Sean Ellis whipped a free-kick onto the roof of the net, before the Victorian champions were awarded a penalty when Ellis’ volley was deemed to have hit a Perth hand in the area.
Former Perth Glory forward Adrian Zahra stepped up to the spot but he struck the post with Ellis putting the follow-up over and beyond the goal.
In the second half Christopher Dib headed a good chance over, before Matt Milenkovic’s cross was scrambled away by Steven Pace, who did enough to clear under pressure from Gustavo Catarcione.
Heidelberg made a double change on the hour mark and it paid off within 10 minutes as Paul O’Brien’s cross found its way through a sea of bodies to Cartanos at the back post, and he poked in for one-all.
That did not deter Perth, who continued to retain possession in the middle of the park, and they nearly won it in regulation when Zimarino curled wide of the post via a Heidelberg deflection.
Into extra-time we went and having introduced Jovic and Domfeh late in the second half, Falzon’s substitutes would step up either side of the extra time interval to win it for Perth.
Santich was pulling the strings in midfield again and he found the run of Domfeh in the channel. The NPL WA Golden Boot winner pulled the ball back to Jovic and he curled his first goal of the season.
Then, a tremendous double save from Soale and a block by Kieran Colwell provided the catalyst for Perth to break up field, and having beaten the offside trap Domfeh cut inside Pace and side-footed past Theodoridis.
Schiavo found the net from range late on, but there was barely time to launch another attack as the travelling pocket of Perth fans celebrated a victory and progression to the second week of the NPL Finals.
Star player: Kristian Santich (Perth SC)
NPL Finals Elimination Final
Heidelberg United 2 (Cartanos 70min, Schiavo 120+1)
Perth SC 3 (Zimarino 7, Jovic 103, Domfeh 108)
Sunday 22 September 2019
JL Murphy Reserve
Kick-off: 4.30pm (2.30pm WA time)
Referee: Michael Mammis
Assistant referees: Aleksander Liber, Max Hanlon
Heidelberg United: GK: Christopher Theodoridis, 3. Leslie DOUMBALIS (20. Luka NINKOVIC 105), 4. Christopher DIB (2. Joshua WILKINS 84), 7. Reuben WAY, 9. Adrian ZAHRA (8.Andrew CARTANOS 60), 11. Lucas DERRICK (16. Thomas CAHILL 60), 13. Luke BYLES, 15. Paul O’BRIEN, 17. Steven PACE, 19. Sean ELLIS, 22. Andrew SCHIAVO
Substitutes not used: RGK: Brendan White
Yellow Cards: Byles 30, Dib 32, Way 81
Red Cards: Nil
Perth SC: GK: Francis SOALE, 2. Alex SILLA, 3. Andreas THEODOSIADES (7. Aleks JOVIC 83), 6. Harley ORR, 9. Gustavo CATARCIONE (18. Michael DOMFEH 75), 11. Matt MILENKOVIC, 12. Jordan DE LEO, 14. Kristian SANTICH, 16. Kieran COLWELL, 19. Bojan RADINOVIC (4. Tom SOUTHGATE 91), 20. Paul ZIMARINO (17. Frank FURFARO 101)
Substitutes not used: RGK: Dejan ALEKSIC
Yellow cards: De Leo 24
Red cards: Nil