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‘Slapstick’ Soale sets up Perth for trip to Wolves
By Tommy Doleman
Perth SC captain Francis Soale has reflected on his incredible double save which helped thwart Heidelberg United in Sunday’s NPL Finals Series.
Perth pulled off an exhilirating 3-2 win over the NPL Victoria champions to set up a semi-final trip to Wollongong Wolves next Sunday.
The Azzurri were 2-1 up in extra-time when Soale came up with his heroics. Seconds later the ball was tranferred forward for NPL WA Golden Boot winner Michael Domfeh to tuck away Perth’s vital third goal.
“It’s awesome for the club to come interstate and win. Not just for the club, but also to represent Western Australia and show we’ve come a long way as a team and a state.” said Soale.
“It came off Thommo’s (Tom Southgate) foot to begin with and he couldn’t clear away, so I just stuck my hand out, it’s come back while I was on the floor, I stuck my leg out and it was all a bit slapstick from a goalkeeping point of view.
“We’ve been building towards this for a while after last year’s showing against Sydney Olympic. It’s not a massive surprise to us, but it’s awesome to put everything into practice and get the win.”
In 2018, Perth were eliminated at the first stage against Sydney Olympic after conceding a goal inside 10 minutes and matching their opponents otherwise.
The shift in mentality was visible this year as they perfected the balance between pressure on the opposition and control in possession, which resulted in Perth scoring in the opening minutes through Paul Zimarino.
“Last year we lost away at Sydney Olympic and probably gave them too much respect,” said Azzurri vice-captain Jordan De Leo.
“You always hear talk of the Victorian and New South Wales sides being stronger in the NPL, but we wanted to start as equals and come out as winners.
“We knew it would be a physical game, that their front line would press quite high and that would allow us space to play through the middle. We found the correct pass and moved the ball well, obviously took our chance early when it came and executed our game plan nicely.”
Substitutes Aleks Jovic and Domfeh both scored in extra time and De Leo added: “It’s a luxury to have guys like Aleks and Michael come off the bench.
“We have a squad where 15 or 16 guys could start games. But the team culture is such that we all know we’re required to play our part, whether it’s starting or coming off the bench, and the boys played their roles. Having that depth all season have definitely helped us this year and it showed again tonight.”
Buoyed by recording a third double in four years and now advancing to the semi-final stage of the NPL Finals for a second time in that period, Perth are full of confidence they can continue their run.
“We should be confident that we can go all the way after today’s performance,” De Leo said.
“Heidelberg are a good team and are one of the best NPL sides in Australia and we’ve come over and beaten them. We are definitely looking forward to Wollongong next week.”
A win in that semi-final meeting with Wollongong will put Perth in the grand final of the NPL Finals, with automatic entry into the FFA Cup Round of 32 at stake, and the opportunity to better Bayswater’s final appearance in 2015 when they were defeated 3-1 by Blacktown City.
“We were confident coming in this game because we’ve been playing at a high level for four years now, so it wasn’t a huge surprise that our performance was so good tonight,” Soale added.
“We started well. There’s an element of the opposition probably thinking they’re better than us when we come from WA, and you could see they got a little frustrated in the second half.”
– Football Federation Australia (FFA) today confirmed the match details for the Semi Finals of the National Premier Leagues (NPL) 2019 Finals Series.
Semi Final 1 will see Maitland FC host Lions FC on Saturday 28 September at Cooks Square Park whilst the Wollongong Wolves will host Perth SC at Albert Butler Park on Sunday 29 September in the second Semi Final.
The NPL 2019 Finals Series brings together the eight teams who finished top of their respective NPL standings at the end of their regular seasons to determine Australia’s best NPL side.
Once again, Mitre is the Official Match Ball Supplier of the NPL 2019 Final Series.
2019 marks the seventh edition of the NPL Finals Series, which was won last year by South Australian club Campbelltown City SC. Sydney United 58 FC won the inaugural competition in 2013 and then in 2016, while MetroStars SC from South Australia (2014), Blacktown City FC from New South Wales (2015) and Heidelberg United FC from Victoria (2017) have also been crowned champions of the series in the past.
The winner of the NPL 2019 Finals Series will receive automatic entry into the FFA Cup 2020 Final Rounds, providing an added incentive for the eight clubs taking part.
Every match in the NPL 2019 Finals Series will be streamed LIVE on www.nationalpremierleagues.com.au as well as via the official Hyundai A-League Facebook page (www.facebook.com/aleague).
National Premier Leagues 2019 Finals Series
*Please note this schedule is subject to change
POINTS SYSTEM TO DETERMINE HOSTS OF SEMI FINALS AND GRAND FINAL
To determine the host Member Federation clubs for the Semi Finals and Grand Final, the following points system will apply.
Win within normal time (i.e. 90 minutes) = 3 points
Win during extra time = 2 points
Win on penalties = 1 point
Goals scored by home team (excluding penalty shootouts) = 3 points
Goals scored by away team (excluding penalty shootouts) = 4 points
Goals conceded (excluding penalty shootouts) = -1 point
Yellow cards = -1 point; and
Red cards = -3 points
The host of the NPL 2019 Grand Final will be determined by the club with the highest accumulation of points across the Elimination Finals and Semi Finals.