Written by Roy Hay.
Divisional Play-offs Southern Division Sunday 26 April 1998 Preliminary Final Melbourne Knights 3 Victorian Institute of Sport 4 (Ivica Kolceg, own goal, Festim Zekiri) (Joey di Iorio 2, Adrian Cuzzupe 2) (After extra time, Cuzzupe's second goal was the golden goal from the penalty spot) Northern Division Saturday 25 April 1998 Qualifying Final AIS 2 UTS Olympic 2 (David Onoforo, Chris Tanchevski) (Leon Alexiou 2) (VIS won 5-4 on penalties) League ladders Southern Divsion Team P W D L F A Pts Melbourne Knights 20 18 0 2 85 24 54 Carlton 20 18 0 2 59 13 54 Gippsland Falcons 20 14 2 4 55 27 44 V I S 20 10 4 6 45 23 34 Bulleen Inter 20 10 3 7 35 28 33 Bentleigh Greens 20 8 2 10 29 37 26 Heidelberg United 20 7 2 10 29 53 23 South Melbourne 20 5 3 12 39 38 18 Albury Wodonga 20 5 1 14 28 46 16 Altona Magic 20 4 2 14 31 73 14 South Melbourne Rockets 20 1 1 18 16 89 4 Northern Division A I S 22 15 2 5 75 25 47 UTS Olympic 22 14 4 4 71 33 46 Sydney United 22 11 6 5 60 40 39 Wollongong City 22 11 5 6 47 41 38 Q A S 22 11 4 7 51 30 37 Newcastle Breakers 22 9 6 7 50 39 33 Marconi Fairfield 22 10 2 10 44 47 32 Marconi Fairfield Colts 22 8 4 10 38 50 28 A C T A S 22 5 7 10 25 56 22 N S W I S 22 5 5 12 35 52 20 Sydney United Colts 22 4 3 15 26 67 15 UTS Olympic Colts 22 3 4 15 30 71 13 Leading goalscorers Southern Division Name Team Goals Adis Kablar Melbourne Knights 16 John Kalabric Melbourne Knights 15 Jovanco Novacevski Carlton 14 Luke Cheney Gippsland Falcons 13 Zoran Petrevski VIS 12 Northern Division Name Team Goals Mile Sterjovski AIS/Sydney United 25 Mark Hagger Marconi Fairfield Colts 24 Joe Bruni Marconi Fairfield 14 Chris Tanchevski Newcastle Breakers/AIS 11 Azur Mujanovic Sydney United 11 Michael Ferrante AIS 10 Robert Angievski Sydney United 10 Jim Bakis UTS Olympic 9 Nick Carle UTS Olympic 9 Please note goalscorers as given in revised tables this week are as supplied by Soccer Australia from official referees' team sheets, not as given to me directly by club liaison officers. Minor Premier Melbourne Knights ended its season when the Victorian Institute of Sport defeated it by four goals to three in a brilliant Preliminary final at Optus Oval on Sunday, thanks to a golden goal by Adrian Cuzzupe from the penalty spot with only three minutes left to play in extra-time. On a huge but slippery pitch both teams went out at top speed from the start and the Knights took the lead after only five minutes. VIS keeper Martin John punched out Hrvoje Matkovic's corner but Ivica Kolceg connected with a spectacular overhead kick which flew over the keeper and just under the bar. The VIS bounced back when Cuzzupe threaded the ball through to Joey di Iorio who ran on to beat Andrew Belaich after 16 minutes. Belaich was booked and a penalty awarded when he upended substitute Naum Sekulovski on the half-hour mark. Cuzzupe struck the penalty well, yet Belaich got a hand to it forcing it on to the post, but the rebound went straight back to Cuzzupe who had no problem scoring. With three minutes to go in an excellent first half Adis Kablar fired in a cross shot for the Knights, which Simon Storey deflected past his own keeper to send the teams in level at the break. That was only because John turned aside another blistering drive by Matkovic in the final minute of the first half. Five minutes after the restart Festim Zekiri completed a good Knights move with a shot from just inside the penalty area which flew past Martin John. Then in 66 minutes the VIS got back on terms when Cuzzupe got through the defence, drew the keeper and watched as the ball ran through to di Iorio who had the simplest of finishes. Thereafter both sides went all out for the winner but the match ended at three-all in normal time. The first half of extra time could not break the deadlock though Billy Petrovski went close for the VIS as did Michael Bosevski for the Knights, only to be denied by John. The Knights had its chance to win the game when Serhat Hulusi brought down Zekiri in 101 minutes. Michael Bosevski took the penalty kick, but John brought off another brilliant save. Mario Jurjevic pounded a free kick just over the bar, but then the VIS broke away. Ivica Kolceg seemed to have taken the ball from Petrovski but the referee pointed to the penalty spot and this time Cuzzupe needed only a direct kick to send his team into the Grand Final of the Southern Division against Carlton next week. National Youth League (Northern Division), 26 April 1998 The Australian Institute of Sport beat UTS Olympic on penalties after a pulsating Qualifying final in the Northern Division on Saturday. The teams were locked together at two-all after a brilliant goal by Chris Tanchevski deep into injury time in the second half of the game. Extra time could not produce a golden goal so it was down to the penalty shoot out and Ivan Ergic was the hero as he scored the fifth goal for the AIS to take it through directly to the Northern Division Final. Earlier Leon Alexiou put Olympic in front after 41 minutes only for David Onoforo to equalise on the stroke of half-time. Alexiou seemed to have sewn the match up for Olympic with his second goal in 71 minutes, especially when the AIS was reduced to ten men eight minutes later when Michael Ferrante was sent off for his second bookable offence. But former Newcastle Breakers striker Chris Tanchevski scored for the AIS three minutes into stoppage time to set up the thrilling climax. Wollongong City will meet Olympic next week to prevent a rematch for these two sides in the Grand Final of the Northern Division. Adelaide City as champion of South Australia will meet the Victorian champion in two weeks' time with the winner of this match taking on the Northern champion in the curtain raiser to the Ericsson Cup Grand Final on 16 May at Olympic Park. Divisional Play-offs Southern Division Sunday 3 May 1998 Grand Final Carlton 0 Victorian Institute of Sport 2 (Joshua Kennedy, Joey di Iorio) Northern Division Saturday 25 April 1998 Preliminary Final UTS Olympic 1 Wollongong City 2 (Jim Bakis) (Chad Bishop 2) National Youth League (Southern Division), 3 May 1998 by Roy Hay It was third time lucky for the Victorian Institute of Sport when it won its first grand final in the Southern Division of the National Youth League beating Carlton by two goals to nil in brilliant sunshine at Bob Jane Stadium on Sunday. The VIS has reached the grand final three times in the last five years, but this is its first victory and it was done the hard way. The VIS only scraped into the last spot in the play-offs with a flaky one-all draw against Bulleen in the last home and away round, then beat Gippsland Falcons away, and Melbourne Knights with a golden goal in extra-time in the Preliminary Final. Against Carlton which had much of the play, particularly in the second half, the VIS showed lots of determination and capable defence, with Martin John pulling off a series of stunning saves to deny the Blues. On the only occasion the keeper made a nonsense Serhat Hulusi was on hand to prevent Alex Josifovski scoring. Adrian Cagalj at the other end was also in top form, picking off a sweetly struck free kick by Adrian Cuzzupe. Cagalj then came off his line to block an effort by Joey di Iorio, but the ball rebounded to Joshua Kennedy, and the lad from Yackandandah fired it back through the sprawling bodies into the net after 26 minutes. Pece Siveski showed great skill and pace to get to the bye-line for Carlton and his cross just eluded the onrushing Josifovski and Jovanco Novacevski. Ivan Perkov put a cross shot on to the top of the VIS net as the first half ended. Carlton brought on Ace Stojcevski to replace Novacevski and the little man was immediately in the action forcing Martin John to fingertip one shot round the post, then repeat the effort shortly afterwards. Joey di Iorio raised the siege with a brilliant run, but was smothered at the last by Serdar Pir and Ivica Klarica. Thereafter Carlton piled on the pressure, but it was always vulnerable to the fast break, and when Billy Petrovski in his red boots outstripped the Carlton defence, Cagalj could not hold his fierce shot and di Iorio popped the loose ball into the goal to give the VIS its trophy. Next week the VIS will meet Adelaide City at Olympic Park at 4.30 pm in the Inter-Division Play-off. Commiserations go to Jeff Olver and the Carlton team which showed model professionalism and sportsmanship in coming second in the league and the play-offs. The talent in this squad is frightening and given that senior coach Eddie Krncevic has already promoted Simon Colosimo, Marco Bresciano and Josifovski you might expect to see several of these youngsters in the Ericsson Cup next season. National Youth League (Northern Division), 3 May 1998 Wollongong Wolves is on track to emulate the VIS in the Northern Division after knocking off UTS Olympic by two-goals to one in the Preliminary Final, which was postponed until Sunday and finally played at Marconi Fairfield. Wolves just pipped the Queensland Academy for the fourth spot in the play-offs and has now downed Sydney United and Olympic to set up a grand final meeting with the Australian Institute of Sport. As expected the match between Wolves and Olympic was tight all the way with no goals scored in a frenetic first half. Finally the breakthrough came when the Wolves got a penalty after 49 minutes and Chad Bishop put it away expertly. Jim Bakis scored his tenth goal of the season in 73 minutes to tie the scores again and most people were beginning to focus on extra time when Bishop popped up again to grab the winner with seven minutes remaining. Olympic had a player sent off in the last minute, which did not help its attempt to equalise. Nick Carle hit the post and Olympic peppered the Wolves goal only to find the keeper in unbeatable form. Next week will see the Northern Division Grand Final between the AIS and Wollongong, with the Northern champion then going on to play the VIS or Adelaide City in the curtain raiser to the Ericsson Cup Grand Final on 16 May at Olympic Park. National Youth League 10 May 1998 Inter Divisional Play-off Sunday 10 May 1998 Victorian Institute of Sport 1 Adelaide City 3 (Adrian Cuzzupe) (Austin McGregor, Travis Dodd, Robert Saraceno) Northern Division Sunday 10 May 1998 Grand Final Wollongong City 0 AIS 2 (Ivan Ergic, Chris Tanchevski) National Youth League (Southern Division), 10 May 1998 by Roy Hay Adelaide City proved too good for the Victorian Institute of Sport in the Inter-Divisional Play-off at Olympic Park on Sunday, winning comfortably by three goals to one. The Zebras got a flying start within a minute when Omero Gosti won a hard challenge in midfield and looked up before lifting the ball over the defence into the path of Austin McGregor who controlled it and put it past Tony Calleja in the VIS goal. It took the VIS lads time to recover from this blow though Adrian Cuzzupe had a shot deflected wide, then Serhat Hulusi's header was just held on the line by Athony Brearden. In twenty minutes Adelaide doubled its lead after Travis Dodd headed home a corner kick by Michael Pirone. At half-time VIS coach Ernie Merrick was clutching at straws. "Can we restart at nil-all?", he said with tongue in cheek, but then sent his players out with instructions to be much more positive especially in the middle and up front. Fabio Lettieri forced Brearden to tip a fierce shot over the bar, then Serhat Hulusi was through but shot wide and Naum Sekulovski slalomed through the defence only to be blocked by the keeper in the act of shooting. In 62 minutes the VIS did get a goal back when Adrian Cuzzupe strode through midfield and finished with a drive which went under the keeper. The Zebras rebounded quickly and Calleja had to tip a header by Dino Paris on to the post and away to safety. Next Calleja saved at the feet of Pirone, but then he blotted his copybook by hoofing a back-pass straight to Robert Saraceno, who accepted the gift and strode past the stranded keeper before placing the ball between two defenders on the goal-line. That goal came in 70 minutes and effectively ended the VIS's chances though they fought the match out to the end. National Youth League (Northern Division), 3 May 1998 Wollongong Wolves entertained the Australian Institute of Sport in the Northern Division Grand Final at Brandon Park and Saturday, but the boys from the Institute came out on top by two goals to nil. Ivan Ergic put the AIS ahead in the 16th minute after picking the ball up about half way, drifting past three defenders and whacking the ball past the keeper. The AIS played well in the first half, controlling much of the play, but Wollongong came back strongly after the interval. For a while the AIS was really struggling, but with only three minutes left it produced a good build up on the left. David Onoforo guided the ball through and Chris Tanchevski ran on to slot in the goal which sealed the game. David Arranz and Matthew Kemp played well for the AIS and Ivan Ergic was a star until he sustained a back injury and had to limp off. Wollongong will play much worse and win, and it was disappointing that it had nothing to show for the effort the team put into the match and indeed to the whole season. Next week the Inter Division Grand Final between the AIS and Adelaide City should be played as the curtain raiser to the Ericsson Cup Grand Final on Saturday 16 May at Olympic Park, but this had not been confirmed at time of writing. National Youth League Grand Final 16 May 1998 Australian Institute of Sport 4 Adelaide City 1 (Ivan Ergic, Chris Tanchevski, (Michael Cartwright) Matthew Kemp, David Onoforo) The Australian Institute of Sport won its second National Youth League title, the previous one coming in 1986, when it beat Adelaide City by four goals to one at Olympic Park on Saturday night. The AIS was always in control after skipper Michael Ferrante worked his way to the bye-line on the right hand side and crossed for David Onoforo to finish from close range. Adelaide City had a great chance to equalise within a minute when Omero Gosti was brought down by two AIS defenders in the box. Gosti picked himself up to take the penalty kick, but struck it wide of the post for a huge let-off for the AIS. The AIS extended its lead in 31 minutes after the ball was worked through to Newcastle striker Chris Tanchevski who swivelled and shot past Anthony Brearden. Eight minutes later Nathan Thompson set up Ivan Ergic for a shot into the corner of the net. Brearden pulled off an excellent double stop from Onoforo and Tanchevski to prevent the AIS running away with the game towards the end of the first half. In the second half Adelaide City raised the tempo and tried hard to break back, though Manuel Sermeno had a shot for the AIS which hit the top of the bar. Ljubo Milicevic had to clear with a header on the goal line for the AIS, then keeper Grant Barlow just touched a shot from Michael Pirone and deflected it to safety. Then in 63 minutes Pirone's well-flighted corner kick reached Adelaide skipper Michael Cartwright at the far post and he guided it past Barlow. Dustie McGregor and Pirone had good efforts as the Zebras pressed forward, but as so often happens the AIS made a breakaway and Matthew Kemp ran from midfield to beat the keeper for the fourth goal for the Canberra based lads. It was good standard game worthy of a grand final, and no one could quibble about the result to which all players contributed. The season ends with the AIS as overall and Northern Division champion, Adelaide City the runner-up and South Australian leader, while the Victorian Institute of Sport took the Southern Division title. Mile Sterjovski finished as the leading scorer, despite the fact he had broken through into the Sydney United senior team not long after the midpoint of the season. Though the two leagues in the Eastern States have been disrupted by the frequent byes and postponements, it seemed to me that more players had graduated from youth league teams to their senior sides than in any previous years. Congratulations to all who have taken part and my thanks to all who assisted with the preparation of the match reports throughout the season.