Power v Spirit

Round 12 report by Paul Goodwin
Parramatta Power v Northern Spirit

Parramatta powered their way to a 3-0 win over local rivals Northern Spirit in front of an enthusiastic and sizeable crowd at Parramatta Stadium on Friday night.

The visitors held the upper hand in the first period and went closest to scoring, though Power was also very competitive and unlucky not to break the deadlock at least a couple of times too.

The best passage of quality football was played in the last 20 minutes of the first half when some quite brilliant passing provided rich entertainment, but, alas for Northern Spirit, no goals came the way of the visitors.

Parramatta lifted the tempo after the break and were by far the more alert of the two teams, a facility which enabled them to capitalise on some poor defensive work from corners in a 9 minute purple period enjoyed by the hosts midway through the second half.

In the 63rd minute, shortly after Joe Miller had blazed yet another chance over the Spirit bar, set up for him by Milan Blagojevic, Power was able to take the lead.

A ball was pushed through to Joel Griffiths and as defenders began to converge on the blond- haired striker support came in numbers from his own team as well. Damien Brown was among those players charging forward and it was he who was able to latch onto a loose ball, hastily cleared to the edge of the area with no real conviction, and bury his shot in the roof of the net.

Four minutes later an even less decisive Spirit defence once again failed to clear its lines, following a free kick and this time David Lee, lurking well outside the box, was able to produce one of his trademark long range shots to find the centre of Paul Henderson's net.

At 2-0 Spirit brought on Alex Moreira for the more defensive minded Paul Bilokapic and within a minute the Brazilian born striker had a chance to reduce the deficit.

He got into the six yard box unmarked to meet a smart cross from the right by Matt Langdon, but lifted the ball well over from right in front.

Within another two minutes it was all over with Parramatta finding the net a third time.

A corner on the right was not cleared, yet again, and once more Lee was waiting to pounce.

This time, however, his strike, much lower than his first, was deflected twice on its way into the net. First Joe Vrkic stuck out a foot and then Joe Miller, whose name the referee put in his book, got the second and decisive touch to deceive Henderson as the ball ended up just inside the right hand post.

Ahmad Elrich also found time to smash a shot against the crossbar in the 78th after Peter Bennett had intercepted a poor pass and sent Miller away to lay the ball back for the hard working Elrich.

Moreira put over a telling cross in the 86th which the hitherto well marked Ben Burgess got his head to, but Andrew Crews managed to push the goal attempt onto the post and collect the rebound.

Spirit had a good passage of play early in the second half as well, with a Matt Bingley volley tipped over by Crews and a Bilokapic drive just flying wide of the post.

Generally, though, the Northern Sydney side failed to convert their best opportunities in the first part of the game.

Bilokapic was involved in a clever three-man free kick manoeuvre which resulted in a terrific pivot by the tall defender and a powerful strike which crashed against the crossbar with the keeper hopelessly beaten.

The rebound fell to Noel Spencer, out on the left of the six yard box, but the former Wollongong man could only find the side netting.

The half ended with Crews coming racing off his line to get to the ball before the converging Ben Burgess could reach it and that alert save was to prove crucial in the final analysis.

Spirit lost player-coach Graham Arnold in only the 38th minute to a niggling injury and while his replacement Robbie Enes slotted straight into the sweeper's spot, the defence seemed less well organised or sure of itself from that point, though there was no doubting Enes' workrate or enterprise.

As the game wore on the influence of Craig Foster began to wane and Damien Brown, Parramatta's recruit from NSW Premier League side Blacktown City, began to enjoy a lot of freedom down the left.

He and Elrich both had strong games for a Parramatta side which won its 5th straight game here and continued its dominance of its neighbour with its third win in as many encounters.

Joe Miller, in the side after passing a late fitness test, was a key factor in Parramatta's strong performance as was Lee, restored to the side after being dropped after the Wollongong loss, who won everything he contested in the air and used his head in the other respect with good distribution.

Ryan Griffiths did not get much change out of the Power defence in his first game facing his brother Joel, who was by far the more dangerous member of the family on this occasion.

Burgess was under a tight hold all night and the wide players of Power had the wood on their opposite numbers for long periods as well.

An entertaining game for spectators and another chapter in the annals of the two emerging Sydney soccer clubs as the new boys on the block continue to tussle for supremacy. Spirit clearly have a lot to do to catch up now, especially after their recent unbeaten run came to such a disappointing end in this game.

Parramatta, on the one hand, are now well among the top bunch and ready to challenge for honours; Spirit, on the other, are just off the pace again and losing their way a bit, it could be argued.