Titans All Age Sunday As are Back to Back Champions
Post date: Aug 30, 2016 10:46:19 AM
The stage was set last Sunday as last year's champions the Cooks River Titans clashed against this year's minor premiers in Enfield Rovers at Campbell Park in Chiswick.
In the semi final Enfield had defeated Abbotsford 2-1 while Cooks River overcame Inter Lions 3-2. Cooks River went into the semi final with only 11 fit players and without a recognised goal keeper so were forced to play striker Nick Vagerakis in goals. They battled hard in what was probably their best game all season to reach the Grand Final.
They went into the Grand Final again with the same 11 players as the week before and no available substitutes. Meanwhile Enfield had a full compliment of 16 players at their disposal. The Titans therefore went into the match as underdogs but the players and coach Sam Galanis were still quietly confident having beaten Enfield twice in the regular competition by scorelines 5-0 and 2-1.
The first half started at a frantic pace with both teams holding nothing back in their challenges for the ball. As the match warmed up it was Cooks River who seemed to have more control of the game while Enfield made it difficult with their physical presence.
Cooks River created a couple of half chances in the box but the ball wouldn't fall for them and Enfield managed to scramble the ball away to safety. The Titans won a free kick just outside the box in the 37th minute and whipped the ball into the 6 yard area. The Enfield keeper came out and fumbled but his defence came to his rescue and cleared the ball for a corner. A minute later Daniel Murphy raced down the wing and drove in a pin point cross only for Tommy Bakoulis to volley over the bar. The Titans clearly had the ascendancy with same great link up play between Murphy and Bakoulis and the creativity of Daniel Cejas, Matthew Di Biasi and Josh Ribeiro but were unable to find a way through the Enfield defence before the break so both teams went into half time 0-0.
The second half continued just like the first with the Titans looking to move the ball around to frustrate the Rovers. In the 55th minute the Titans win a freekick outside the box but the shot goes agonisingly wide. Five minutes later the Titans again test the Rovers keeper with a blistering effort from 34 metres but the keeper makes an impressive save to frustrate the sky blue faithful.
Arian Galanis was making a nuisance of himself down the right flank as the Enfield defence found him hard to contain at times. With 13 minutes to go the Murphy was put through and his shot hit the post but he was judged to be offside. A minute later Enfield created their best chance of the game but a great save by Vagerakis ensured the scoreboard attendant remained unmoved. Vagerakis didn't have much to do all game thanks to the determination and composure of Sam Mirkovic, Alex Jones, Daniel Direse and Alex Rodrigues who did everything to protect the Titans goal and prevent any real chances for Enfield.
The game didn't look like slowing down as it neared full time with both teams putting their bodies on the line for their respective clubs. With 6 minutes left Galanis again broke down the right wing and delivered a low cross only for the shot from 15 metres to go straight to the keeper. Neither team was able to break the dead lock in the dying stages so the match moved into 10 minutes each way of golden goal extra time.
With the Titans not having any substitutes as compared to Enfield who had 5, one would think the Enfield would gain the ascendancy but there is something special about this Titans team lead by Galanis and his trustworthy assistant and son Dean. Extra time again followed a similar pattern with the Titans creating the better chances but just missing the killer edge to beat the Enfield keeper who was proving to be unbeatable. The best chance of the first half of extra time fell to Bakoulis who was put through but the Enfield keeper came expertly off his line to thwart any danger.
In the second half of extra time, despite showing signs of fatigue, Cooks River lifted a gear and showed more desperation to try and find a winner and therefore avoid the dreaded penalty shootout. They won a free kick just outside the box for a heavy challenge by the Enfield defender. The free kick was deflected away for a corner. The ensuing corner was floated to the box post and with the Enfield keeper stranded, the free header from an acute angle crashed against the post and was then cleared to safety.
As the sun drifted to the west and light started to fade the referee blew his whistle to send the match into penalties as neither team was able to break the stalemate. Everything now pointed to an Enfield win with their keeper having a brilliant game while Cooks River were playing without a shot stopper. The first penalty was scored by Enfield and the Titans first penalty was blazed over the bar to ensure things were going according to the script. However, Vagerakis managed to save the next three penalties by guessing the right way and the Titans converted their next three penalties to force the script writers to scratch their heads as the Cooks River Titans won the match 3-1 on penalties. Against all adversity, the Titans fought like warriors and deservedly won the match to be crowned back to back champions of the All Age Sunday Men's competition.