Opening day surprises in Men's NPL

Floreat Athena sent a shockwave through the NPLWA - Men’s competition with a 2-0 win away at Perth RedStar on a boiling opening day.

Elsewhere, new boys Western Knights downed Perth SC, fellow promoted side Fremantle City earned a point while Olympic Kingsway backed up the hype with an impressive victory at Stirling Macedonia.

It was a committed and well-organised performance from Vas Vujacic’s Floreat team as they held last year’s league champions to just one shot on target across the 90 minutes.

RedStar’s defeat also means that for the third season in a row the holders of the NPL title have lost their Round One fixture.

Athena almost went ahead when Nick Ambrogio’s early corner clipped the top of the crossbar, while RedStar’s best move of the opening half came when Matty George and Daryl Nicol shifted the ball across the box for Ryan Finnie to sidefoot wide.

Cherno Bah’s long-range effort for Floreat was punched back to the midfielder by RedStar keeper Liam Reddy, with Bah following in from his initial shot to force the veteran stopper into a secondary save.

That proved to be a warning for RedStar’s rearguard and Floreat found the front five minutes before half-time. Noah Shamaki bent his run to perfection as he latched on to Mohamed Al-Zaidy’s pass and ran in to slot past Reddy.

Western Knights go ahead against Perth SC. Photo by Robert Lizzi

Declan Hughes curled a free-kick inches wide of the post before the break or the hosts, but the better chances were coming Athena’s way. Shamaki again rolled his marker only to curl beyond the post midway through the second period.

Nicol lifted Bryce Bafford’s cross over the bar from 12 yards with all signs point towards it not being RedStar’s day.

Ultimately, it was Floreat who bagged a second goal with 10 minutes remaining, as substitute Ethan Mom won the ball high up the pitch, kept his cool under pressure and rolled across for Alex Christodoulakis to make it 2-0.

Sonny O’Shea’s late shot crashed against the post, but it wasn’t to be for the holders as Floreat made a fantastic start to 2024.

Floreat sit second in the league behind early leaders Olympic Kingsway who made an early statement with a 3-0 win at Stirling Macedonia.

It was a meeting between second and third in last year’s competition with David Tough’s side breaking through for the opener on 20 minutes. New signing Liam Boland’s shot on target took a final touch off team-mate Josh Samson for 1-0.

Joe Knowles Olympic Kingsway Stirling Macedonia
Joe Knowles marked his Olympic Kingsway debut with a goal. Photo by Football West

It was a deserved lead for Kingsway, who dominated the opening half, and they gave themselves breathing room with quarter-of-an-hour remaining as Aryn Williams was left free in the box to head in Mitch Oxborrow’s corner.

Victory was rubberstamped soon after with the outstanding Joe Knowles dispatching a penalty kick straight down the middle after Ollie Annis had been upended, ensuring a resounding opening-day success for Olympic.

Elsewhere, both promoted sides picked up points in Round One.

Western Knights marked their return to the top flight with a 1-0 win over four-time NPL winners Perth SC.

The only goal was scored after five minutes when Jesse Lazzaro’s corner was helped on by Owen Goodliffe at the near post with the final touch coming off the Azzurri’s Ethan Banks at the back post.

Basywater Cat Bryant Photography
Jackson Stephens puts Bayswater 2-1 up at Armadale. Photo by Cat Bryant Photography

Fremantle City are also on the board this season after an exciting 2-2 draw with Balcatta Etna in their first NPL WA outing.

Matty Sparrow’s side made a dream start as Ollie La Galia rose to beat Connor Campbell to a long free-kick and head the ball over the line inside the opening two minutes.

Balcatta levelled eight minutes before the interval when hesitation as the allowed Liam Miller to drive home the equaliser on his debut.

Etna’s comeback was complete thanks to Ben Hinshelwood’s long-range rocket, but despite trailing 2-1 at the break Freo stuck to their task and made it 2-2 in the final 10 minutes.

Campbell’s punch clear found Alex Maclean on the edge of the area and he brilliantly lobbed over two backpedalling Balcatta defenders on the line to ensure City took a point back down south.

Armadale and Bayswater City also shared four goals in a 2-2 draw.

Armadale went ahead on five minutes when Lucas Cook got forward on the overlap and his cross was bundled in at the near post by Chan Yelchan.

Bayswater levelled with basically the last kick of the first half when Samuel Dweh skipped past a couple of challenges and struck past goalkeeper Joel Driscoll from 18 yards.

Gary Williams’ side hit the front with 13 minutes to play when Jackson Stephens volleyed home, but Yelchan would make it a double on his NPL debut as he finished a set-piece routine from close range with the game ending 2-2.

Armadale Cat Bryant Photography
Chan Yelchan celebrates his late equaliser for Armadale. Photo by Cat Bryant Photography

Finally, Perth Glory got their season up and running with a 1-0 win at Inglewood United.

The games’ decisive goal came 10 minutes from time when Daniel Jankuloski got the final touch from Jaylan Pearman’s inswinging free kick.

NPLWA - Men's Round One: Armadale 2-2 Bayswater City, Balcatta Etna 2-2 Fremantle City, Inglewood United 0-1 Perth Glory, Perth RedStar 0-2 Floreat Athena, Stirling Macedonia 0-3 Olympic Kingsway, Western Knights 1-0 Perth SC.