Young goal-scoring sensation Ivan Kelic maintained his outstanding record as league leaders Melbourne Croatia shared the points with St George in a 2-2 draw at St George Stadium last night.
Kelic, 20, scored twice within the space of eight minutes midway through the first half, both from inside the six-metre box, to earn the visitors a point in a match which fluctuated from start to finish.
At the other end of the field, another two youngsters – strikers Matthew Bingley and Scott Ollerenshaw – put their names on the scoresheet to continue the Saints’ fine start to the season.
Despite the goals, however, the match fell away dramatically in the second half as the hectic pace of the first session took its toll and, although the game deserved to finish in a draw, Melbourne Croatiahad the opportunity to snatch victory with just eight minutes remaining.
Black winger Francis Awaritefe, who has made such a marked impression in his first season in the West End National League, was once again the provider as his cross from the left flank was volleyed by Dean Milosevic only for Saints’ goalkeeper Mike Gibson to produce a miraculous save from point-blank range.
Both Awaritefe and Milosevic had been the guiding lights for the visitors who gave an indication that they will be an even tougher proposition as the season progresses.
“Although I’m disappointed we didn’t come away with two points, I am confident the team is only going to get better and better,”Melbourne Croatia’s Socceroo Alan Davidson said. “The most important thing with us is our spirit – no-one is going to criticise anyone else – and that’s a credit to our new coach (Ivan Raznjevic).”
Yet, if the league leaders looked slightly the more composed side, the equal enthusiasm of St George was again a tribute to coach Frank Arok.
Although he watched his side squander an early two-goal lead, Arok was later singing the praises of his young team, especially 17-year-old Bingley who last night notched his third goal in five games.
ST GEORGE 2 (Ollerenshaw, Bingley) drew with MELBOURNE CROATIA 2 (Kelic 2). Crowd: 2,691.
* Improved attendances during the early weeks of the season should receive another significant boost tomorrow when SydneyCroatia entertain Sydney Olympic in what is traditionally one of the glamour fixtures of the year.
Both clubs were surprise losers to unfancied opposition last weekend, and Sydney Croatia will be especially keen to make amends with a winning performance before a home crowd tipped to be more than 10,000. The visitors, meanwhile, will be without national team stopper Andrew Bernal who has already earned 12 penalty points and will be suspended for the match.
TODAY: Apia-Leichhardt v Heidelberg United, Lambert Park (5.30 pm); Sunshine-George Cross v Adelaide City, Chaplin Reserve (5.30 pm).
TOMORROW: Blacktown City v Melbourne City, Gabbie Stadium (5.30 pm); Sydney Croatia v Sydney Olympic, Croatian Sports Centre (6.30 pm); Preston v Wollongong City, Olympic Park (6 pm); South Melbourne v Marconi, Middle Park(6 pm).