Laverton Park has taken full advantage of its game in hand, running away with a 3-0 win over Melbourne Lions on the road at Maribyrnong Reserve on Saturday to open up a three-point break at the top of the Football Federation Victoria men’s state league 5 west.
The Reds had the bonus of a catch-up game up their sleeve, but it was only a valuable asset if they capitalised on it.
“That was part of my message today, it’s all well and good to have a catch up game [over the other teams in the promotion race], but you’ve still got to go out and win it,” Reds coach Alfonso Opazo said.
“All credit to the boys, they went out there and did the job, so it was good.”
It was not a game without its concerns though for Laverton Park.
The Reds were certainly not firing on all cylinders attacking wise in the first 45 minutes.
Despite having the bulk of possession, the Reds did not seriously threaten to find the back of the net until the dying stages of the first half and the sides went into half-time at nil-all.
“We started flat in the first half,” Opazo said.
“We had them pinned in their half, but it was just that spark that was missing.”
It was a different Laverton Park that came out in the second half. The Reds were up in the faces of the Lions, forcing turnovers and being more progressive in their attacking play.
The goals eventually came, two to winger Zia Sherzai and another to striker Juan Nilo, two players in the attacking corps that felt the wrath of Opazo’s anger at half-time.
“I had a bit of a spray at the midfielders and forwards and they came out and scored three goals in the second half,” Opazo said.
“I specifically requested more from Juan and Zia and they did step up, which was great.
“Collectively, we came out and pressured them high up straight away, won the ball in their half and kicked on from there, and obviously took our opportunities.”
The biggest lift for Laverton Park came in the midfield.
There was a bit of yin and yang about Matias Urzua, who provided the drive and energy, and Yanco Castro, who rolled up the sleeves to do the tough stuff.
“Matias just runs all day, he’s so energetic, never stops, while Yanco is our general in the midfield, the player that does all the hard stuff to anchor the midfield,” Opazo said.
Opazo was full of praise for the back four of co-captain Julian Zach, Andres De La Plaza, Shane Di Gioacchino and Fabian Lapolla.
Opazo still believes the Reds best football is ahead of them.
“We’ve dropped some points along the way, but with every season you’ll have your ups and downs, so I’m happy with where we are at this moment,” he said.
In men’s state league 1, Altona East Phoenix picked up its second win in three matches, rolling Preston Lions 1-0 away at BT Connor Reserve in a catch-up game on Saturday.
Liam Francis scored the winning goal in the 68th minute to give the Phoenix’s survival hopes a shot in the arm.