North Sunshine Eagles are counting the cost of complacency after a 2-1 loss to Altona City in their Football Federation Victoria men’s state league 1 home opener at Larissa Reserve on Saturday.
The Eagles were not ruthless enough when they had control in the first half.
They led by one goal at half-time, leaving the door open for the underdog visitors to pounce after the break.
Both of City’s goals came on the back of Eagle errors, the first an own goal and the winner coming through David Mwarabu after the Eagles had turned over the ball in midfield.
Eagles coach Ben Isai could sense at half-time his side was not at the peak of its powers.
“We were in second gear in the first half, we were cruising,” he said. “ I said to the players at half-time that I’m not happy.
“Had we got into third or fourth gear, the game would’ve been over at half-time, but … they took their chances.
“It’s definitely disappointing.”
North Sunshine’s day turned sour when it went down to 10 men after veteran Besnik Kutleshi was given his marching orders.
Amidst a scuffle between both sets of players, Kutleshi was adjudged to have over-stepped the mark in the melee and was shown a red card.
Isai believes it was a turning point in the match.
“A lot of people say, you’re down a man, you’re one-nil up and you can manage the game,” he said.
“But it’s a lot more difficult in round two than round 10 when players are a lot more conditioned.
“We made three changes with 15 minutes to go and they were all forced. Players were tiring and cramping.”
It was looking good early for North Sunshine when Ajak Panek fired the side ahead after just 20 minutes. Panek has scored in the Eagles’ opening two games.
“You want your attackers scoring goals and we’re happy with his intensity and effort,” Isai said. “He never stopped trying and played 90 minutes again.”
Shane Rexhepi was North Sunshine’s most influential player.
The captain played a commanding role in the midfield.
“He was consistent and didn’t make any mistakes,” Isai said.
The Eagles can store this loss in the back of their minds as a reference point when they are in games in which they feel like they are in cruise control.
“I made the boys listen to Altona City celebrate and sing,” Isai said.
“For five minutes we just listened to them and I could tell it’s really burning our players, which is good, hopefully. We’ll learn from
“It’s that extra edge – making sure we lift a gear and put teams away. We’re looking for a response next week.”
North Sunshine, which has three points from two games, will face Banyule City away at Yallambie Park Reserve on Saturday.
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