MATCH REPORT | Early strike undoes Essendon Royals against Caroline Springs George Cross

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The Essendon Royals could not overcome a solid Caroline Springs George Cross defence after conceding an early goal on Sunday at Vista Reserve.

The Royals fell behind to an eighth-minute strike from George Tsiakalakis and failed to claw the slim lead back for the rest of the game.

It was not for a lack of trying however as the Royals put in a committed performance for the full 90 minutes, perhaps lacking the cutting edge precision in the final third to slice through a well organised Georgies defence.

In some respects, the Royals were slightly unlucky and may have been awarded one or two penalties - with one potential foul on marauding full-back Liam O’Connell somehow allowed to go unpunished in the second half - but this was not a day where lady luck shined on the Royals.

Gaku Matsuda was once again at his industrial best in the middle of the park, while he was supported well by the classy Michael Ferrante who distributed the ball efficiently from midfield.

Graham Kelly may well be State League 1’s most-marked man with no less than two George Cross players on him in an instant whenever he received the ball.

Up front, Joel Nikolic made a battle of every ball flung his way and looked for the runs of Albert Zorzanello and Tedros Yabio.

Zorzanello arguably created the best chance of the game for the Royals late in the second half when he latched onto a long ball from the backline to drive past his man and produce a dangerous low cross across the face of goal.

The ball cut through the Georgies defence but also managed to evade Nikolic and the late run of substitute Luca Santilli.

The chance summed up the Royals day at the office, which proved a frustrating one for senior coach Vaughan Coveny.

“We’re disappointed with the result, but overall I was happy with the effort and the desire of the team,” he said.

“They made it difficult for us, but I thought we had our chances and in terms of our football I think we played okay, but not getting the result makes it hard to be too happy.

“Especially in the final third, we just didn’t create enough, really.”

Coveny reflected on the attention Kelly received but said that for all the attention he received, his team didn’t do enough to exploit the space left behind as a result of their man-marking.

“He’s a top player and I guess that comes with the territory, you’re going to get that attention,” he said.

“But then if that’s happening, there’s obviously going to be more space for other players and maybe we didn’t use that enough and utilise that to our advantage.

“I challenged the group to back up last week’s performance and it’s hard to fault the effort, but to not have the result for it hurts.”

In the earlier kick-off, the reserves drew 3-3 against top-of-the-table George Cross.

While the result will look good on paper, the Royals enjoyed a 3-1 lead which was rubbed out in the last 15 minutes, with the help of a very dubious penalty call which delivered the equaliser.

The Royals goals came from Luca Winton, George Vasilakakos and James Romito.

Romito was making his debut for the reserves, having been called up from the Royals under-18 squad.

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