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Opinion

Preston Lions roar loud and proud under prime-time lights

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Roar Guru
9th April, 2021
16

The Preston Lions have underlined their credentials as one of the biggest clubs in Australia, after 3500 fans packed into Genis Steel Stadium last night to see them beat Melbourne Victory Youth in an exciting NPL3 match-up.

There were also 9200 views online on the NPL Victoria stream.

A wonder goal from Karl Baricevic in the 30th minute was enough, as the Lions won their third straight game to start the 2021 season.

The Lions had to work hard with Victory coming hard at them all night. But assured performances from James Haran and Benji Lyvidikos at the back steered the Lions home.

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Matthew Cundari was also strong in the middle of the park and had a hand in the winning goal.

Both teams had their chances early with the Lions starting the game strongly while Victory worked their way back into it.

Just when it looked like it would be an arm wrestle, Baricevic stepped up to score what will likely be one of the goals of the season.

After Cundari headed the ball forward after Victory had cleared it away, Baricevic competed for a header with an opponent 35 yards out, before reading the drop of the ball brilliantly.

He then took one touch to get the ball under control before unleashing a volley with the outside of his left foot. The volley sailed into the top left-hand corner of the net.

Football generic

(Gene Sweeney Jr/Getty Images)

The goal sent the Lions’ fans into a frenzy and left the commentators gasping for a way to describe what they had seen.

Victory pushed forward hard for the rest of the game while Preston were prepared to counter attack.

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The Lions thought they had a second late on but Baricevic had a goal ruled out for a foul.

In the end it didn’t matter as Preston maintained their 100 per cent record.

Perhaps the most significant result last night was off the field, as a large crowd gathered at the ground (with COVID-safe rules in place) and significant numbers tuned in online to show their support for a club that has tremendous ambitions for the future.

This follows up from the large crowd that turned up to the Lions’ season opener against Melbourne City Youth.

To put the crowd and streaming numbers into perspective, the A-League game last Friday night between league leaders Central Coast and finals contenders Adelaide United had only 8000 viewers on Foxtel. Last night’s Macarthur versus Brisbane A-League match only sold 1100 tickets.

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Preston’s home ground is undergoing a $3 million renovation, with a new pavilion set to be ready in 2022, and judging by the crowd that turned up on Friday it will make Genis Steel Stadium one of the most eagerly visited football grounds in the country.

The Lions faithful are more than playing their role in paying for the future, with over $71,000 already raised for the club’s Future Ready fundraising strategy, and with the club aiming to have $200,000 raised by November this year.

For now, the Lions will focus on their immediate NPL3 commitments, but things are looking bright under the prime-time lights for a club with a rich history and what is most certainly a promising future.