Down on confidence following an inconsistent run of results in the League, it was Kiwi import Ethan Gailbraith ? on as a second-half substitute – who stole the headlines with a sensational second-half double to cancel out Robbie Younis? 25? minute penalty.
Gailbraith?s second was an absolute screamer, as the lanky striker showed skill and a powerful shot to leave the White Eagles? supporters in complete silence. Unfortunately for the two goal hero, he was to turn villain in the final minute of injury-time as he picked up a second yellow card and will consequently be out of the Cup Final next weekend.
It was the visiting Tigers to create the first opening of the night as Adam Casey appeared to steer his diagonal attempt past Andrew Bazi in the Bonnyrigg goal. With the White Eagles defenders retreating, Bonnyrigg thwarted the danger with a swift clearance.
Bonnyrigg?s response arrived immediately via Chris Payne who showed his speed down the right-flank. The former A-League striker however, failed to centre to a teammate.
Payne was in the thick of the action again on 5? minutes as he cleverly skipped his way past two APIA-Leichhardt defenders before being denied by some desperate Tigers defending,
Despite the 18-points separating the two sides on the League ladder prior to the match, the Tigers took the game to the high-flying White Eagles with some fine ball movement in the middle of the park by Adam D?Apuzzo, Michael Hawrysiuk and Mun-Soo Gil.
Hawrysiuk was one of the best on the park with his energetic performance for the visitors.
APIA-Leichhardt however did get caught out following a string of passes that ended back at the feet of Anthony Costa. The Tigers? shot-stopper?s poor clearance gave the White Eagles a chance to pounce as Payne again was sent through on goal, denied only by the flag of assistant referee Sarah Ho.
Bonnyrigg?s best movements arrived via their midfield pairing of Aleksander Canak and Adrian Ucchino; the latter looking comfortable on the ball for his side.
On 14? minutes, the Tigers created a neat headed chance for Casey, however the delivery from the right carried a little too much punch as the APIA-Leichhardt striker could only divert his header over the crossbar.
In the 17? minute, the home side again looked dangerous with a swift counterattack. Chris Payne was once more the main participant when he was released down the right. The speedy striker got to the byline showing strength and agility, though his cutback effort into the penalty-area again failed to find a teammate.
2? minutes later, Canak tested Costa with a shot from the edge of the penalty-area. The attacking midfielder lined up his effort nicely though failed to hit it with any conviction as the shot-stopper made a routine save.
APIA-Leichhardt responded with a set-piece from the right as Andrew Bevin got his first look-in for the match with an attempted header that finished off the mark.
The home side found its opener via the penalty-spot on 25? minutes. Chris Payne was sent through on goal before being denied by a brave Costa save at his feet. The shot-stopper then bravely denied Younis? follow-up attempt before the striker was fouled by Hawrysiuk challenge. Younis was deadly with his finish from the spot, driving the ball straight down the middle to send the Bonnyrigg supporters into raptures with a goal against his former club.
Younis nearly doubled his, and his side?s, tally in the 32? minute as he latched onto Chris Tadrosse?s set-piece delivery from the left. The looping ball managed to find its way through to the striker who sent his glancing header inches wide of the mark.
The visitors closed the half on the front foot with a massive amount of possession though the final ball in the attacking third was constantly dealt with by the always impressive young defender David Vrankovic who marshalled the White Eagles defensive line to perfection.
In the final chance of the half on 44? minutes, Ben Spruce sent his header from a Tadrosse corner delivery wide of the mark after showing great strength and agility to out-jump his marker.
Following the half-time interval, Younis should have doubled his side?s lead. After receiving a neat square pass on the edge of the penalty-area, and with the goal at his mercy, the striker blasted his attempt wide of Anthony Costa?s left-hand post.
Bonnyrigg striker Payne stung the palms of Costa with a ferocious drive from close-range in the 63? minute, though the Tigers? shot-stopper was brilliant in diverting the ball away before his teammates got their bodies behind the ball to thwart Younis? follow-up.
Bonnyrigg did have the ball in the back of the net shortly after via Payne, though referee Stephen Lucas was quick to spot the linesman?s flag and correctly brought play back for a free-kick.
APIA-Leichhardt substitute Ethan Gailbraith attempted to get his side moving in the right direction with a mazy run on 70? minutes, though the tall striker weaved his way into some trouble as the Bonnyrigg defenders shut down his run.
APIA-Leichhardt?s possession in midfield, and persistence, finally did pay off in the 78? minute as Gailbraith drew the visitors level. A pin-point delivery from Stephen Kayes on the right was powerfully headed home by the Kiwi import, leaving Bazi helpless.
Gailbraith became the Tigers? hero with 5? minutes remaining as he found a stunning winner for his side. The striker showed poise on the ball to turn his marker and enter the penalty-area before blasting a venomous drive into the back of the net.
With the momentum completely in favour of the Tigers, Gailbraith uncharacteristically saw his near perfect evening turned on its head. Deep into injury-time, the striker kicked the ball away to buy some time for his side and was correctly shown his second yellow card for his efforts.
The sending off is a huge blow for the striker and the Tigers who will be without their front man for the Waratah Cup Final showdown against Sutherland Sharks.
At the conclusion of the 90? minutes, APIA-Leichhardt Tigers coach John Turner ? who watched this match from the grandstands due to suspension after he was sent from the field last week ? was full of praise for his chargers:
?I am very happy for the boys, they really did put in a massive effort tonight,? commented Turner.
?To come to Bonnyrigg and take three-points is tremendous, and I really think we deserved it tonight.
?We were down a goal, and that was a penalty, and we managed to turn the match around. I told the boys to keep digging deep at half-time, and we managed to get the win.?
The win has come at a good time for the Tigers who have struggled for results in the League this season:
?The win was important obviously as we head into the Final of the Cup, though I told the players this week that I did not want to hear any talk of the Final at all? My concern was this match tonight,? explained Turner.
?We needed to focus on this match and look to move up the ladder, so we did that very well tonight. This week we can start looking at the Cup Final.?
APIA-Leichhardt?s defeat of Bonnyrigg is also a personal victory for the Tigers? boss:
?I spent quite some time at Bonnyrigg, so to walk away with the win and bragging rights is definitely something I am pleased about,? Turner ended.
Out of the Bonnyrigg dressing sheds, coach Brian Brown was less impressed than his counterpart, however it is not a time for panic in the White Eagles camp:
?APIA-Leichhardt I thought played a very good game today, and they took the chances that came their way so I can only applaud their efforts for the win tonight,? Brown commented.
?We didn?t get going the way we wanted, and to lose at home is disappointing, though we will be looking to bounce back next week.?
Despite the League leader?s potentially seeing their seven-point lead cut to four should South Coast Wolves and Blacktown City FC win on Sunday, Brown is aware what his side need to do:
?To be honest, I haven?t been following the League ladder, I am not looking at that. Even if the lead is cut down after this weekend, we have the catch-up match against South Coast Wolves next weekend, so we will be looking to get things right at home on Saturday night and make further progress on our work so far,? concluded Brown.
Bonnyrigg White Eagles 1 (Robbie Younis 25? (pen) )
APIA-Leichhardt Tigers 2 (Ethan Gailbraith 78?, 85?)
Saturday 30th June, 2012
Bonnyrigg Sports Club, Bonnyrigg
Referee: Stephan Lucas
Assistant Referees: Sarah Ho and Nathan Wotton
Fourth Official: Adrian Arndt
Bonnyrigg White Eagles: 20.Andrew Bazi; 4.David Vrankovic, 11.Ben Spruce, 5.Chris Tadrosse (C), 18.Adrian Ucchino (21.Ken Chun 50?), 19.Harris Gaitatzis (13.Nikola Stanojevic 85?), 6.Nikola Zonjic, 8.Aleksander Canak, 15.Chris Payne, 9.Robbie Younis, 7.Tynan Diaz
Substitutes Not Used: 33.Nikodin Matic, 16.Andres Gomez, 10.Jordan Simpson
Yellow Cards: Ben Spruce 52?
Red Cards: Nil
APIA-Leichhardt Tigers: 21.Anthony Costa; 2.Mark Byrnes, 20.Gyu Lee (10.Franco Parisi 59?), 7.Stephen Kayes, 8.Adam D?Apuzzo, 16.Michael Hawrysiuk, 3.Adel El Jamal (6.Danial Cummins 28?), 12.Andrew Bevin, 4. Mun-Soo Gil, 5.Michael West (C), 14.Adam Casey (9.Ethan Gailbraith 59?)
Substitutes Not Used: 22.David Bradasevic
Yellow Cards: Michael Hawrysiuk 64?, Ethan Gailbraith 75?, 90?+2?
Red Cards: Ethan Gailbraith 90?+2?
-By Joseph Carlucci