MANLY UNITED FC 1-0 BLACKTOWN SPARTANS, AT BELMORE SPORTS GROUND
Manly United defeated Blacktown Spartans in the Qualifying Final at Belmore Sports Ground on Sunday afternoon, with Michael McGinley scoring the solitary goal of the match in the first half. Spartans had the chance to equalise late on, but Tonu Liiband was the hero, saving Andre Carle’s poorly struck penalty.
A place in the Grand Final qualifier was coveted by both Manly United and Blacktown Spartans as the match kicked off in earnest at the picturesque Belmore Sports Ground.
The sun was shining and a light breeze was blowing across the home of Sydney Olympic, the pitch looking resplendent as the grandstands began to fill up.
The opening ten minutes was of the cagey variety as both sides pushed and probed but without any real penetration in the final third. Goalkeepers Tonu Liiband and Jesse Shewan were able to enjoy the sunshine as both sides felt their way into the match.
Manly United created half an opening in the 11′ minute, when some beautiful skill from Aidan D’Arcy saw him flick the ball over a defender and then slide a ball in the direction of Michael McGinley. A slip from a Spartans defender nearly let McGinley in but he didn’t anticipate the opportunity and Shewan grabbed the loose ball.
Manly settled into their style as the match wore on with D’Arcy and Jordon Edwards prominent on the left hand side.
Both sides were committed to play progressive, possession based football on an excellent surface at Belmore. Blacktown Spartans had first grade experience in their line up in the form of Tomislav Herceg and Andre Carle and it was to Carle whom they looked for on the counter attack.
On the half hour mark, there were two chances, one at either end. Firstly, Manly United caught Spartans napping when Jack Green took a quick free kick, finding Leigh Egger at the back post, but his header was wastefully placed straight at Shewan.
Then, Spartans went straight up the other end and when Kieran Dalton showed too much pace for Egger, it took a last ditch challenge from Josh Ward to prevent Dalton scoring after he rounded Liiband.
A surging run from Carle down the right threatened Manly United shortly after and only some resolute defending from Ward stopped him from breaking into the penalty area.
Manly United were awarded a free kick in the 35′ minute, in a dangerous position to the left of the penalty area. Edwards’ looked to have caught Shewan out at his near post but his shot curled just wide, as the match began to warm up.
Manly’s coach Nigel Mahoney was seated in his customary position in the grandstand and he would have been delighted to get a fantastic view as his side were rewarded for their persistence with the opening goal.
A simple switch from the centre of the park to the left hand side found Jamie Craig, who volleyed a first time cross into the area. McGinley ghosted in unnoticed at the near-post to tap in his thirteenth goal of the season and give Manly United a precious 1-0 lead.
Egger was booked in first half stoppage time for a foul that gave Spartans a free kick in a deadly position just outside the area. Harley Da Silva lined it up, but he sent it way over the bar.
The second half started much as the first did, with neither side willing to commit too much to attack in for fear of being played out of the match too early.
Blacktown Spartans coach Mark Zecchin was the first coach to blink, sending on Mitchell Davidson for Cameron McKinnon just before the hour mark in a bid to find parity on the scoreboard. He had already replaced Daniel Rees with Reyze Kelly at the half-time interval.
Carle went close to equalising in the 65′ minute, as he cut inside from the left, beating four players before eventually being stopped by the onrushing Liiband, who made a good block save to deny the Spartans attacker.
Liiband’s opposite number kept Spartans in the game just a minute later. McGinley turned beautifully inside the area to create space to shoot, only for Shewan to make a fantastic one-on-one save to keep his side in the match.
Nigel Mahoney made his first substitution shortly after, replacing Edwards with Harry Sweeney, as he looked to protect his side’s 1-0 lead.
Harley Da Silva went close to equalising for Spartans in the 72′ minute when his low, fizzing shot was touched onto the post by Liiband, but in reality they were carrying little threat to the Manly United goal in what was a curiously flat performance thus far.
Manly United continued to look dangerous, especially when Sweeney burst down the right and found Ferguson on the edge of the area. His first shot was straight at Shewan, much to the chagrin of McGinley, who thought he should have squared the pass.
Reid Taylor replaced Calum Hedge for Spartans with ten minutes to go, as they tried to find an equalising goal that would send the match to extra time. Andre Carle was booked immediately afterwards for a challenge born more out of frustration than anything else.
Spartans desperation was increasing as the clock wound down and the match began to take on that familiar tension that semi finals football often brings.
Manly United were beginning to camp a little deeper as Spartans pushed onwards looking for a solitary goal, but the side from the Northern Beaches looked ever more threatening on the counter attack, especially through the excellent Sweeney.
Manly nearly wrapped the game up in the 84′ minute when a cross from Sweeney missed McGinley at the near post, only to find the onrushing D’Arcy at the back post. His fierce strike was superbly touched on to the post by the outstanding reflexes of Shewan and Spartans survived again.
Grant Brown had to be alert at the back to prevent a Spartans attack making its way into the area, the Manly defender conceding a corner in the 85′ minute. It was a far better outcome than conceding a goal.
They did, however, concede a penalty immediately after when Carle went over an outstretched leg just inside the area. As Spartans most threatening player it was reward for his whole hearted efforts and he lined up the spot kick himself, knowing that to score would take the match to extra time.
His penalty was terribly struck though, the Spartans attacked scuffing it low to Liiband’s left and the goalkeeper, having guessed the right way was able to make a routine save, or at least as routine as penalty saves go. It was a devastating blow for Carle and for Spartans, who couldn’t recover in the final few minutes to find an equaliser.
As a result, Manly United will play Sutherland Sharks next weekend for a place in the grand final, whilst Spartans will be left to face Rockdale City in an elimination match.
Blacktown Spartans coach Mark Zecchin was philosophical about the defeat.
“I thought Manly United were the better side in the first half, so at half time we had to address that.
“In the second half we had slightly better play and of course we had the penalty right at the end,” he said.
“If we scored that I thought we would have had the momentum going into extra time as we were in the ascendancy at that point, but ‘c’est la vie’!
“The beauty of finishing in the top three is that we get another chance, so we’ll train hard during the week and regroup for next weekend,” Zecchin added.
Manly United FC 1 (McGinley 37′)
Blacktown Spartans 0
Sunday 9th September, 2012
Belmore Sports Ground, Belmore
Referee: Nathan Roberts
Assistant Referees: Craig Fisher and Adam Coombes
Manly United FC: 25.Tonu Liiband, 15.Jordon Edwards (20.Harry Sweeney 68′), 22.Leigh Egger, 27.Aidan D’Arcy, 28.Josh Ward, 29.Will Pritchard, 31.Dominic Ferguson (37.David Chung 88′), 32.Jamie Craig, 33.Grant Brown, 34.Nathan Simm, 35.Michael McGinley
Substitutes Not Used: 24. Tom Manos, 30.Jack Green, 18.Dejan Pandurevic
Yellow Cards: Leigh Egger 45′
Red Cards: Nil
Blacktown Spartans: 40.Jesse Shewan, 28. Andre Carle, 24. Mark Puskarcuk, 25.Corey Biczo, 26.George Yousif, 30.Kieran Dalton, 31.Cameron McKinnon (18.Mitchell Davidson 58′), 34.Calum Hedge (20.Reid Taylor 80′), 35.Harley Da Silva, 37.Daniel Rees (33. Reyze Kelly 45′), 38.Tomislav Herceg
Substitutes Not Used: 1.Daniel Sadaka, 21.Justin Cootes
Yellow Cards: Andre Carle 81′
Red Cards: Nil
BLACKTOWN CITY 0-1 ROCKDALE CITY SUNS, AT JOHN CREHAN PARK
Blacktown City’s season came to a meek end in Wollongong early on Saturday after they went down 1-0 to an experienced Rockdale City Suns side at John Crehan Park.
Anthony Perri scored after six minutes in a match that saw Rockdale City dominate the opening half hour.
Blacktown City created some chances of their own in the second half, but were unable to find their killer instinct in front of goal, a trait that has haunted them for much of the second half of the season.
Rockdale City were excellent value for their win though, and they will face Blacktown Spartans in an Elimination Final next weekend.
Blacktown City coach Mark Strachan said, “If it were a league game I’d have said a draw was a fair result.
“In finals football though, there can only be one winner, so I wish Rockdale City good luck for the rest of their campaign.
“I firmly believe 20s football is about development and progression and I’m very proud of my guys and content with how they’ve developed,” Strachan said.
Rockdale City coach Justin Bucciarelli was very happy with how his side performed.
“It was a great performance. My boys knew it was finals football and they played accordingly.
“It was a different Rockdale City to what we’ve seen lately and we’re looking forward to next week’s game,” he added.