Bonnyrigg White Eagles were made to work for their win in wet conditions at Bonnyrigg Sport Centre on Saturday night, eventually overcoming a stubborn APIA-Leichhardt Tigers by a 4-2 score line.
Mitch Long and Tynan Diaz netted either side of Sean Symons equalising goal with the latter scoring on the last attack of the half to put Bonnyrigg in the driver’s seat going into the interval.
Alex Mansueto gave the hosts breathing space with a chested goal shortly before the hour mark only for Adel El Jamal to pull a goal back to keep Tigers in contention before Long wrapped up the scoring and his brace late on to secure the win for Bonnyrigg.
It was a valiant effort by Tigers who had matched their opponents for extended periods of the match, yet Bonnyrigg’s clinical finishing got them over the line and ensured they remain clear at the head of the table.
Their opponents remain languishing near the opposite end of the ladder yet with a little more luck in front of goal their current approach could well see them make a recovery throughout the second half of their 2013 campaign.
Head coach Billy McColl and assistant coach Nicola Rizzo have worked rigorously to promote positive football from their side and the hard work looked be reaping its rewards as Tigers caused the league leaders headaches in the opening minutes.
A swift attack down the left flank saw Symons played into the box; the winger drew in the Bonnyrigg defence before unselfishly teeing up an unmarked Brad Bartels who drew a brave block from Matthew Nash between the sticks.
Bartels was back in on the action soon after as he found space on the right flank before delivering a brilliant cross into the box that a required crucial touch from the fingertips of Nash to tip the ball away from danger.
Despite asserting early pressure the visitors soon fell behind as Bonnyrigg took full advantage of their first corner of the match.
Diaz’s delivery wreaked havoc in the box as the ball was headed and ricocheted between a number of players from both sides before Long pounced to turn the ball past Andrew Bazi to give his side the early ascendancy.
It wasn’t the start Bazi had hoped for as he returned to face his former club only to pick the ball out of the back of the net with his first action of the game, yet the custodian would go on to produce a fine performance in goal as the match wore on.
Tigers took the early setback on the chin and kept up their tempo; their unwavering attitude quickly paid off as they grabbed an equaliser shortly before the quarter hour mark.
English import Jason Oswell shrugged off pressure from his marker to test Nash with an awkwardly placed shot; the keeper got the faintest of touches to turn the ball away from goal only for Symons to follow up and coolly turn home the rebound.
The equaliser was nothing less than Tigers deserved after taking the game to the hosts in the opening stages.
The chances appeared the be the only thing drying up in the match as the sides contested an intense midfield duel in increasingly slippery conditions with neither side able to gain a hold on possession, let alone create goal scoring opportunities.
Bonnyrigg did manage to forge a golden chance shortly after the half hour as Long played Younis into the box yet Bazi came to the rescue for the visitors, racing off his line to spread his frame and block the striker’s finish.
Bazi then denied substitute Aaron Peterson from the edge of the box to keep Tigers on level terms before the visitors began to create chances for themselves once again.
El Jamal perhaps should have punished Bonnyrigg when they failed to clear Franco Parisi’s free-kick, however a typical defender’s finish saw El Jamal blaze a volley well over the crossbar.
With half-time looming Parisi then utilised the slick pitch to draw a brilliant low save from Nash who produced safe hands to hold the wet ball.
The save proved crucial as the hosts reclaimed the lead from the final attack of the half.
Bo Hyun Chun was the architect, producing an inch-perfect through ball to slice open the heart of the visiting backline and provide Diaz with the half-chance he needed to tuck the ball past the onrushing keeper and into the net.
The goal would have changed the half-time team talks of both coaches, most notably the Tigers’ coaching staff who needed to keep their side motivated after matching their opponents for large periods of the opening half.
McColl and Rizzo’s words looked to have made their mark as his side came close to equalising straight from kick off as substitute Michael Hawrysuik slipped through on goal only to be denied by a fine block from Nash.
The save seemed to spark Bonnyrigg back into life as they pressed forward in search of another goal to ease the tension.
Peterson had looked lively since replacing the injured Jordan Crighton in the first half and the winger produced more of the same in the second as he cut inside his marker before centring for Younis who struck the near post with his placed finish.
Chun then came close minutes later as his shot from the edge of the box deflected inches wide thanks to El Jamal’s aggression in defence.
Bonnyrigg were piling on the pressure and were soon rewarded with their third of the night when Tigers again failed to deal with a Diaz corner as Mansueto showed great anticipation to get his frame in the way of Mark Byrnes’ attempted clearance and chest the ball into an open goal from close range.
While the celebrations were wild the host’s breathing space was quickly limited as Tigers soon pulled a goal back to keep themselves in the hunt.
This time it was Bonnyrigg’s turn to struggle dealing with a corner in the wet conditions as El Jamal knocked home a scrappy goal to bring the score line to 3-2.
The hosts continued to apply pressure as they looked to restore their two goal lead and they appeared to be on their way as Peterson looked to outpace Brendan Reilly to a long ball only to be halted in his tracks by Bazi who was raced out of the box to take the ball yet dangerously bodycheck the substitute who was left floored by the challenge.
Bazi received a booking for his troubles and quickly redeemed himself as he touched Adrian Ucchino’s wicked free-kick wide of goal.
Despite looking sharp there was little Bazi could do to deny Bonnyrigg minutes later.
Long slid to steal possession in the final third before storming forward and driving a brilliant low 20-yard strike toward goal.
The ball skimmed off the wet turf and inside the near post as Long secured his brace and tightened Bonnyrigg’s grasp on the three points.
Long then saw an attempt at a hat-trick blocked before Ucchino fired a decent chance just over the crossbar minutes later.
Bartels almost pulled a late goal back for Tigers as he raced clear through on goal deep in injury time yet Nash held firm to make another great save as Bonnyrigg went on to secure all three points.
Bonnyrigg White Eagles coach Brian Brown was happy with the result yet disappointed with his side’s overall performance tonight:
“Happy with the result,” smiled Brown.
“First day of winter; it’s certainly a cold, boring performance I think.
“I just thought all around – and credit to APIA, they worked hard, forced us down, and didn’t give us much time and space – but I just thought our boys were just a wee bit off tonight.
“Nashy (Matthew Nash) made a couple of key saves in one-on-ones and I thought Longy (Mitch Long) was outstanding for us from an attacking point of view – he had a great game.”
After witnessing his side’s work ethic earn them a hard fought 2-0 win at Marconi Stadium
last weekend, Brown was disappointed his side couldn’t replicate their effort and again credited Nash with a fine performance:
“I just thought we as a unit just didn’t close them down that well,” said Brown.
“I thought we were concentrating too much on trying to play football instead of just working hard.
“It was the complete opposite from last week’s performance where I think we really worked hard and ground out a result whereas tonight in the end it could have been about 8-6 or something but fortunately Nashy did really well.”
While APIA Leichhardt Tigers’ assistant coach Nicola Rizzo was disappointed with the result he agreed with the general consensus that his side’s performance was excellent against their highly fancied opposition:
“It seems to be a pretty common thing that we do quite well and probably deserved a lot more out of the match,” said Rizzo.
“I feel like I’m saying the same thing every week but I think we had about four one-on-ones and with chance after chance we didn’t score.
“We have to start taking our chances and start defending from set pieces better.
“We’re conceding stupid goals and not taking our chances and that’s why we’re finding ourselves in this position.
“But the commitment, the performance, it was excellent.
“We came in and gave Bonnyrigg a real good shake, but at the end of the day we didn’t take our opportunities and we’ve lost again.”
Rizzo credited his players for their efforts tonight before identifying a few areas they need to focus on if they are to turn their season around:
“I think overall we didn’t have a bad player,” said Rizzo.
“I think everyone was very good, every worked hard, was committed, and the performance was good.
“The only thing we can fault is just a few things we need to defend better at and we need to take our opportunities.
“I thought performance and commitment-wise I couldn’t be happier, we’ve just got to be a bit smarter and a bit more controlled.”
Bonnyrigg White Eagles 4 (Mitch Long 8’, 83’, Tynan Diaz 45’+3’, Alex Mansueto 58’)
APIA-Leichhardt Tigers 2 (Sean Symons 14’, Adel El Jamal 65’)
Saturday, June 1st, 2013
Bonnyrigg Sports Centre, Bonnyrigg Heights
Referee: David Morris
Assistant Referees: Nathan Wotton and Mitchell Clarke
Fourth Official: Karl Davies
Bonnyrigg White Eagles: 1.Matthew Nash; 2.Alex Mansueto, 5.Chris Tadrosse, 7.Tynan Diaz, 8.Alex Canak, 9.Robert Younis (23.David Gullo 84’), 10.Mitchell Long, 14.Jordan Crighton (19.Aaron Peterson 16’), 15.Steven Hesketh, 18.Adrian Ucchino, 21.Bo Hyun Chun
Substitutes Not Used: 4.Vuko Tomasevic, 16.Howard Fondyke, 33.Nikodin Matic
Yellow Cards: Nil
Red Cards: Nil
APIA-Leichhardt Tigers: 21.Andrew Bazi; 2.Mark Byrnes, 3.Adel El Jamal, 4.Brendan Reilly, 5.Michael West, 7.Stephen Kayes, 9.Jason Oswell (6.Jin Sung Lee 62’), 10.Franco Parisi, 13.David D’Apuzzo (14.Michael Hawrysuik 46’), 15.Bradley Bartels, 16.Sean Symons
Substitutes Not Used: 1.Simon Jaeger, 12.Paul Gallimi, 20.Joshua Symons
Yellow Cards: David D’Apuzzo 20’, Andrew Bazi 78’
Red Cards: Nil
(Player Ratings for second round will not be listed with Team of the Year announced at the awards dinner later this year)
-By Michael Shoolman