Sutherland Sharks opened up a four-point gap at the top of the table over Bonnyrigg White Eagles after claiming all three points in the 4-0 defeat of its most direct opponent on Saturday night.
Despite the clear win, the White Eagles held some very positive passages of play, even after Alex Mansueto’s sending off early in the second-half. The Sharks made the most of its positive start to the match with Matthew Gordon warming up the supporters with a thunderous drive into the top corner to hand his side the lead.
Goals to Panni Nikas, Klim Gjorseski and Nathan Elasi rounded out the result – perhaps too harshly – on a White Eagles side that did have Sutherland on the back foot over the final 25’ minutes.
Kick-off time was delayed 15’ minutes to allow both sets of players, and the officiating team led by Kris Griffiths-Jones, the opportunity to accurately warm up with the surrounding pitches waterlogged.
Nik Tsattalios was lively for the home side early with two darting runs down the left to put Bonnyrigg immediately on red alert. Tsattalios saw his first crossed effort cleared by the White Eagles defence before he tried his luck from distance on 2’ minutes, clearing Matthew Nash’s crossbar in the process.
On 3’ minutes, a Bonnyrigg attack was magnificently thwarted by Sharks captain Nick Stavroulakis with a thumping tackle to win the ball, in turn releasing Jamie McMaster for the counterattack. The Sutherland number 10 cleverly freed Nathan Elasi who used his pace down the right to get into a shooting position before forcing Nash into a diving save
The Sharks early possessional dominance reaped reward on 6’ minutes when Gordon went on a mazy run out of midfield. The experienced wingback unleashed a venomous left-foot drive from a good 25-yards, hitting the top left-hand corner much to the delight of the home supporters.
It was just reward for the fine start made by the Sharks who showed more hunger with the initial running.
Bonnyrigg responded on 11’ minutes with Aleksander Canak weaving his magic on the edge of the penalty-area. Canak beat two players with skill, and precision, before having the ball stolen at the last moment by some stout Sharks defending.
The home side kept its foot on the accelerator as McMaster and Tsattalios combined down the left with the latter sending his glancing header, off the former’s cross, inches wide of Nash’s right-hand post.
Bonnyrigg started to gain some control of the ball as Canak was in the thick of the action again on 19’ minutes when he got his boot to Chris Tadrosse’s delivery from the left. Canak diverted his effort on goal, sending the ball only inches wide of Nathan Denham’s post.
Moments later and the visitors maintained the pressure in the front-third with Canak again combining with Tadrosse before hitting his effort, from a very promising position, wide of goal.
At the other end, youngster Nicholas Olsen showed all his class with a fine turn before sending Elasi free on the right. The Sharks right-sided midfielder created space to hit an effort on goal. His dipping effort towards the back post had all the supporters on their feet, though the ball finished the wrong side of the post.
Bonnyrigg closed the half strongly with Tadrosse and Mitchell Long involved in most of the side’s possession in the front third. The Bonnyrigg number 10 was a constant thorn for the Sharks with his composure, strength and pinpoint accuracy on the ball an absolute pleasure to watch.
On 31’ minutes, Tynan Diaz was picked out at the far post. The Bonnyrigg number 7, who is renowned for netting some remarkable long-range efforts, blasted his volley first-time, inches over Denham’s crossbar.
Tadrosse created some further mayhem in the Sharks defensive line with a whipped in free-kick from the left. With the likes of Aaron Peterson and Canak chiming in, the Sharks defenders did exceptionally well to annul the danger as the sides went into the break with the Sharks ahead.
Some concern did surround the fitness of referee Kris Griffiths-Jones who aggravated an injury during the first 45’ minutes, though the competition’s top referee resurfaced for the second-half and he carried out his duties through until the final whistle.
Contrary to the opening 45’ minutes, the visitors did make a much more positive start to the second period. Alex Mansueto went into the referee’s book for a foul, followed up by some back chat, as Canak and Long found more possession of the ball in the early exchanges.
A Diaz free-kick from the edge of the penalty-area on 47’ minutes failed to test Denham in the Sharks goal as the home side quickly turned defence into attack.
Tsattalios was sent clear down the left before delivering a pin-point cross into the path of Elasi who blasted well over the crossbar, again from a positive position.
Any progress made by the White Eagles in the early second-half exchanges took a massive pounding when Mansueto took out Tsattalios on the right touchline, leaving the referee with no choice but to show the defender his second yellow card of the evening.
Sutherland looked to kill off the encounter with Nikas pressing further up the pitch. Nikas weaved his way past two defenders before playing Tsattalios on the left; the Sharks left-sided midfielder drove his effort into a crowded goalmouth.
Bonnyrigg remained in the match, just shy of the hour mark, when goalkeeper Matthew Nash made a double save from point-blank range. The shot-stopper denied Perry Moustakas before making an even better save to deny Tsattalios who hit a powerful effort on target.
White Eagles’ coach Brian Brown opted to send the ever reliable Robbie Younis into the mix – the established marksman started the encounter from the bench – and the decision almost paid dividends with two positive chances inside his first 3’ minutes on the park.
Younis had claims for a penalty ignored by the referee as the ball fell into the path of Howard Fondyke who drove his effort against one of the lunging Sharks bodies.
Sutherland went close to doubling its lead in the 71’ minute when Nikas skipped away before releasing Olsen down the right. Olsen picked his time to play Nikas back in on goal; the Sharks playmaker denied by some brave goalkeeping.
Sutherland continued to maintain some good possession out of the midfield though a loose pass in the front-third saw the visitors release Younis with an accurate first-time pass.
The White Eagles’ top scorer of the past two seasons used his strength to create the space to shoot, driving a fine diagonal effort that was only parried by Denham who got up just in time to deny Gullo what would certainly have been an equaliser from point-blank range.
Despite the numerical disadvantage, Bonnyrigg continued to press in search of an equaliser as Bo Hyun Chun and Long looked to administer proceedings with some precise passing out of midfield. At times, it almost seemed that Bonnyrigg had the extra man with its players holding the greater share of possession.
However, even with a good share of possession, Nikas further complicated Bonnyrigg’s plight with a second goal for Sutherland in the 79’ minute. The Sharks’ playmaker picked up the ball on the edge of the penalty-area and drove his effort on goal – a rather heavy deflection off a defender saw the ball loop over Nash and into the back of the net, setting off scenes of jubilation in the grandstands.
Once more, Bonnyrigg continued to push forward despite finding themselves down by two goals, and down a man, as Adrian Ucchino blasted a long-range thunderbolt from distance against the crossbar. The shot packed a massive punch, and a wicked dip, as Denham was well beaten if not for the crossbar.
Irrespective of the visitors’ best efforts, Sutherland added a third goal to add further salt into the wounds of the White Eagles’ players. A great counterattack involving Nikas and Olsen saw McMaster unselfishly play the ball into the path of Gjorseski who drove home into the back of the net from an acute angle, showing some very fine precision to find space between the goalkeeper and the post.
Somewhat harshly for Bonnyrigg, Sutherland netted a fourth goal, and it was another fine effort, carrying the name of Nathan Elasi.
Elasi capped off a memorable evening as he cleverly wiggled his way into space before drilling low and hard to beat a helpless Nash down in the bottom right-hand corner.
The win opens up some breathing space for Sutherland Sharks ahead of the Waratah Cup Final against APIA-Leichhardt Tigers next weekend.
Following the referee’s final whistle, coach Robbie Stanton expressed his delight in the win, though made it very clear that no one is to get carried away:
“It was a good result tonight, very happy with that, though our performance was probably not as good as what we would have liked,” explained Stanton.
“I was pleased with the way the boys continued to push and to do the things that we speak about all the time, and to be able to get the result against Bonnyrigg – who have been the benchmark for the past couple of seasons and even with ten men they made it extremely difficult for us.
“Being at the top of the table with a bit of a gap [four points] is probably a bit of unfamiliar territory for us though we need to remain alert because I do not think this is over by a long shot. I am sure we will see Bonnyrigg come back even stronger seeing they have a target now – it really is a long way to go with some of the other teams like Blacktown City FC and even Sydney United 58 FC who have some catch-up matches to come,” concluded Stanton.
Bonnyrigg White Eagles coach Brian Brown could not believe the result, though was very pleased with his players:
“I am pleased with my players, I told them I was delighted with the way we took the match to Sutherland, I thought we thoroughly dominated the match for large spells and we even deserved to win the match,” expressed Brown.
“If not for some decisions that went against us, I think we were the better side.
“Even down a man, we still held majority of possession, and we carved out chances so there are many pleasing points to come out of the match,” Brown ended.
Sutherland Sharks 4 (Matthew Gordon 6’, Panni Nikas 79’, Klim Gjorseski 86’, Nathan Elasi 90’+1’)
Bonnyrigg White Eagles 0
Saturday 29th of June, 2013
Seymour Shaw Park, Miranda
Referee: Kris Griffiths-Jones
Assistant Referees: Adam Coombes and Sarah Ho
Fourth Official: Nathan Roberts
Sutherland Sharks: 1.Nathan Denham; 2.Nicholas Littler, 6.Matthew Gordon, 7.Nathan Elasi, 8.Nicholas Olsen (9.Brad Boardman 87’), 10.Jamie McMaster, 13.Reo Morinaga (3.Michael Stuart 87’), 14.Nick Stavroulakis (C), 15.Perry Moustakas, 23.Panni Nikas, 33.Nik Tsattalios (17.Klim Gjorseski 63’)
Substitutes Not Used: 22.Andrew Depta; 4.James McKenzie
Yellow Cards: Jamie McMaster 35’, Klim Gjorseski 84’
Red Cards: Nil
Bonnyrigg White Eagles: 1.Matthew Nash; 2.Alex Mansueto, 4.Vuko Tomasevic, 5.Chris Tadrosse (C), 7.Tynan Diaz, 8.Aleksander Canak (9.Robert Younis 59’), 10.Mitchell Long, 16.Howard Fondyke (14.Jordan Crighton 82’), 18.Adrian Ucchino, 19.Aaron Peterson (23.David Gullo 59’), 21.Bo Hyun Chun
Substitutes Not Used: 33.Nikodin Matic; 15.Steven Hesketh
Yellow Cards: Vuko Tomasevic 12’, 16.Howard Fondyke 41’, Alex Mansueto 47’, 51’
Red Cards: Alex Mansueto 51’
-By Joseph Carlucci