Rockdale City Suns needed a talisman.
It was the 53′ minute of their clash with APIA-Leichhardt Tigers and referee Kurt Ams had just awarded a penalty to the home side.
Paul Galimi went in to the book for his challenge and the home crowd waited with baited breath.
Richard Cardozo, so often the scorer of vital goals for Rockdale City this season, stepped up to the spot.
APIA-Leichhardt ‘keeper Andrew Bazi gave away his intentions early, and Cardozo rolled the ball in the opposite direction, a picture of nonchalance and composure.
The relief was palpable and Rockdale City are still alive.
APIA-Leichhardt were plucky, fighting to the death and performing with a hunger and desire belying their lowly league position.
On another day, and with a shade more luck, APIA-Leichhardt could have taken a point or three, but Rockdale City showed that they too, were made of stern stuff.
APIA-Leichhardt was the better side in the opening 45’ minutes.
The enigmatic Franco Parisi has been rejuvenated since being restored to the starting XI for the Waratah Cup Final. That day, he was untouchable.
It was he who carved out the first opportunity, his clever corner in the 12’ minute finding Adel El Jamal, who helped a volley on at the near post, but only into the side netting.
2’ minutes later, Rockdale City goalkeeper Diego Barcena, who came into the match under an injury cloud, made a sharp stop to deny APIA-Leichhardt’s stand-in skipper Stephen Kayes.
Jason Oswell knocked down a header to Kayes, who hit a sweet volley from the edge of the area that Barcena, looking every inch a South American in his long pants, did extremely well to parry away.
APIA-Leichhardt was missing their skipper, Michael West, as well as Keith Shevlin and David D’Apuzzo, all of whom were suspended.
It didn’t hamper them though, as every player pulled their weight in the absence of three of their most crucial players.
It took half an hour for Rockdale City to carve out an opportunity of their own and even then, it came from a loose pass by Parisi.
Alec Urosevski, who was lively all afternoon on the left, latched on to the ball and fairly lashed a shot at goal, but unfortunately for him, it was straight at Bazi.
In the 35’ minute, Parisi’s delightfully disguised reverse ball found Bradley Bartels, who shot wide of the near post under pressure.
A minute later, Giorgio Speranza bombed forward from left back and when a cross came out to him, his eyes lit up. He lacked the composure of technique at the critical moment though and he smashed the shot miles over the crossbar.
Rockdale City lifted their game in the second-half though and once Cardozo’s penalty was dispatched, APIA-Leichhardt had it all do.
Urosevski had the chance to seal the game in the 65’ minute after some midfield magic from Brendan Gan set him away, but Bazi made a good save one-on-one.
APIA-Leichhardt thought they’d equalised with 10’ minutes to go.
Parisi’s back-heel released Brendan Reilly and when his cross found substitute Joshua Symons, it seemed that an equaliser was inevitable. The crossbar intervened though and Rockdale City escaped.
The Suns had an even better chance to put the game away with 7’ minutes remaining, when referee Ams awarded them a second penalty of the afternoon.
Nikola Taneski, recently on as a substitute, stepped up. The youngster, who recently moved to Rockdale City from APIA-Leichhardt, had a point to prove.
Unfortunately for the youngster though, his penalty was weak and Bazi made a simple save. Simple, as far as penalty saves go, at least.
Rockdale City Suns coach Branko Culina denied that his side had gotten away with the victory:
“We missed a penalty. Why would we have gotten away with it?” he said.
“We weren’t really (under the pump), because that’s all they were going to do, play it long.
“They had to get something out of the game, but even prior to that, they were just hitting the long ball.
“It was always going to be a problem, but in the end I thought the boys handled it well and we’re happy to get the three points,” Culina said.
APIA-Leichhardt Tigers coach Billy McColl is confident that their luck will turn next weekend, in their crucial match against South Coast Wolves.
“The boys gave 100%,” he said.
“It’s been a season where the boys can’t buy luck, regardless of what we do.
“Absolutely (we’ll stay up). It’s a big game and we’re at home, so we’ll make the most of that advantage.
“We’ve got our defence sorted and our structure and the only thing missing is luck.
“Luck went against us today, we conceded two penalties, we hit the post twice.
“When luck starts to go our way, which will be next week, we’ll score the goals,” McColl concluded.
Rockdale City Suns 1 (Richard Cardozo 53′ (pen) )
APIA-Leichhardt Tigers 0
Sunday 4th August, 2013
Ilinden Sports Centre, Rockdale
Referee: Kurt Ams
Assistant Referees: Andre Giev and Mitchell Clark
Fourth Official: Chris Abela
Rockdale City Suns: 1.Diego Barcena; 3.Giorgio Speranza, 5.Paul Reid (13.Sam Munro 67′), 6.Takuya Murayama, 7.Brendan Gan, 8.Paul Kohler, 9.Alec Urosevski, 10.Richard Cardozo (17.Nikola Taneski 79′), 12.Idriss El Hafiane, 21.Themba Muata-Marlow (20.Roberto Speranza 77′), 23.Askin Oygur (C)
Substitutes Not Used: 24.Aaron Liddell; 11.David Talevski
Yellow Cards: Nil
Red Cards: Nil
APIA-Leichhardt Tigers: 21.Andrew Bazi; 2.Mark Byrnes, 3.Adel El Jamal, 4.Brendan Reilly, 6.Michael Hawrysuik (16.Sean Symons 73′), 7.Stephen Kayes (C), 9.Jason Oswell (35.Marko Micevski 82′), 10.Franco Parisi (20.Joshua Symons 82′), 11. Paul Galimi, 15.Bradley Bartels, 18.Aaron Clapham
Substitutes Not Used: 1.Simon Jaeger; 12.Miroslav Radulovic
Yellow Cards: Paul Galimi 53′, Brendan Reilly 70′, Stephen Kayes 73′, Bradley Bartels 74′
Red Cards: Nil
-By Matthew Connellan