Rockdale City Suns turned it on at Ilinden Sports Centre on Sunday afternoon to not only secure its spot in the finals series this season, but also deny Sutherland Sharks the Premiership trophy as Branko Culina’s men scored an impressive 2-0 win in-front of its home supporters.
Man of the moment Richard Cardozo bagged a double for his side late on in the encounter, ensuring his side play finals football for the first time since its promotion to Football NSW’s top-flight.
For the Sharks, after the final whistle was the realisation of a number of missed chances over the past month, with the home loss against Marconi Stallions, and draw against Manly United FC, giving Sydney United 58 FC the chance to ‘pip’ the side on the final day of the regular season.
Under the watchful eye of Football Federation Australia CEO, David Gallop, it was the Suns who made the livelier start.
Branko Culina’s men dominated possession in the front-third with some exquisite touches out of midfield by Paul Reid and Idriss El Hafiane. The two combined well with Richard Cardozo to play a tantalising ball into the path of Alec Urosesvki who took a fine first touch off his knee before forcing Nathan Denham into an uncomfortable save down low.
Sutherland’s response arrived in the 8’ minute when Panni Nikas played a delightful through ball into the path of Kilm Gjorseski down the left, though the Suns defenders retreated exceptionally well to force the left-sided winger into a poor delivery.
Gjorseski was at it again moments later, this time he provided the assist for Jamie McMaster, however Suns goalkeeper Diego Barcena was quick smart off his line to thwart any danger.
Youngster El Hafiane won possession in the middle of the park for the Suns on 18’ minutes, showing all his tenacity and fine anticipation, before opening up some space and drilling his long-range effort inches over Denham’s crossbar.
In the 19’ minute, Sutherland created the best chance of the opening stages when Nikas majestically played a flick-pass to send McMaster free down the right. The Sharks number 10 looked to pick out Nikas with a return pass across the face of goal though Barcena again did well, at the second attempt, to smother the ball.
The Suns responded again with El Hafiane playing a huge part in the middle of the park. A neat exchange with Takuya Murayama down the right allowed the midfielder to pick out Cardozo in the penalty-area. With his back to goal, the Suns number 10 used all his skill, and experience, to turn and drive on target, sending his effort over the crossbar.
Out on the left, Giorgio Speranza and Urosevski played a neat interchange with the latter only just failing to pick out Nikola Taneski at the back post.
Nikas had the Suns defence exposed in the 25’ minute when he latched onto a fabulous searching ball from midfield. Under immense pressure from Askin Oygur however, where the defender did appear to have an arm tugging at the playmaker’s shirt, Nikas drilled his diagonal effort inches wide of Barcena’s right-hand post.
Rockdale City answered immediately at the other end with another well-worked move. Reid’s quick free-kick allowed Brendan Gan to send in a first-time searching ball into the path of Urosevski, though the striker failed to stick his searching leg out enough as Denham cleaned up all the scraps with ease.
Sutherland captain Nick Stavroulakis was next to push his side forward with a fabulous ball-winning tackle to dispossess El Hafiane in the middle of the park. The Sutherland stalwart continued his run up the park though did not receive a return pass from Gjorseski who ran out of room at the byline.
The end-to-end action continued as Speranza ventured forward for the Suns down the left, wiggling his way past his marker before being thwarted by the ever impressive Stavroulakis who made a perfect intervention on the byline to deny the Suns a look-in.
The Suns created one final opening in the 1’ minute of first-half injury-time, as Murayama played a pin-point cross from the right onto the head of Taneski who could not divert his attempt on target.
The home side, and its supporters, had their hearts in their throats inside the 1’ minute of the second-half when Barcena was forced to back-peddle and divert a Paul Kohler header over the crossbar to deny what would have been a disastrous own goal.
The near hiccup spurred the Suns into action as Gan first, then Urosevski, both got forward to win their side successive corners. The second of these deliveries, only just, missed the head of Oygur who was lurking at the back post.
In the 50’ minute, a weak back pass to goalkeeper Nathan Denham, by Nick Littler, very nearly opened up for Taneski who was denied by the tremendous shot-stopper who was lightning fast off his goal line.
The bumpy playing surface very nearly spelt disaster for the visitors as Stavroulakis first, then Moustakas, were guilty of failing to bring the ball under control. Taneski pounced to gain possession of the ball though Moustakas, with the assistance of Littler, quickly closed the space.
The Sharks created a massive chance on the hour to open the scoring when McMaster played a world class ‘dummy’, selling his marker short, as Nikas played Elasi in behind the defence. Closing in on goal, Elasi blasted his first time effort on target, denied by a fabulous Barcena save.
The Suns goalkeeper had his blushes spared moments later however as he failed to come out for a cross he had called for. Luckily for the shot-stopper, and the Suns supporters, Gjorseski wasn’t expecting the ball to filter through and he lost momentum with his run as the chance went begging.
The tussle in midfield continued as both sets of players battled the bumpy conditions in a bid to find a winning goal. After some early scares in the second-half, the Suns defenders showed some good composure as Kohler and Oygur kept a fine line in order with Murayama and Speranza doing their bit on the right and left sides of defence respectively.
On 78’ minutes the opening goal arrived as Littler brought down Taneski on the edge of the penalty-area. Cardozo lined-up the free-kick, driving his effort through the Sharks wall, appearing to take a touch off a Sharks player, before finishing in the back of the net, despite the lunging efforts of both Denham and Moustakas.
The Suns very nearly had a second on 85’ minutes when Urosevski made his way to the byline before cutting the ball back across goal; the Sharks players cleared their lines well.
On 88’ minutes, and at the other end, Moustakas found himself in the front-third for the Sharks, delivering a dangerous cross from the right into the penalty-area, however he failed to pick out a teammate at the back post.
Cardozo should have wrapped it up in the 90’ minute when he was played through on goal. The Suns number 10 lined up his attempt though was denied by an outstanding piece of goalkeeping by Denham. The Sharks number 1 showing once more why he is considered one of the very best in this competition.
The Rockdale City A-League hopeful did make amends in the 2’ minute of injury-time, however, as he again went one-on-one with Denham though this time showing composure, and class, to slot home past Denham to put the result out of Sutherland’s reach.
Following the referee’s final whistle, and the presentation of the St George & Sutherland Shire Leader Charity Challenge trophy – presented to Suns captain Askin Oygur for today’s win – Oygur expressed his delight at the result:
“Very happy with the result today, that is for sure,” commented Oygur.
“We knew the job at hand was going to be a difficult one though we also knew that we had the potential to get a win today and secure our spot in the finals.”
Asked about the Suns chances for silverware this season, Oygur expressed his belief in his team’s ability:
“We are in the finals and we can beat any team in this competition. When we have our shape and we play our football, we can beat anyone.
“It is true that we have had some up-and-down moments this season with some inconsistent results, though in saying this we have remained united and we all share the belief of giving this finals campaign a big crack,” Oygur concluded.
Rockdale City Suns 2 (Richard Cardozo 80’, 90’+2’)
Sutherland Sharks 0
Sunday 18th of August, 2013
Ilinden Sports Centre
Referee: Adrian Arndt
Assistant Referees: Samuel Grasso and Andrej Giev
Fourth Official: Lachlan Keevers
Rockdale City Suns: 1.Diego Barcena; 3.Giorgio Speranza, 5.Paul Reid,, 6.Takuya Murayama, 7.Brendan Gan, 8.Paul Kohler, 9.Alec Urosevski (11.David Talevski 90’+4’), 10.Richard Cardozo, 12.Idriss El Hafiane (13.Sam Munro 88’), 14.Nikola Taneski (18.Seiya Kawamura 86’), 23.Askin Oygur (C)
Substitutes Not Used: 24.Aaron Lidell; 21.Themba Muata-Marlow
Yellow Cards: Alec Urosevski 55’, Nikola Taneski 61’, Richard Cardozo 87’
Red Cards: Nil
Sutherland Sharks FC: 1.Nathan Denham; 2.Nicholas Littler, 4.James McKenzie (8.Jordan Hughes 80’), 7.Nathan Elasi, 10.Jamie McMaster, 13.Reo Morinaga, 14.Nick Stavroulakis (C), 15.Perry Moustakas, 17.Klim Gjorseski (18.Jayden Koulizakis), 23.Panni Nikas, 32.Lukas Stergiou
Substitutes Not Used: 22.Andrew Depta; 29.A. Lekoski, 30.Jordan Roberts
Yellow Cards: James McKenzie 43’, Nicholas Littler 78’
Red Cards: Nil
-By Joseph Carlucci