Rockdale City Suns endured its third 120’ minutes of finals football to eliminate Premiers Sydney United 58 FC and secure a spot in the grand final.
A dramatic afternoon of football was brought to an end by a tension-packed penalty-shootout where Rockdale City triumphed 4-3 on penalties after the two sides were locked at 2-2 at the conclusion of 90’ minutes.
Luka Glavas had the Reds ahead in the first-half via the penalty-spot before Alec Urosevski made restored parity immediately after the half-time interval. Nikola Taneski made it 2-1 to the Suns from the penalty-spot though Matthew Bilic forced the encounter into extra-time with a 94’ minute equaliser.
The afternoon started brightly for Sydney United 58 FC, even before the kickoff, as captain Luka Glavas accepted the Premiership trophy in-front of the Reds supporters, after the side sealed the title on the final day of the competition.
The Reds were without the suspended Ben Jurman for the encounter, meanwhile the Suns were dealt a major blow with Richard Cardozo forced to pull out after failing a late fitness test.
Cardozo, who has been instrumental in the side’s run through to the finals series was ruled out after rolling his ankle in the final minutes of the Suns’ Friday evening training session, resulting in the striker’s exclusion from the encounter.
The opening stages saw both sides look to hold onto the ball and get a feel for the match, trading possession in the middle of the park.
Glen Trifiro’s expert free-kick delivery on 8’ minutes had Diego Barcena on quick alert. The Suns goalkeeper was ever ready, rushing off his line to comfortably punch the ball away to safety.
For the Suns, Paul Reid and Brendan Gan then combined exquisitely well to release Seiya Kawamura down the right, though the right-sided attacking right back, only just, failed to get to the ball.
In the 11’ minute an exquisite first touch by Alec Urosevski saw the striker turn into the penalty-area before going to ground. Despite the protests of a few of the Rockdale City players, referee Mr. Kris Griffiths-Jones order for play to continue.
At the other end, Yuchi Yamauchi made his way into the referee’s book after going down inside the area. The referee branded the Reds number 8 a yellow card for his efforts.
Yamauchi was rewarded in the 17’ minute however, when he was grounded on the right byline. The referee this time had no doubt, despite the mild protests of the Suns players. Captain Glavas was as cool as ever, calmly slotting the ball into the bottom left-hand corner, sending Barcena the wrong way to open the scoring.
Rockdale City’s response was instant and the side very nearly found an equaliser from a set-piece on 21’ minutes. Kawamura’s curling free-kick from the edge of the penalty-area packed a massive punch though was too central as Liam Reddy made a comfortable save.
The Suns maintained the pressure in the front third in the 24’ minute as Brendan Gan and Nikola Taneski combined exceptionally well to release Urosevski inside the penalty-area. The striker took his effort first time, though failed to get any real purchase on the ball as Reddy made a very comfortable save down to his left.
Sydney United looked to grab a hold of possession in the middle of the park with Trifiro and Paric seeing a lot of the ball. Mileski’s constant threat running off the midfielders too was a nuisance for the Suns who needed to remain alert on the counterattack.
The Reds number 18 displayed his fine array of skill in the 34’ minute when he turned his marker twice with a marvellous shimmy to sell his marker before his shot on goal was thwarted by the retreating Suns defence.
Rockdale re-enforced its focus in the front third with Taneski showing his exquisite touches when releasing Brendan Gan down the right; the ball, however, carried a little too much pace.
On the stroke of half-time Glavas went extremely close to doubling its lead. A tremendous pass into the path of the striker, by Trifiro, saw the Reds number 11 wiggle his way into some space before attempting an audacious chip over the goalkeeper; the ball finished only inches wide of the mark.
Following the interval, Rockdale City found its equaliser. It was a marvellous piece of individual brilliance by Urosevski who won the ball inside the Reds half before creating the room he needed to unleash a venomous left foot drive that finished in the roof of the net.
Sydney United 58 FC’s response was instant as the side created consecutive chances on 51’ minutes. Trifiro again showed his fine array of talent on the edge of the penalty-area before, only just, failing to pick out a teammate with a chipped pass to the back post, before Mileski dribbled his way into the penalty-area and shot on goal, denied by a last-ditch tackle.
Mileski went close again in the 55’ minute when latching onto a cross from the right, at the back post. Under immense pressure from his marker, Mileski attempted to get a shot on target, though failed to force Barcena into a save.
The Suns looked to counter in the 58’ minute, led superbly by Giorgio Speranza who made a monster run down the left before releasing Urosevski. Rockdale City had some numbers in good position, though Haydar was well-positioned to thwart any hope of a goal for Branko Culina’s men.
In the 63’ minute, Yamauchi had a look-in on goal though he failed to hit the target after taking a first touch.
Immediately down the other end, Gan played Taneski in on goal though the striker was thwarted by Sherlock who made a timely intervention.
The resulting corner saw the Reds partially clear the ball as Reid picked up the scraps and blast on goal. The ball ricocheted into the path of Gan who drove a second attempt on goal, denied by a fine Reddy save.
Rockdale City took the lead in the 75’ minute from the penalty-spot. Taneski calmly slotted home after substitute Toufic Alameddine won the Suns a penalty, in a similar spot to that of the first half for the Reds.
Reds coach Mark Rudan made an immediate change to his formation introducing Matthew Bilic and Mirjan Pavlovic to add more firepower in the front part of the pitch.
Sydney United 58 FC had a chance shortly after when Trifiro won a free-kick on the edge of the penalty-area, though the chance amounted to nothing as the Rockdale City wall stood strong.
The Reds continued to press and went close in the 88’ minute when an Ante Tomic free-kick from the right found the head of Pavlovic who could only divert over the crossbar.
Substitute Bilic was in the action again in the 2’ minute of injury-time as he forced Barcena into a tremendous reflex save.
Bilic was to go one step better in the 4’ minute of injury time as he latched onto Trifiro’s set-piece delivery from the right, sending his glancing header past Barcena, and the crowded Suns’ goalmouth, to send the match into a dramatic extra time period.
Prior to the start of the additional 30’ minutes, Suns coach Branko Culina was sent to the stands after exchanging some words with the referee, leaving Rockdale City without its coach for the extra time period.
The Reds started the stronger of the two sides as Trifiro combined with Bilic in the first clear chance of extra time. The neat ball by Trifiro sent Bilic clear, the ‘super sub’ denied on the edge of the penalty-area by Barcena who was quick off his line.
1’ minute later and it was Barcena again who denied the Reds. Pavlovic’s exceptional show of strength and power saw the striker drill a diagonal effort hard and low, denied by a world class Barcena save down to his left.
Sydney United continued to press and went close via a Trifiro free-kick before Speranza showed maturity beyond his years with a well-timed clearance under immense pressure from Bilic and Mileski moments later.
Rockdale’s response arrived via a set-piece of its own. Urosevski lined up the attempt from about 25-yards, failing to trouble Reddy though, who made a comfortable save.
The second-half of extra time started with the Suns on the right foot, and it was from Speranza’s left foot that an opening arrived. The speedy left-sided defender got forward for Rockdale, using his pace to run to the byline before centering into a crowded area as the chance went begging.
It was end-to-end action that followed as both sides pressed for a winner.
Urosevski and Alameddine were very lively for Rockdale City, making a number of runs to receive the ball from Reid who was at his brilliant best, dictating play.
Sydney United carved out, arguably, the best chance of the period in the 114’ minute when Sherlock got forward down the right. The right-sided defender’s cutback at the byline picked out Pavlovic who drove first-time on goal, denied only by a remarkable reflex save by Barcena, much to the disbelief of the home supporters.
4’ minutes from the end, at the other end, a quick Reid free-kick played over the Reds defence picked out the perfect run of Urosevski who saw his lunging attempt finish over the crossbar.
30’’ seconds later and Reid again created problems for Sydney United. His long-range attempt was swerving in the air, beating Reddy in the Reds goal though not the post as the Suns supporters this time had their hands on their heads in disbelief.
With both sets of players feeling the 120’ minutes in their legs, it would come down to the penalty-shootout to decide the encounter.
Penalty shootout sequence:
Pavlovic – cheeky chip down the middle GOAL
Urosevski – drilled down into the bottom right corner GOAL
Trifiro – drive into the bottom left-hand corner GOAL
Murayama – bottom right-hand corner GOAL
Tomic – bottom right-hand corner GOAL
Alameddine – bottom left-hand corner, hit with enough power to beat Reddy who guessed correctly GOAL
Speer – saved by Barcena to the goalkeeper’s right
Talevski – saved by Reddy, powerful drive to the goalkeeper’s left
Bilic – saved by Barcena, saved to his right
Taneski – to the goalkeeper’s right GOAL
Sydney United 58 FC 2 (Luka Glavas 18’ (pen), Matthew Bilic 90’+4’ )
Rockdale City Suns 2 (Alec Urosevski 46’, Nikola Taneski 76’ (pen) )
Penalty shootout: 4-3 to Rockdale City Suns.
Sunday 8th of September, 2013
Sydney United Sports Centre
Referee: Kris Griffiths-Jones
Assistant Referees: Nick Backo and Thomas Lee
Fourth Official: Adam Susz
Sydney United 58 FC: 29.Liam Reddy; 2.Mitchell Speer, 4.Nathan Sherlock, 6.Mitchell Stamatellis, 8.Yuchi Yamauchi (19.Matthew Bilic 76’), 9.Robert Mileski, 11.Luka Glavas (C) (7.Mirjan Pavlovic 76’), 16.Stjepan Paric (15.Anthony Tomelic 78’), 18.Glen Trifiro, 20.Ibrahim Haydar, 23.Ante Tomic
Substitutes Not Used: 41.Jordan Jennings; 5.Callum O’Connell
Yellow Cards: Yuchi Yamauchi 15’, Ibrahim Haydar 68’
Red Cards: Nil
Rockdale City Suns: 1.Diego Barcena; 3.Giorgio Speranza, 5.Paul Reid, 6.Takuya Murayama, 7.Brendan Gan (11.David Talevski 87’), 8.Paul Kohler, 9.Alec Urosevski, 13.Sam Munro (12.Idris El Hafiane 69’), 14.Nikola Taneski, 18.Seiya Kawamura (17.Toufic Alameddine 63’) 23.Askin Oygur (C)
Substitutes Not Used: 22.Aaron Liddell; 20.Themba Muata-Marlon
Yellow Cards: Idris El Hafiane 84’, Diego Barcena 88’
Red Cards: Nil
-By Joseph Carlucci