Sutherland Sharks sent a strong message to their IGA National Premier Leagues NSW Men’s 1 counterparts with a 3-0 demolition of St George on Saturday evening.
The match was a home game for St George despite being at Seymour Shaw Park after OKI Jubilee Stadium was closed due to persistent rain throughout the week.
But it was the Sharks who proved they had home ground advantage with a dominant display led by midfield trio including captain Nick Stavroulakis, Lucas Stergiou and Panni Nikas controlling the game from start to finish.
Early goals to former Kiwi U23 international Ethan Gailbraith and the man of the moment Nathan Elasi had the crowd on their feet quickly, with Elasi putting the nail in the coffin of St George late in the piece.
Sutherland started the match on the front foot, taking control of possession forcing St George to sit deep in their own half.
The pressure worked dividends with Sutherland taking the lead in the 7′ minute.
After great lead up play, former Saints player Jordan Figon played the ball back to an advancing Gailbraith who hammered the ball into the roof of the net making it 1-0.
Almost immediately Sutherland created their second chance, forcing St George goalkeeper Dion Shaw into a fantastic diving save.
The Saints remained shell shocked when Sutherland doubled their lead in the 16′ minute as Elasi got on the end of a fantastic through ball, burying his left foot volley into the bottom left hand corner.
Four minutes later Gailbraith had a great chance to double his tally, getting on the end of a Nikas free kick only to see his volley ricochet off the right hand upright.
St George was left with 10 men for several minutes when defender Bill Tsanidis was forced to the sideline to receive treatment on a knee injury. The numerical advantage was seen almost immediately by the Sharks when a great passing play ended in Matt Gordon crossing to find Figon whose header went just over the cross bar.
The Saints made it out of their half in the 31′ minute but after winning a corner failed to test Sharks keeper Nathan Denham.
Nikas again sent a floating free kick into the Saints box in the 39′ minute as Perry Moustakas rose well to get his head to the ball only to divert it wide.
Aleksander Jovovic moved forward with intent for St George linking with Jason Naidovski two minutes later, only for the striker’s effort to be knocked out for a corner.
Sutherland were unlucky to not have taken a 3-0 lead into the break after Elasi’s 20-yard effort was dropped by Shaw with Gailbraith slotting the ball home only to be called back for being offside.
Sutherland started the second half with the same dominance as the first with the midfield trio of NIkas, Stavroulakis and Stergiou controlling the middle of the park.
It would best St George however who showed signs of positive play in the 49′ minute with number 23 finding Jovovic free on the left only for the latter to scuff his early cross.
Saints striker Juan Chavez unleashed a great shot two minutes later as the ball sailed just wide of the mark.
Gailbraith was at it again in the 56′ minute, running at the Saints defence before passing to an advancing Michael Stuart whose pinpoint cross found Nikas who could only head the ball over the bar.
Stuart again advanced down the right hand touchline 3 minutes later to find Figon whose shot hit the side netting on the second attempt.
St George finally got their first shot on target in the 74′ minute after Jonathon Castano-Acero laid off to substitute David Talevski only to shoot straight to the chest of the waiting Denham.
Nick Olsen- returning from a stint with the Western Sydney Wanderers youth team – had a great opportunity to put the nail in the coffin of the Saints two minutes later.
After Elasi put him through clear on goal the attacker could only find the feet of goalkeeper Dion Shaw.
It wouldn’t be long before the Sharks put the game to bed however.
As St George tried to get back into the game sending players forward, Nikas received the ball on the half way line creating a four on two situation.
Nikas passed to Elasi who pulled the ball back before his shot was deflected into the net making it 3-0.
Following the match St George Technical Advisor Aytek Genc who coached the side on the night said the Saints will need time to get to the level of the IGA National Premier League NSW Men’s 1 competition.
“They troubled us with their speed and their ball movement and it is unfortunate because we spoke before the game about not conceding early but after about 14 minutes we were 2-0 down,” he said.
“The first goal we were not quick enough to clear and the second goal for me was poor defending.
“We still believed at half time that we could get back into it if we got one goal back and we did pressed a bit higher up in the park.
“This is a team which is new… it is going to take a bit of time to get used to the speed of the game at this level.”
Sutherland Sharks coach Robbie Stanton was full of praise for his men after a strong victory.
“It was a good performance, slowly we have gotten to how we want to play,” he said.
“Tonight was a pretty good first half performance and second half was consistent as well I think. I’d say it is the best 90 minutes we have had so far.
“I am just happy to get the three points, every game is hard. Our players are pretty knackered after that game even though it may have looked like we had done it easy.”
St George Saints 0
Sutherland Sharks 3 (Gailbraith 7’, Elasi 16’, 82’)
Saturday 29th March, 2014
Seymour Shark Park, Caringbah
Referee: Andrej Giev
Assistant Referees: Gareth Williams and Mitchell CLarke
Fourth Official: Ben Abraham
St George Saints: 1. Dion Shaw (GK), 16. Jonathan Castano-Acero, 11. Juan Chavez (c), 23. George Codrea (19. DavidTalevski 71’), 3. David Dascal, 15. Djodje Degenek, 12.Aleksander Jovovic, 9. Jason Naidovski (7. Chris Gomez 66’), 10. Bruno Pivato, 5. Bill Tsanidis (8. Nicholas Napoli 42’), 13. Lennox Tweneboa.
Substitutions not used: 2. Laureano Gomez Castro, 21. Lucas North
Yellow Cards: Nil
Red Cards: Nil
Sutherland Sharks: 1. Nathan Denham (GK), 9. Nathan Elasi, 12. Jordan Figon (10. Jamie McMaster 76’), 16. Ethan Gailbraith (19. Nicholas Olsen 69’), 6. Matt Gordon (2. Jacob Tratt 46’), 5. Nick Littler, 15. Perry Moustakas, 23. Panni Nikas, 14. Nick Stavroulakis (c), 8. Lukas Stergiou, 7. Michael Stuart
Substitutions not used: 22. Andrew Depta, 3. Adamos Pierettis
Yellow cards: nil
Red cards: nil
3 – Ethan Gailbraith (SS)
2 – Nathan Elasi (SS)
1 – Panni Nikas (SS)
-By Chris Georges