CHANCE after chance after chance and yet none went in.
Football is a funny game like that and despite a lot of huffing and puffing the game between Sutherland Sharks and Rockdale City Suns remained scoreless throughout the 90′ minutes which was also the first leg of the Leader Cup.
They say there is such thing as an entertaining nil-nil draw and in defence of both sides, this was one of them.
Indeed were it not for a number of superb saves by Sutherland’s Nathan Denham, Rockdale City could have the match won and twice over in the opening 10′ minutes.
Instead the Sutherland number 1, clad in canary yellow, made save after save to keep his side in the match as Rockdale City threw the kitchen sink at Sutherland in a breathless opening.
Both sides each had a single glorious opportunity to win the game in the second half.
In the 55′ minute Panny Nikas picked out the young live wire Nicholas Olsen, but he lost composure at the vital moment and blazed his attempted finish over the bar.
In stoppage time of the second half, Rockdale City had an equally, if not better opportunity to win the game.
Substitute Idriss El Hafiane showed deft feet and speed of thought to dance his way into the area, but with just Denham between himself and glory, he smashed his shot over the bar.
Rockdale coach Branko Culina looked away in anguish. He said after the game that it was a night for heroes, but none were to be found.
Rockdale City started like a house on fire and were desperately unlucky not to score.
Sutherland ran into trouble when Nathan Elasi gave the ball away ever so cheaply in the 10′ minute.
The evergreen Paul Reid headed goalward, sliding the ball into Nick Taneski, but he was crowded out in the area.
Two minutes later, Takuya Murayama bombed forward down the right, crossing to Tony Lo, whose shot forced the first smart save from an alert Denham.
Then, a free kick from Sean Symons from the very edge of the area brought the very best out of Denham.
The left footed shot was curling towards the far corner but Denham saw it early and did wonderfully well to fly to his right and push the ball to safety.
It was a man of the match performance from the Sutherland custodian and he had to be on his toes on the half hour mark.
A quick free kick from Reid released Taneski whose shot was crisply struck but again repelled by Denham.
Sutherland had hardly had a kick and were struggling to retain any meaningful possesion.
A Paul Kohler snap shot from distance had Sutherland hearts in mouths but the veteran defender’s shot whistled wide of the far post.
Sutherland’s only meaningful attempt of the first half came in stoppage time, when Nikas struck a free kick from 40 yards that dipped and swerved with pace but David Bradasevic, in for the again-suspended Tomislav Arcaba, was equal to the task of repelling it.
The second half was a similar story.
Olsen’s superb opportunity was the first of the half and when he missed, one wondered whether there would be another chance as good.
Jordan Figon entered the fray, replacing Adamos Pierettis, and he was soon involved, cutting inside to shoot at goal, only to be denied by Bradasevic, who was showing no sign of nerves.
Perry Moustakas made his return from injury after a three game lay off, replacing the injured Matthew Gordon.
He stumbled, allowing Rockdale substitute Daniel Barac a free run at goal, but he was stopped by Olsen who was tracking back.
Sutherland skipper Nick Stavroulakis showed great anticipation and an acute sense of timing, single handedly shackling a threatening Rockdale counter attack that arose from a Sutherland corner.
Stavroulakis’ intervention was a timely one but the sort of which we have come to expect from the Sutherland midfielder.
Tony Lo connected with a sweet volley that could only find the hands of Denham, before Kohler finally beat the Sutherland keeper with a header from a Patrick Savor free kick.
The delivery was flicked on to Kohler, who was judged to have been in an offside position and the "goal" was ruled out.
Then, with seconds to spare, El Hafiane had his chance to be the hero of which his coach spoke, but it wasn’t to be.
Sutherland Sharks 0
Rockdale City Suns 0
Saturday, May 10, 2014
Seymour Shaw Park, Miranda
Referee: Khodr Yaghi
Assistant referees: Craig Fisher and Thomas Lee
Fourth Official: Katie-Louise Patterson
Sutherland Sharks: 1.Nathan Denham; 2.Jacob Tratt, 3.Adamos Pierettis (12.Jordan Figon 68′), 5.Nicholas Littler, 6.Matthew Gordon (15.Perry Moustakas 65′), 9.Nathan Elasi, 14.Nick Stavroulakis (C), 16.Ethan Galbraith, 19.Nick Olsen, 23.Panny Nikas, 29.Mitchell Farmer
Substitutes not used: 22.Andrew Depta (GK), 8.Lukas Stergiou, 18.Jayden Koulizakis
Yellow Cards: Panny Nikas 70′
Red Cards: Nil
Rockdale City Suns: 22.David Bradasevic; 3.Steven Hesketh, 4.Sean Symons, 5.Paul Reid (12.Idriss El Hafiane 55′), 6.Takuya Murayama, 8.Paul Kohler, 9.Tadhg Purcell (17.Hristijan Tanoski 78′), 11.Nikola Taneski (16.Daniel Barac 68′), 14.Patrick Savor, 20.Tony Lo, 23.Askin Oygur (C)
Substitutes not used: 24.Blake Horton (GK), 19.Themba Muata-Marlow
Yellow Cards: Tony Lo 65′, Nick Taneski 66′, Patrick Savor 73′
Red Cards: Nil
3- Nathan Denham (Sutherland Sharks)
2- Takuya Murayama (Rockdale City Suns)
1- Sean Symons (Rockdale City Suns)
– By Matthew Lopez, National Premier Leagues Mens 1 Editor, at Seymour Shaw Park