SUTHERLAND Sharks hosted St George FC in a tale of two halves that eventually saw the home side defeat the Saints late on 2-1 at Seymour Shaw.
George Codrea worked an opening in the first minute but skewed his effort wide of Nathan Denham’s post in an early attack from St. George in what proved their only worthwhile attempt in the opening minutes.
Bruno Pivato took a corner for the Saints in the 8’ minute that eventually allowed the Sharks to break from their own penalty area but nothing came of it as the match descended into a midfield tussle.
That was until Lenox Tweneboa unleashed a shot from the edge of the box in the 11’ minute that gave Denham no chance and St. George the lead.
As in so many games this season it was the Saints who started the brighter with a high tempo approach and only time would tell, as they pushed for a second, if they would be caught with a sucker punch again or whether they’d learnt from the first half of the campaign.
Sutherland were working themselves into some terrific positions but uncharacteristically were found wanting with sloppy crossing and passing, a hangover from their lethargic start perhaps.
The Saints, on the other hand, were under no illusions about the task ahead of them and were certainly playing their part in pinning Sutherland down and allowing no time to settle on the ball.
David Talevski tried his luck from distance when receiving the ball from skipper Mirko Jurilj from a free-kick that once again slid wide of the upright in the 30’ minute.
Talevski forced Denham into a fingertip save in the 33’ minute from a stinging left foot shot on the edge of the area again that brought the decent sized crowd to their feet.
The visitors became adept at getting back quickly when they lost possession and packed the final third leaving either Codrea or Vais alone up front as the target man with Talevski and a lively Bruno Pivato getting up speedily in support.
A well worked move 10’ minutes from the break saw Pivato head over from a Codrea cross after being put through by Talevski down the right that should have produced the second goal for St. George as they tore the Sharks defence apart with quick feet and clean passing.
No doubt strong words were said during the break in the dressing rooms and needed to be if Sutherland were to avoid their third straight league defeat.
Nick Olsen had been a dynamo for Sutherland in the first 45’ minutes making powerful runs and creating a nuisance of himself but for all his urgency the Sharks were simply not firing.
Codrea was found in the 53’ minute with a long raking ball out of defence and with Denham off his line he attempted to powerfully lob the ‘keeper that eventually saw the ball nestle on the top netting, another let off for the home side.
Sutherland responded with Ethan Galbraith forcing Shaw into a hurried stop at the other end at his near post.
Galbraith was replaced by Jordan Figon in the 58’ minute as Sharks coach Robbie Stanton looked to increase the fire power up front, a change Stanton has often made throughout games this season.
A 63’ minute free-kick from just outside the area saw Nikas again the taker and this time it crashed back into play off the crossbar with Shaw well beaten however the Saints defence managed to clear under heavy pressure.
Juan Chavez replaced Vais and immediately went down when looking to turn his ankle and among all that, Jamie McMaster managed to find the net with a neat header to restore parity on the night at the other end in the 68’ minute.
Chavez came into the game under an injury cloud and was himself substituted in the 80’ minute for Bill Tsanidis.
Talevski found space down the right and centred with Pivato and Codrea in the middle but the pass was behind them both yet Jonathan Castano-Acero was following up and it took a last ditch block from Moustakas in the area to spoil another Saints raid.
Shaw was quick to deny Olsen as Sutherland started to threaten with another foray forward that should have seen the home side in front in the 74’ minute and did so again with a fantastic reflex save 6’ minutes later but it mattered little from the restart.
Panni Nikas stole the ball off St. George defender David Dascal and slipped Jordan Figon through to coolly slot past Shaw to break St. George hearts, but it had been coming.
Nikas should have wrapped up the points moments later when causing Shaw to smother the ball from almost point blank range as St.George wilted under the constant barrage.
Rino Zenari was caught offside in stoppage time from a delightful Dascal pass with the visitors now needing to chase the game they had controlled for the most part.
It wasn’t to be as the final whistle blew leaving a relieved Sharks coach Robbie Stanton commented on the game that was.
“We are a bit flat at the moment.
“We’re going through that stage where we look like we’ve hit the wall, we’re loaded and look heavy and we did look heavy out there tonight.
“It’s not that we looked disinterested but we certainly looked off the pace. We were definitely sluggish and that happens at some point during a season.
“I gave them a bit of a rev up at half-time and thought we were still doing things okay but just not at the tempo we needed to. There was no conviction and no convincing actions on the park.
“St George are a tough team and don’t be fooled into thinking anything else. The last time we played them it was a tough match and on the second half there were some strong tackles from both teams and we finally sparked up a bit. Our ball movement was better and we created better openings and kept battering away at them and finally we managed to pick them off.
“We were unlucky not to get a third and they were unlucky not to hit a second so at the end of a tough 90 minutes I’m happy with the three points and we’ll look to next week.”
Manny Spanoudakis must have thought it was Groundhog day for his charges and stated to Football NSW.
“Basically I would have to say it was another one that got away from us and I have two very mixed emotions about the result.
"One is of immense pride for a squad that quite frankly is depleted at the moment from injuries and a few boys that we risked tonight who haven’t trained all week so we had to make a number of adjustments. We also had three players aged 17, 18 and 19, contributing tonight so that part of me is very proud.
“The football part of me is bitterly disappointed again for about probably the sixth time this season. We’ve played a fantastic brand of football, controlled and dominating for long passages and then perhaps through naivety or poor decision making we’ve given the game away again.
“There’s eight weeks to go and there is enough there to tell us we have enough to turn things around, and from the start of the campaign we are doing that and with players coming back next week we are sure we can do it. We’ll keep going, we have plenty of young talent and look to our game with Sydney Olympic next week although it’s a very quiet and despondent dressing room tonight unfortunately."
Sadly for both sides it appears Sutherland may have to do without the services of influential skipper Nick Stavroulakis and striker Nathan Elasi and St. George with Juan Chavez who all picked up injuries during the game.
Sutherland Sharks 2 (Jamie McMaster 68′, Jordan Figon 83′)
St George FC 1 (Lenox Tweneboa 11′)
Saturday 14th June 2014
Seymour Shaw Park, Miranda
Referee: Matthew Skinner (Qld)
Assistant Referees: Sarah Ho and Danny Horstead
Fourth Official: Tristan Harris
Sutherland Sharks: 1.Nathan Denham g/k, 2.Jacob Tratt, 5.Nick Littler, 9.Nathan Elasi (8.Lucas Stergiou 80), 10.Jamie McMaster, 14.Nick Stavroulakis © (18.Jayden Koulizakis 85), 15.Perry Moustakas, 16.Ethan Galbraith (12.Jordan Figon 58), 19.Nick Olsen, 23.Panni Nikas, 29.Mitchell Farmer
Substitutes not used: 17.Jordan Roberts, 22.Andrew Depta g/k
Yellow Cards: Jamie McMaster 57′, Mitchell Farmer 63′, Nick Stavroulakis 78′
Red Cards: Nil
St George FC: 1.Dion Shaw, 2.Costa Andricopoulos, 3.David Dascal, 4.Marton Vass, 6.Mirko Jurilj, 34.Andreas Vais (11.Juan Chavez 67) (15.Bill Tsanidis 80), 10.Bruno Pivato, 13.Lenox Tweneboa, 16.Jonathan Castano-Acero, 19.David Talevski, 23.George Codrea (26.Rino Zenari 76)
Substitutes not used: 21.Lucas North, 34.James Spanoudakis
Yellow Cards: Nil
Red Cards: Nil
– By Micky Brock, National Premier Leagues NSW Mens 1 Reporter, at Seymour Shaw Park, Miranda