MARCONI Stallions played host to Sutherland Sharks in a clash neither could afford to lose, but it was Marconi that did, going down 2-1 to the visitors.
The home side barely saw the ball in the opening 5’ minutes as Sutherland knocked it around at the back and probed down the flanks without an opportunity being created.
Marconi, when the chance arose, were more direct with the ball over the top for the main part but it was early days as both settled into their rhythm.
Nick Olsen was the first to make a break when sliding past his marker down the left in the 9’ minute that produced a corner.
It wasn’t the most inspiring fifteen minutes of football produced this season. Neither side managed to find their groove and cancelled the other out.
Olsen, as ever, was making himself busy and slipped a beautiful pass out to Mitchell Farmer on the right but the ball took an unfortunate bobble off the pitch at the moment of crossing and ended up in the stands.
Panni Nikas, brought down on the left, floated in a cross that James Chronopoulos needed to claw off the line in the 20’ minute that led to another Sharks corner but again it came to nothing.
In retaliation Mitchell Thompson fired a free-kick into the wall from 25-yards out for Marconi but so far it had been bluff and bluster from both.
The Stallions seemed content to sit back and cede the ball to Sutherland and let them pass it around at the back giving the visitors the vast majority of possession yet little had been made from it.
The game needed a goal but it was hard to see where it was going to come from.
In the 28’ minute the question was nearly answered when Thompson picked out Shu Susaki on the right with a delightful through ball the midfielder brought down on his chest, drew Nathan Denham and flicked it past the upright when through.
It was a golden opportunity missed particularly when Jordan Figon opened the scoring at the other end 3’ minutes later for Sutherland.
What had been lacklustre certainly changed as quickly as the fortunes for the sides and a little more urgency was shown.
Chris Nunes played the one two and centred for Sean O’Connell who beat the despairing dive of Denham only for the ball to strike the post in the 37’ minute and bounce back into play, the home side unable to turn a trick.
Nathan Elasi was sent away down the left and his shot was deflected with Chronopoulos and Figon going for the rebound. Figon went down and was cautioned with three minutes remaining in the half.
Marconi were starting to push on but were leaving themselves vulnerable to the counter but managed to deal with the threat through a combination of scrambling defence and ill placed passing.
The Sharks quickly won a corner on the resumption that ended up with Nick Littler attempting to loop the ball over his head toward goal indicating the away team had not been happy with their first 45’ minutes of action.
Denham needed to be quick and brave when punching clear off the head of a Susaki attempt almost on the line as the Stallions drew spirit and attacked in numbers with 50’ minutes on the clock.
Jacob Tratt was adjudged to have brought down Shu Susaki on the edge of the box as the last man and was shown a straight red card in the 53’ minute. From the free-kick it was Denham to the rescue with a full length dive to his right to push away a Thompson thunderbolt destined for inside the upright.
With a man advantage it was now Marconi who were rightly taking the game to Sutherland, the latter forced to sit deeper and hit on the break.
It was that man Susaki who levelled the scoring when skipping past the Sharks defence, albeit with a suspicion of handball, and finding the net with a left-footed effort in the 61’ minute.
Sutherland needed to dig deep to stem the attacking wave that was now Marconi who sensed three points were there for the taking however they fell further behind when Nathan Elasi centred from the left, Jamie McMaster stepped over the ball to leave Figon free in the middle of the box to side-foot past Chronopoulos as 10-man Sutherland regained the lead in the 65’ minute.
Figon tried to make it three when setting up Elasi in the 72’ minute but Chronopoulos dived at the Sutherland strikers feet with the ball bouncing up off the attacker and out. It was another quick sweeping move that should have found the net as Marconi were now struggling to get back on level terms.
The quick passing and counters of Sutherland were causing Marconi some worries yet they had to push forward and ride their luck if they were to get anything from the game. They were doing the right thing but only time would prove if it were to be telling.
Nikas broke down the left after stealing the ball from Stallions midfielder Milorad Simonovic and played in Elasi whose cross-cum-shot whipped across the face with Olsen unable to find the finishing touch as Sutherland again found time and space in the closing stages.
Stallions coach Paul Carter threw on Bright Appiah for O’Connell with a couple of minutes remaining with a last throw of the dice but it didn’t pay off as Sutherland took the spoils with a hard earned but gritty victory.
Susaki had to have the last word and probably should have squared it up in stoppage time but scuffing his shot from the edge of the box allowed Denham to smother easily.
Paul Carter commented for the Stallions: “I can’t complain about the performance tonight because since I came in it’s taken 300’ minutes for someone to score against us.
“We were not as good tonight as we have been in previous games but I think we had the best two chances of the first-half from the free-kick and then hitting the post shortly after we went behind.
“A lack of discipline in defence has cost us tonight but congratulations to Sutherland, they are a good side.”
Sharks coach Robbie Stanton commented: “That was a good gutsy win for us especially after going down to 10-men.
“We had probably 70% of the possession in the first-half and created a few chances.
“We needed to change the structure after losing a man and in the end should have won more convincingly because we fluffed a number of chances after that and in the end we took two of our chances and Marconi didn’t and that was the difference.
“I’m proud of the performance and you cannot always win pretty but the guys dug in and I’m satisfied with three hard earned points.”
Marconi Stallions 1 (Shu Susaki 61′)
Sutherland Sharks 2 (Jordan Figon 31′, 65′)
Saturday 21st June 2014
Marconi Stadium, Bossley Park
Referee: James Lewis
Assistant Referees: Leigh Pigram and Mitchell Clark
Fourth Official: Samuel Grasso
Marconi Stallions: 22.James Chronopoulos (C); 2.Mitchell Thompson, 5.Brenton Rhodes (4.Trent Barton 80′), 6.Jared Lum, 7.Sean O’Connell,(11.Bright Appiah 89′), 9.Marco Sama (12.Harry Brown 67′), 10.Milorad Simonovic, 15.Tomislav Mijic, 18.Jake McGink, 20.Shu Susaki, 23.Chris Nunes
Substitutes not used: 1.Nathan Campbell g/k, 3.Ali Haydar
Yellow Cards: Nil
Red Cards: Nil
Sutherland Sharks: 1.Nathan Denham; 2.Jacob Tratt, 5.Nick Littler, 8.Lukas Stergiou, 9.Nathan Elasi, 10.Jamie McMaster, 12.Jordan Figon (16.Ethan Galbraith 90′), 15.Perry Moustakas, 19.Nick Olsen, 23.Panni Nikas (C), 29.Mitchell Farmer
Substitutes not used: 17.Jordan Roberts, 18.Jayden Koulizakis, 22.Andrew Depta, 24.Damir Prodanovic
Yellow Cards: Jordan Figon 42′
Red Cards: Jacob Tratt 53′
– By Micky Brock, National Premier Leagues NSW Mens 1 Reporter at Marconi Stadium