It was nothing short of a Grand Final match.
There were striking opportunities, defensive mistakes and beautiful moments.
Manly United’s Oliver Green was the hero of the day and it was his 83’ minute strike in the net, following two goals just minutes before that saw Manly clinch the Championship against APIA-Leichhardt Tigers FC in what was a physical encounter at Edensor Park.
APIA pressed forward early and they carved out the first opportunity of the afternoon in the 3’ minute. A poor tackle by Manly United saw Blade Richards on the counter attack with acres of space and just the keeper, Tonu Liiband to beat, only to see his golden opportunity sent wide of the target.
Manly’s response arrived in the 15’ minute when Masakatsu Tanaka’s short pass found Green, but his effort was saved by keeper, Stefan Giglio at the top of the box.
In the 30’ minute APIA came close to grabbing the lead when Luke Clifford brilliantly beat his player before passing to Adam Funari on the left whose soft shot towards goal easily found the drawn out keeper.
Oliver Green was in the thick of the action and his second opportunity to open the goal scoring for Manly was once again denied by Stefan Giglio.
It looked like the scores would remain level heading into the break, but APIA soon enough broke the deadlock in the 44’ minute. The seamless passing between Dominic Cox and Blade Richards saw Richards beat the Manly defence, soon finding Lachlan Scott in the box who showed great composure, calmly slotting the ball into the back of the net.
Following the break, APIA continued the momentum and they extended their lead in the 55’ minute from Luke Clifford’s corner, which was unfortunately deflected by Manly’s Daniel Drakopoulos into his own goal.
In the 70’ minute APIA’s substitute George Blackwood who proved to be a constant headache on the right flank found himself with only the keeper to beat, but Liiband’s quick reaction saw his shot denied.
Things looked like it took a turn for the worst for Manly United in the 75’ minute when Hamish Galbraith was called up for a handball in the box. APIA substitute George Blackwood took the spot kick, but Liiband’s save on the right post kept Manly alive in the contest.
The action and intensity slowly unfolded and it took until late in the second half for the game to reflect a true Grand Final style as Manly produced a more energetic display.
Soon enough Manly were putting constant pressure on the APIA defensive line as they created more chances on goal and there time came in the 76’ minute when Harry Sweeney found Patrick Weir who calmly headed the ball past the hands of keeper Stefan Giglio.
Manly United maintained their composure and Oliver’s Green’s efforts on goal were rewarded in the 79’ minute. Substitute Sam Conway’s free kick on the right found Green who burst into the box before heading the ball, slamming it into the top right corner of the net to give Manly the crucial equaliser.
With ten minutes remaining, a fabulous exchange of passes between Green and Conway saw another opportunity on goal for Green, but his shot was sent sailing over the crossbar.
In the 83’ minute Green completely turned the match on its head off Sam Conway’s free kick, finding Green in the box, who slotted the ball into the right corner.
With the final minute on the clock, Blade Richard’s free kick saw a nervous moment for the Manly defence line, but it was too late for APIA who saw their Championship hopes clinched by this year’s double winners, Manly United.
Manly head coach Louis Dimitropoulos, was ecstatic with the result.
“We were disjointed. We don’t have the same personal that played the whole season and it was difficult to be fluid in our attack”, Dimitropoulos said.
“But the game can change in any moment and it did with that penalty miss and that goal right after.”
“All we were hoping for was one goal, we knew that one goal would invigorate us and it did.”
Asked about Oliver Green, Dimitropoulos couldn’t be more proud as a coach.
“He’s a 17 year old boy that took it upon himself and take the responsibility to lift us out of that. I can’t speak highly enough of him.”
APIA-Leichhardt Tigers FC 2 (43.Lachlan Scott 44’, 23.Daniel Drakopoulos 55’)
Manly United FC 3 (21.Patrick Weir 76’, 27.Oliver Green 79’, 83’)
Sunday 14 September
Sydney United Sports Centre
Referee: Katie-Louise Patterson
Assistant Referee: Craig Fischer, K. Robinson
Fourth Official: Sam Grasso
APIA-Leichhardt Tigers FC: 39.Matthew Casali, 29.Michael Cimino, 34.Luke Clifford, 44.Dominic Cox, 25.Patrick Crane, 31.Adam Funari (41.George Blackwood 60’), 40.Stefan Giglio, 27.Ali Nasreddine, 30.Blade Richards (28.Brendan Hallab 66’), 43.Lachlan Scott, 26.Adrian Vlastelica (37.Liam Unicomb 86’)
Substitutes not used: 45.Christopher Moore, 38.Raf Moniac
Yellow Cards: Nil
Red Cards: Nil
Manly United FC: 23.Daniel Drakopoulos (18.Sam Conway 70’), 12.Dominic Ferguson (9.James Kain 58’), 35.Hamish Galbraith, 25.Henry Gallagher, 27.Oliver Green (7.George Firth 89’), 20.Tonu Liiband, 36.Lachlan Mclean (4.Mark McManus 88’), 39.Harry Sweeney, 13.Masakatsu Tanaka, 21.Patrick Weir, 24.Marcus Zarantonello
Substitutes not used: 1.Shaun Catlin
Yellow Cards: 36.Lachlan Mclean 33’, 24.Marcus Zarantonello 62’, 27.Oliver Green 83’
Red Cards: Nil
-By Anneliese Scenna