IT WAS men against boys in Rooty Hill as APIA Leichhardt Tigers put Blacktown Spartans to the sword.
It was 5-1 by the end by it could have been many more, as APIA cut their way through the Spartans defence at will in the second half.
Nick Olsen opened the scoring with the aid of a deflection early on, but then APIA curiously switched off, allowing Spartans to put the visitors under increasing pressure as the half wore on.
A belter from Adrian Ucchino early in the second half undid all Spartans’ good work though, before Blake Powell ended his one-game goal drought with two goals in two minutes.
Nathan Millgate’s own goal saw Spartans at least chalk one goal up, but it was never a contest. Corey Biczo added the fifth late on.
It was a slow start to the match, but Olsen’s goal looked far too easy. The right winger disappeared past Josh Tanner and his shot took a deflection on its way past Carlos Saliadarre.
From there though, APIA just switched off, which allowed Spartans to exert some fairly serious pressure.
It was hard to see how the ball stayed out of the net in the 25th minute, when a Spartans corner caused all sorts of problems. The penalty area was like a pinball machine but somehow it stayed out.
Jordan Crighton lashed over the bar and Futa Nakumura shot wide as Spartans banged on the door, to no avail.
Joshua Da Silva tested APIA keeper Ryan Norval, who was struggling with injury, before Daniel Fogarty was shown a yellow card for a rough tackle in the centre of the park.
Norval was replaced by Andrew Bazi for the second half, but APIA may as well have sent a deckchair out there for him, so poor was Spartans’ second half performance.
Powell blazed over the bar with an open goal two minutes after the break, but Ucchino had no such problem in the 50th minute, launching an unstoppable 25 yarder that arced its way past the despairing Saliadarre into the back of the net.
It was a beautiful way to score his first APIA goal and it was the impetus for a swashbuckling second half APIA performance.
Superb work by Olsen set up Powell for a tap in in the 65th minute. When Marc Warren’s switch of play released the flying winger, Powell was on the spot to convert when the cut back came.
Powell found his second only two minutes later. This time the architect was Franco Parisi, who left Benjamin Tosi for dead on the left, before squaring up to Powell. His finish was unerring.
It was one way traffic and Spartans were all at sea. APIA were cutting through them like a hot knife through butter and it was only a question of how many.
Spartans got one back, when a corner bounced in off Millgate. Brett Studman was originally announced as the scorer of the own goal, but he pinned it on Millgate, pointing out to referee Chris Young that it was the right back whose touch gave Spartans a goal.
Biczo wreaked havoc off the bench, and Spartans had no answer to his pace.
He was on hand to finish off at the back post for another tap in, before Powell was twice denied by Saliadarre. In between, Bazi made a good save from Crighton, to serve a reminder that he was indeed on the pitch.
Spartans captain Saliadarre said a bad second half performance cost his side.
"We didn’t play too badly to be honest, we were well and truly in the game and had good possession," he said.
"In the second half they turned it on and were really hard to stop. It’s pretty tough, we seem to be leaking goals at the moment and obviously I’m at the back so it’s hard to take.
"We’ll keep trying to improve, and we’ll work hard.
APIA coach Rod Williams was pleased with what he described as APIA’s best performance of the season.
"In the first half we played well, but we needed to do a bit better in a couple of areas," he said.
"In the last 20 minutes of the first half they caused us a few problems. We addressed that for the second half.
"The second half performance was very good, lots of one and two touch. I think our football was great, it was probably the best we have played all year. Some of it was sublime."
Blacktown Spartans 1 (Millgate OG 74”)
APIA Leichhardt Tigers 5 (Olsen 17′, Ucchino 50′, Powell 65′, 67′, Biczo 85′)
Saturday May 23, 2015
Blacktown Football Park, Rooty Hill
Referee: Christopher Young
Assistant Referees: Danny Horstead and Alexander Goodhew
Fourth Official: Timothy Danaskos
Blacktown Spartans: Saliadarre (C); Crighton, Dukic, Morton, Tanner (Quigley 69′); Da Silva, Kondek (Valastro 69′), Nakamura, Fogarty; Sasaki, Long (Tosi 23′)
Substitutes not used: Nascimben, Tomohiro
Yellow cards: Fogarty 45′, Dukic 70′
APIA Leichhardt Tigers: Norval (Bazi 46′); Millgate, Studman, West (C), Warren; D’Apuzzo (Biczo 72′), Ucchino; Elasi, Parisi, Olsen (Kayes 75′); Powell
Substitutes not used: Petkovski, Rhodes
Yellow cards: Warren 31′, Studman 34′, Elasi 76′
3- Nick Olsen (ALT)
2- Blake Powell (ALT)
1- Adrian Ucchino (ALT)
– by Matthew Lopez, PS4 National Premier Leagues NSW Men’s 1 Editor, at Blacktown Football Park