IT WASN’T pretty but Blacktown Spartans won’t care.
Ben De Haan’s side took all three points from Ilinden Sports Centre thanks to a 1-0 win against Rockdale City Suns, but the reality is after Shu Sasaki’s third minute goal, the play was all with the home side.
How they didn’t score is a mystery, and Paul Reid will surely have his strikers doing extra finishing training during the week to correct the faults which cost them so dearly here.
There will also be disciplinary concerns too for Reid to worry about, after both centre backs, Nicholas Petrillo first, and then captain Askin Orgur, both picked up second yellow cards as the Suns finished the game with only nine on the park.
The effects will stretch into next weekend however, as both starting centre backs will be suspended for the Heritage Round clash against Manly United.
Oygur was already suspended for the match after his first yellow, which was his fifth, but the second only rubbed salt into the wounds.
Sasaki’s early goal had an element of fortune as the ball fell kindly at his feet, but there was nothing fortuitous about his finish, which he tucked neatly past David Bradasevic.
Rockdale City looked as if they were still wallowing after their dramatic 4-3 loss to APIA Leichhardt last weekend, when they threw away a three goal lead and come away with nothing.
Spartans were lively and Sasaki was vibrant as ever. Marconi’s loss is truly Spartans’ gain.
But eventually Rockdale awoke from their slumber. Toufic Alameddine is one of the most exciting players in the division on his day and he began to run at Spartans left back Josh Tanner, who did well to keep him at almost an arm’s length.
Alameddine looked to be the Suns’ most likely avenue back into the game, and when he had the ball at his feet the crowd’s excitement grew.
A neat one-two between Reid and Hristijan Tanoski drew Hayden Morton into action and the Spartans centre half had to be strong to hold off the run of Reid.
That was on the half hour mark and two minutes later, Rockdale should have been level.
Alameddine on the right drilled a brilliant cross in and Alec Urosevski, arriving in the nick of time, could only glance his header wide. How Rockdale City wished they had the returning Dylan Macallister on the end of it instead. Rockdale City’s returning striker was in the stands for this one and will return next weekend.
By this stage it was all Rockdale City and when they were awarded a free kick 30 yards from goal both Marko Jesic and Tanoski stood over it. Something special was needed from that range to beat Carlos Saliadarre, and something special it was, but Jesic’s shot hit the base of the far post and bounced to safety.
Another free kick shortly after piqued the interest of both Tanoski and Jesic again, and Jesic’s shot was headed clear by Morton, who had taken up a position on the back post to offer Saliadarre further protection.
Urosevski and Alameddine briefly swapped sides and the former threatened when he cut inside and unleashed a shot, only for it to fly harmlessly wide.
Spartans found their feet at the start of the second half and returned from the break with renewed vigour.
A shot from Morton shortly after the break forced Bradasevic to react quickly to turn the shot away, before a rasping effort from Greg Kondek was deflected over the cross bar.
Rockdale City continued to push but they left themselves vulnerable on the break.
Jordan Crighton threatened to burst through the heart of the Rockdale City defence but a superb, and desperate, sliding challenge by Petrillo halted him in his tracks.
Both coaches turned to their benches. Mitsuhiro Iwamoto replaced Tanoski for Rockdale City, while for Spartans, William Mutch replaced Kondek.
Still Rockdale City banged on the door. Jesic looked to have scored for all money when he made made a wonderful headed connection to an Alameddine cross, but Saliadarre showed unbelievable reflexes and athleticism to keep it out.
Petrillo saw red when his clumsy tackle on Mutch drew the ire of referee Ryan Shepheard, while discipline went out the window when Oygur was sent for his silly tackle on Sasaki.
Moments beforehand, Spartans should have put the game to bed when Sasaki set up Futa Nakamura, but he somehow failed to make contact with the goal gaping.
Rockdale City had a chance to equalise but Saliadarre denied substitute Nikola Taneski, before Bradasevic made two one-on-one saves in quick succession to deny Sasaki and Mutch.
The young keepers brilliance was in vain though as Spartans held on.
Rockdale City Suns 0
Blacktown Spartans 1 (Sasaki 7′)
Sunday June 7, 2015
Ilinden Sports Centre, Rockdale
Referee: Ryan Shepheard
Assistant Referees: Danny Horstead and Andreas Lyndon
Fourth Official: Janush Adabjou
Rockdale City Suns: Bradasevic; Murayama, Oygur (C), Petrillo, Hesketh, Reid, El Hafiane, Alameddine, Urosevski (Taneski 81′), Jesic, Tanoski (Iwamoto 61′)
Substitutes not used: Visnic, Codrea, P Savor
Yellow cards: Petrillo 46′, Tanoski 55′, Oygur 71′
Red cards: Petrillo 76′, Oygur 85′
Blacktown Spartans: Saliadarre; Crighton, Da Silva (Dullak 81′), Kondek (Mutch 61′), Morton, Nakamura, Quigley, Sasaki, Tanner, Tomohiro, Tosi
Substitutes not used: Nascimben, Valastro, Agathos
Yellow cards: Quigley 39′, Nakamura 54′, Crighton 89′
3 – Shu Sasaki (Spartans)
2 – Carlos Saliadarre (Spartans)
1 – David Bradasevic (Rockdale City Suns)
– by Matthew Lopez, PS4 National Premier Leagues NSW Men’s 1 Editor, at Ilinden Sports Centre