In what was a rescheduled fixture from round 11, Melita Stadium played host to a thrilling encounter that saw Parramatta FC and Manly United share the spoils in a 2-2 draw on Wednesday evening.
Parramatta were always going to be a different proposition in the second part of the season and their play reflected this in playing neat controlled passing football and looking to play their way through the park.
Manly of course have the tall timber to counter that approach and needed to work as a unit to deny a sprightly home side in the early stages.
Frank Martey whipped over a dangerous looking cross in the seventh minute but it was behind Shayne Ardle who was unable to retrieve the situation under pressure and an opportunity went begging for the Eagles.
The deadlock was broken on the quarter hour when Marco Sama perfectly connected with a cross from the left to head past the stranded Dylan Mitchell to give the Eagles the lead.
It wasn’t exactly against the run of play but it was the first meaningful effort of the match.
Sam Gallagher played a neat free-kick down the line for Manly in the 27’ minute that played in Brendan Cholakian but his shot on the spin inside the box went awry of the upright and Parramatta held on to their slender lead.
The visitors may have suffered an early set back but it didn’t affect their style of play and they kept pushing for an opening.
Although having plenty of possession before the break it was Manly who couldn’t find the telling pass and their latter half domination amounted to little, particularly on the score board.
Half-time came and went without addition and a few choice words were needed at the break to ignite the match in the second-half.
Parramatta defender Steven Wright was adjudged to have brought down Kieran Paull inside the area and Manly were awarded a spot kick which was duly dispatched by skipper Cholakian to level the scores.
It remained to be seen if it would spark the comeback Manly craved.
Dejan Pandurevic got into the game after the goal and danced his way past Ardle on the right wing however Aram Tayebi was onto him to produce the mistake that led to Manly losing the ball. It was impressive defending.
Chris Payne made way for Daniel Saric just after the hour mark as Manly United coach Paul Dee was the first to show his hand and ring the changes.
Manly’s silky midfielder Daniel Bragg forced Turnbull into a magnificent save went connecting strongly with a deep cross from the left the ‘keeper tipped over the bar in the 66’ minute.
The effort was the closest thing to a goal since the penalty.
The defence of both flattered to deceive as the lack of striking potency and final ball option left a fair bit to be desired until Bragg struck another thunderbolt from the edge of the box in the 72’ to complete the Manly fight back when creeping just inside the left-hand upright.
Saric was next to make Luke Turnbull work when diving full stretch to his left to push the ball around his near post in the 79’ minute but again the corner produced little.
But parity was restored when Sama, with a neat spin and right foot shot, netted his and Parramatta’s second of the evening.
Manly applied the pressure and created some decent chances, hitting the post at one point, but it was a night that wasn’t to see the three points heading over the Harbour Bridge.
The final whistle arrived with the match all square prompting eagles’ coach Franco Consentino to comment.
“At the start of the first-half we were on top and the second-half was pretty even until they got the penalty and that changed the game.
“It gave Manly their second wind and they pushed on well but they are coached well and well- structured and are a good quick side.
“My boys never gave up and possibly the draw was a fair result in the end but from our point of view the penalty changed the game out of our favour and we’ll be interested to watch that on the videos.”
“It feels like we’ve dropped two points”, stated Manly coach Paul Dee.
“In terms of possession and field position during the first 45’ minute I thought we were the better side and dominated but it wasn’t filled with many meaningful chances and didn’t end up in good product.
“The second-half we opened up a lot more and the possession was fairly even with the difference being we created better quality chances and took a couple of them and of course the penalty added that little bit of extra impetus into our performance.
“You can tell by the body language of the players we feel it is two points dropped after scoring twice, creating plenty of good opportunities and hitting the post.
“There are times when we look for the killer pass when it isn’t on but today I feel we were more measured in our approach and what we were trying to do in front of goal. The final finishing pass and touch was lacking at times and on another day we could have won easily but that’s football.
“We created a flurry of chances toward the end of the game and couldn’t find that killer punch but we certainly created enough to win the game.”
Parramatta FC 2 (Sama 15’, 80’)
Manly United 2 (Cholakian 51’ pen, Bragg 72’)
Wednesday 24th June, 2015
Melita Stadium, Chester Hill
Referee: Kurt Ams
Assistant Referees: Joon Park & Raymond Osborne
Fourth Official: Sebastien Brennan
Parramatta FC: Turnbull g/k, Speranza, Wright, Symons, Daniel Gullo, Martey, Clowes ©, Sama, Tsironis (Chavez 85), Tayebi (Grima 75), Ardle
Substitutes Not Used: Rezo, Gersbach, Diacono
Yellow Cards: Grima 90
Manly United: Mitchell, Paull (Williams 73), Lobb, Payne (Saric 62), McDonald (Parkhouse 85), Cholakian ©,Ferguson, Oughtred, Bragg, Pandurevic, Gallagher
Substitutes Not Used: Liibrand, Kuleski
– by Micky Brock, PS4 National Premier Leagues NSW Men’s 1 Reporter, at Melita Stadium