ROUND 20 of the Grade 20s competition played out over Saturday and Sunday afternoons, with results across the weekend seeing Blacktown City FC opening up a three point lead over Marconi Stallions at the top of the ladder with only two rounds of the regular season remaining.
In this week’s Match of the Round, APIA Leichhardt Tigers hosted Parramatta FC at Lambert Park, where the visitors edged a 1-0 win with a goal from first grade player John Tsironis.
Match of the Round
APIA Leichhardt Tigers FC 0-1 Parramatta FC, Sunday 2.15pm at Lambert Park
Parramatta FC took all three points in a tight match on Sunday afternoon at Lambert Park, defeating APIA Leichhardt Tigers 1-0 courtesy of a John Tsironis header late in the first half.
APIA found themselves in the ascendancy for much of a lacklustre first half, though failed to make any kind of impact on the scoreboard. Kickoff was followed by a frustrating ten minutes of broken move after broken move as both sides looked to feel their way into the match, with APIA often losing the ball in the midfield as they tried to build from the back, and Parramatta wasting opportunities in their attacking third after turning over possession.
APIA’s slow, deliberate moves forward soon gave way to a more direct approach, with play focused down the wings as the home side looked to get in behind the opposition defence to work an opportunity. They might have opened the scoring middway through the first half when Angelo Zvezdakovski cut inside his marker on the right edge of the box before flicking a pass off to Jason Perez, but the ball bounced awkwardly for him and he hit his volley high off target.
Despite enjoying far more time on the ball than their opponents, APIA, unlike Parramatta, seemed unable to carve out obvious chances on goal. A lovely team move involving the entire Parramatta midfield and forward line took the ball from the centre circle to John Tsironis on the edge of the penalty box, who tried to lob the goalkeeper with an audacious chip; the ball spinning millimetres wide as it dropped outside the far post.
Matias Da Silva Santos found himself in a similar position just a few minutes later after latching on to a long pass from the midfield and bursting past the APIA defence, but the ball rolled too far in front of him as he shaped to shoot, and his attempted lob sailed over the crossbar.
Creating chance after chance, it only seemed a matter of time before Parramatta broke the deadlock, and as halftime approached they did: a cross from David Chung found Tsironisright in front of goal, and he made no mistake with his head from close range to give Parramatta a 1-0 lead. APIA had a great opportunity to hit back immediately when a corner was flicked on to Zvezdakovski at the back post, but he shot high when it seemed easier to score, and APIA went in at halftime a goal down.
Parramatta looked to push up higher after the break, with Steven Wright initiating attacks from the centre of defence as gaps opened up in an APIA side notorious for coming out slow in the second half. Martin Lo might have added a second for the visitors early in the half when he was presented with a free kick in a dangerous position, but Christopher Moore was able to deal with the shot easily enough, reaching high to catch it with both hands.
The home side’s inability to regain their shape as the half wore on invited Parramatta on, and they had chances to extend their side’s lead middway through the half: Da Silva Santos drew a corner from Moore with a shot that seemed destined to creep in at the far post, and Daniel Di Ruocco attempted an audacious scissor kick that sailed high over the bar.
APIA’s best chance of the half came late on – the Tigers have been known to start slow and end well this season – when Michal Rydzewski chipped a cross in for Julian Rinaldi on the penalty spot, who threw himself at the ball but couldn’t make enough contact to deflect it past Matthew Williamson in the Parramatta goal. They continued to search for an equaliser until the final whistle, but were ultimately frustrated by a solid Parramatta defense, and the visitors came out with a 1-0 win.
Danial Cummins was happy with the way his players performed despite the defeat. "We played some great football – I’m really proud of how we played there. We were missing Lachie (Scott) who got a knock while he was with the Australian under 20s this week, and we didn’t want to risk him here. Having him up top would’ve made a big difference.
"Parramatta had six first graders I think, and we had a few players out, but I’m really happy with how the boys played. We’ve got two games to work hard, they’re both winnable, and I’ve said to everyone that if they’re thinking about where they want to be playing next year, they need to be playing well at the end of this season."
Parramatta’s Andrew Prentice was particularly pleased with his team’s performance after a difficult draw at home to Bonnyrigg last weekend. "We were proactive, not reactive. We screened off in front really well, and we didn’t let them through in the danger areas."
"We had a few boys down from the firsts and their experience helps calm the game down a bit when it’s necessary. John Tsironis did all we could ask of him – he scored the goal, the game’s only goal. All things considered, they came into the team and not only have they done well, but I think the young guys around them did a great job too."
APIA Leichhardt Tigers FC 0
Parramatta FC 1 (Tsironis 37′)
Sunday August 2, 2015
APIA Leichhardt Tigers FC: Adattini, Alassmi, Casali, Cook, McCarron, Moore, Perez, Stephan, Van Den Berg, Vlastelica, Zvezdakovski
Substitutes: Cox, Grasso, Koliomihos, Rinaldi, Rydzewski
Parramatta FC: Chavez, Chung, Da Silva Santos, DiRuocco, Lo, Mallett, Momohara, Tripodi, Tsironis, Williamson, Wright
Substitutes: Awad, Valjak, Konestabo, Chymiak, Benton
Sydney Olympic FC 1-8 Blacktown City FC, at Belmore Sports Ground
Sydney Olympic suffered a stunning defeat at home to Blacktown City FC on Saturday afternoon, conceding seven goals in the second half to lose 8-1, a significant setback in their run-in towards the finals. Where a win might have seen Olympic move alongside Sutherland Sharks in equal-third, the loss keeps them in fourth on 36 points, just one point ahead of Sydney United 58 in fifth – the two play each other in the final round of the regular season. With the win, Blacktown City hold their three point lead over second-placed Marconi Stallions for another week, and extend their unbeaten run to twelve straight games, while at the same time ending Olympic’s six-match winning streak ahead of their trip to Sutherland Sharks next week.
Bonnyrigg White Eagles FC 3-1 Blacktown Spartans FC, at Bonnyrigg Sports Club
Bonnyrigg moved off the bottom of the Grade 20s ladder for the first time since the second round of the season after beating Blacktown Spartans 3-1 at Bonnyrigg Sports Club on Saturday afternoon. Leading 2-0 at the break, Bonnyrigg held the visitors to draw the second half for their fourth win of the season, and their third in four weeks. While Bonnyrigg appear to be ending a wearing season on a high note, Blacktown Spartans remain winless since mid-June, and face perhaps their biggest test of their season next Sunday when they host first-placed Blacktown Spartans at Blacktown Football Park.
Manly United FC 0-1 Sydney United 58 FC, Cromer Park
Cristian Gonzalez scored the only goal of the game as Sydney United 58 edged a 1-0 win over Manly United at Cromer Park on Saturday afternoon, a result that puts United within a point of fourth-placed Sydney Olympic. A win here was particularly important for Sydney United, with high stakes matches against second-placed Marconi and Olympic over the next two weeks determining final positions in the regular season ahead of the semis. Manly’s seventh straight loss means they remain closer, points-wise, to the bottom of the ladder than the top, sitting in sixth place with no mathematical hope of cracking the top five.
Marconi Stallions FC 2-0 Sutherland Sharks FC, at Marconi Stadium
Marconi switched places with Sutherland Sharks, moving from third into second, after defeating their Premiership rivals 2-0 at Marconi Stadium on Saturday afternoon, a significant result with just two rounds of the regular season remaining. Two goals from David Talevski secured the Stallions’ first win since the end of June, putting them behind only three points behind first-placed Blacktown City FC, while Sutherland’s second defeat in three weeks will come as a blow to their efforts to take back top spot, despite holding a game in hand over those teams around them.
Rockdale City Suns 0-3 South Coast Wolves, at Ilinden Sports Centre
Goals from Jack Lombo, Marcus Beattie and Anthony Proia helped South Coast Wolves overcome Rockdale City Suns at Ilinden Sports Centre on Sunday afternoon, the visitors winning 3-0 to send Rockdale to the bottom of the competition ladder for the first time this season. The win, the Wolves’ second in as many games, sees them move up one place to sixth, though they sit nine points behind fifth-placed Sydney United 58 with just two rounds of the regular season remaining before the finals.
– by Max Grieve, PS4 National Premier Leagues Grade 20s Reporter