SYDNEY United 58 FC struck once in each half to sneak a 2-0 win over Marconi Stallions at Sydney United Sports Centre on Sunday afternoon.
Matthew Bilic and Stjepan Paric scored to end their side’s four-match league losing streak ahead of next weekend’s crucial match away at Sydney Olympic.
It was actually Marconi’s Ryan Peterson who had the best chance of the first half when the ball popped up awkwardly ahead of him at the top of the box, but he could only nudge a weak header to Justin Pasfield in the United goal.
Anyone watching who might have doubted Jack Press’ fitness after being heavily involved in the under-20 game earlier in the afternoon would have been pleasantly surprised by the way the striker put himself about early in this match, harassing United defenders into giving up possession with long, aimless passes upfield.
He found himself isolated up front when his side was in possession, however, and struggled to win the first few aerial challenges against his opposing defenders.
With the match beginning to open up after a fast-paced, nervy start from both sides, Sydney United took the initiative with an early goal.
Bilic opened the scoring with a simple finish at the near post after good work from Paric down the left side to control a pass from the midfield and square across to his teammate in the centre.
Up 1-0 after just eight minutes, the home side might have scored again immediately after the restart when the ball broke loose on the edge of the area, but the goalkeeper charged forward to gather, with suggestions that he might have taken the ball over the line and out of the penalty box waved away by a disinterested referee.
Marconi looked to hit back quickly, and Ryan Peterson charged down the right flank before cutting a cross inside for Press, who challenged his defender well to win a corner, which was hit into the first man at the near post and cleared.
Press was central to the action again minutes later when he earned a freekick on the left edge of the box after being brought down by Nathan Bertolisso, who was shown a yellow card for his cynicism.
Taken by Jacob Ott, the resulting set piece fell for Christopher Nunes at the back post, who sliced his volley outside of the far post.
Both sides had terrific chances to add to Bilic’s single goal with opportunities from the dead ball as halftime closed in.
First, Marconi’s Jacob Boutoubia forced Pasfield into a fine save with a low shot that threatened to creep inside the bottom left corner, before Marconi keeper Sam Nastic found himself making an equally spectacular stop from a Panagiotis Nikas effort at the other end; diving across goal push the ball wide for a corner.
The home side might’ve added a second goal just before halftime when Bilic played a cool one-two with Nikas on the edge of the box to leave the striker in space on the right, but he sent a shaped shot high and wide of the far top corner, leaving Sydney United 58 ahead by just one goal at the break, despite their dominance.
Marconi was made to work after the restart, with the home team eager to put some distance between themselves and their opponents on the scoreboard early in the second half.
Emmauel Giannaros went close with a header from a corner, his effort skipping just past the post, before Mark Cindric was presented with an opportunity to tap into an empty net from a tight angle after rounding the goalkeeper, but he sliced his shot high over the bar.
The visitors looked to respond in kind, and JOtt and Brenton Rhodes tried to test Pasfield with shots from range that the goalkeeper took with relative ease.
United continued to pour forward, and Nikas nearly doubled their advantage when the ball bounced fortuitously for him past goalkeeper Jacopo D’Antimo, but the midfielder couldn’t wrap his foot around his shot enough to do anything other than slam the ball into the side netting.
Another United counter rolled forward a minute later, and the end result was markedly different: a deep pass from Nikas in the right channel found Koen Bosma on the left, who cut back inside and crossed for Paric arriving in the middle; the player making no mistake with a gentle volleyed finish past a helpless D’Antimo to stretch his side’s lead to two clear goals with twenty minutes remaining.
The home team looked to slow play down and draw its opponents into needless free kicks all over the field to close the game out and, a few optimistic efforts from Marconi aside, the plan largely worked.
Mark Cindric shot straight at D’Antimo from the edge of the box in the closing minutes, and had another chance with a header as the referee looked for his whistle, but couldn’t put a finishing touch on a third United goal, and the match ended 2-0.
Sydney United keeper Pasfield was pleased to have kept Marconi scoreless, and more so with the result.
"I haven’t had a clean sheet for a while so it’s nice to get that, but more important are the three points and the win,” Pasfield said.
"I had to work for a couple of saves there – I’m not sure how I got to that free kick in the first half, coming around the wall, but I’m happy I did! It was a good performance by all the boys, and I think we definitely needed that ahead next week’s game."
A deflated Jeff Suzor reflected on a tight match decided, in his eyes, by a gulf in class brought on by crisis in depth:
"Look, I’m disappointed with that performance. To Mark Rudan’s credit, he played a lot of young boys, as did we, but for what we had to play for today, we weren’t good enough – we were reactive, always second to the ball, and they scored two quality goals,” Suzor said.
"One of the big differences between us and them is [Panagiotis] Nikas – he’s such a quality footballer. We’ve got just about nothing – of the twenty man squad we signed we’ve probably got about ten left, and we’re getting fourteen people at training across two squads.
“It’s why guys like Jack Press need to back up after playing with the 20s, and you’ve got to give credit to him for his effort."
Sydney United 58 FC 2 (Bilic 8′, Paric 69′)
Marconi Stallions FC 0
Sunday August 9, 2015
Sydney United Sports Centre
Sydney United 58 FC: Pasfield, Bertolisso, Bilic, Cindric (Taneski 85′), Giannaros, Haydar, Nikas, Paric (Agamemnonos 90′), C. Triantis (Bosma 64′), P. Triantis, Vlismas
Subs not used: Babic, Vrlic
Yellow cards: Bertolisso 19′
Marconi Stallions FC: Nastic (D’Antimo 64′), Boutoubia, Brown, Lum (Donatiello 64′), Nines, Ott, Peterson, Press (Simonovic 64′), Rhodes, Misic, Talovski
Subs not used: Schmidt, Panayi
Yellow cards: Lum 45′, Peterson 90′