ROUND 20 one of the Grade 20s competition played out over the weekend, with games on Saturday and Sunday afternoons seeing Blacktown City crowned premiership winners after a 2-0 win at rivals Blacktown Spartans moved them six points clear of second-placed Marconi Stallions.
The Stallions featured in this week’s match of the round, travelling to Sydney United Sports Centre on Sunday afternoon where they were beaten 1-0 courtesy of a brilliant individual goal from Lachlan Roberts.
Match of the Round
Sydney United 58 FC 1-0 Marconi Stallions FC, Sunday 3pm at Sydney United Sports Centre
A stunning solo goal from Lachlan Roberts gave Sydney United 58 FC a 1-0 win over Marconi Stallions at Sydney United Sports Centre on Sunday afternoon, securing fifth place ahead of Parramatta FC in the regular season’s penultimate round.
The visitors were on the front foot from the outset; Jack Press’ optimistic snapshot from the edge of the box after barely a minute serving as a signal of Marconi’s intent of taking the game to their opponent.
Yet before Marconi could capitalise on their early dominance, Sydney United hit hard on the counter, with Lachlan Roberts picking up the ball in midfield and carving a path through the heart of the Marconi defence to leave himself one-on-one with goalkeeper Kristian Sekutkoski, before poking a finish coolly into the right side of the net to give his side the lead after just four minutes.
The flow of the match turned soon after the goal, and Marconi were left floundering in defence as Roberts threatened to add a quick second with direct play down the right side. Skipping past his defender on the flank, he crossed for Anthony Vrlic at the top of the box, whose shot was deflected just wide of the far post with Sekutkoski stranded in the Marconi goal. Minutes later, Roberts drove down the right before drifting inside and offloading the ball to Tariq Maia coming around his back, who smacked a shot high towards the near post that Sekutkoski was able to palm wide for a corner.
Keeping possession well and attempting to move the ball purposefully up the field, Sydney United 58 looked good for their lead, but Marconi remained inescapably in the game while the deficit remained at one, and increasingly threatened to level as the first half wore on. Marcus Donatiello dropped low free kick ahead of the runners to find Press alone in the six yard box, but by the time he could turn to shoot he found his path blocked by a crowd of Sydney United defenders at the near post, and could only win his side a corner, which was wasted.
Press had another chance to equalise minutes later – perhaps Marconi’s best opportunity of a demanding first half – when he was found by Mitchell Thompson’s long ball with Liam McGing and goalkeeper Luke Babic ahead of him, but he dragged his shot just wide after holding off the defender well at the top of the penalty area.
Marconi’s enthusiasm appeared to be getting the better of them as the break approached and, frustrated at trailing in an important match, Press and Brandon Vella gave away free kicks in innocuous positions high up the field to bring the half to a staggered close. Press had a third opportunity in quick succession when a Vella shot spun to him on the penalty spot with only the goalkeeper to beat, but Babic spread himself well to make an improbable save, and keep the score at 1-0 at halftime.
Press’ attempts to equalise, numerous though they were, came decidedly against the run of play, with Sydney United 58 thoroughly deserving of another goal in the second half to reward their dominance of territory and possession in the first. Mileski had perhaps the best chance of the half minutes after coming into the match when Roberts moved the ball from the right to Vrlic in the centre, who turned and passed to the substitute in space, but he could only fire his shot embarrassingly high and wide after shaping to aim for the far top corner.
Desperate defending kept Marconi in touch with the home side as they poured forward in attack, with Robert Mileski, Anthony Vrlic, Tariq Maia and Roberts streaming up field when United were in possession in search of a goal to kill the game.
Roberts found himself at the centre of nearly every one of United’s attacking moves, and created yet another opportunity for a teammate when he drove down the right side and squared for Maia at the top of the box, who dragged the ball outside his defender before shooting straight at Sekutkoski.
Marconi closed out the game with two fairly decent chances to save a draw – the first effort a shot from George Panayi, one of two players up from the 18s side, that drew a sharp save from Luke Babic; the second coming when the ball fell for Gabriel Cleur in the box with minutes remaining, only for a United defender to nip in and clear before the striker could get away his shot.
Despite arguably having the better of the second half, Marconi were unable to capitalise on their chances, and the match ended 1-0 to Sydney United, who hold their place in fifth ahead of the final round of the regular season. Marconi stay second on 41 points, six behind the premiership winners Blacktown City FC.
United coach Davor Bajsic said he was "very pleased" with his team’s performance, saying his team deserved to be ahead by more at halftime given their dominance: "It probably should’ve been two or three-nil at halftime, and they gave us a bit of scare at the end, in the last twenty minutes, when they might’ve scored.
"It’s a pleasing one because we have a few players up from the 18s – McGing, Kermack, Vrlic – and they performed well when they needed to. It’s a huge achievement because it’s not easy for them to come up a level like they did today."
Marconi’s Nick Dimovski saw positives looking forward despite his team’s defeat, with finals football already secured for the Stallions. "It wasn’t the result we were looking for, but both teams played good football, and I think we had the better chances in the second half, especially in the last twenty."
"Their goal came from nothing – we should have had him covered – and that’s what separated both teams. We’ll regroup for next week – we’re travelling down to Wollongong to face the South Coast Wolves, and we’ll be focusing on getting the best result possible before looking towards the finals."
Sydney United 58 FC 1 (Roberts 4′)
Marconi Stallions FC 0
Sunday August 9, 2015
Sydney United Sports Cenrte
Sydney United 58 FC: Babic, Borovickic, Camera, Gonzalez, Kermack, Maia, McGing, Roberts, Vlismas, Vrlic, Zuvela
Subs: Dias, Ephraim, Hasiuk, Mileski
Marconi Stallions FC: De Marigny, Donatiello, Drewery, Fabiano, Fitzpatrick, Press, Schmidt, Sekutkoski, Thompson, Vella, Stewart
Subs: Cleur, D’Antimo, Panayi, Sfiligoi, Andricopolous
Bonnyrigg White Eagles FC 1-2 APIA Leichhardt Tigers, at Bonnyrigg Sports Club
Bonnyrigg’s four-match unbeaten run came to an end at home to APIA Leichhardt on Saturday afternoon, with the Tigers snapping their own three-match losing streak after edging a 2-1 win in the penultimate round of the grade 20s competition. While Bonnyrigg coach Steve Sigmund will be disappointed by the defeat after targeting wins in their last three games following a 3-3 draw away at Parramatta FC in round 19, APIA’s Danial Cummins will be delighted with his team’s sixth win of the season; an overdue result for a diligent APIA side sitting ninth on the ladder.
Sutherland Sharks FC 2-3 Sydney Olympic FC, at Seymour Shaw
Facing Sydney Olympic a week after their humiliating 8-1 defeat by Blacktown City, Sutherland Sharks might have expected a fairly straightforward victory at Seymour Shaw on Saturday afternoon to continue their charge back up the ladder towards first place, but were stunned by two quickfire Olympic goals early in the second half to surrender a 1-0 halftime lead, and eventually lose 3-2. Jacob Bandur opened the scoring for the Sharks after just four minutes, but two goals from James Andrew and one from Adrian Vranic in the second half helped Olympic to a comeback win which sees them draw level with the Sharks on 39 points ahead of the final round of the regular season, separated in fourth and third respectively on goal difference.
Blacktown Spartans FC 0-2 Blacktown City FC, at Blacktown Football Park
Blacktown City FC cemented their place at the top of the grade 20s competition and took out the premiership with a week to spare after beating rivals Blacktown Spartans 2-0 at Blacktown Football Park on Sunday afternoon. A goal in each half from Juan Zapata was enough for the visitors, who are unbeaten in 13 games ahead of the final round of the regular season. The win was City’s sixth this season in which they kept a clean sheet, while the Spartans have not managed a victory since late June.
Parramatta FC 3-1 Rockdale City Suns FC, at Melita Stadium
Parramatta FC notched up a 3-1 win at home against Rockdale City Suns on Sunday afternoon to continue an unbeaten run that can began with a 4-1 win against Sydney United 58 in late June. Parramatta’s surge in form came too late to carry their challenge for place in the finals into the last week of the regular season, and will travel to Cromer Park next week with little but pride to play for – Rockdale, meanwhile, stay bottom for a second week after their fourth loss in five matches, having not won a match since round 14.
South Coast Wolves FC 2-4 Manly United FC, at Win Stadium
South Coast Wolves slumped to a 4-2 defeat to Manly United at Win Stadium on Sunday afternoon, ending hopes of extending a two-match winning streak into the final week of the regular season. With the score level at 0-0 at the halftime break, a flurry of second half goals saw Manly come out on top, ending a miserable run of losses stretching back to the second week of June that dumped them out of finals contention after previously sitting as high as fourth on the ladder. Manly switched places with Wolves following their win, and the two sides sit seventh and eight respectively ahead of the last round of matches next week.
– by Max Grieve, PS4 National Premier Leagues Grade 20s Reporter