After the first week of finals matches played out at Lambert Park last Sunday, the PS4 National Premier Leagues NSW Men’s 1 Grade 20s competition moves on to the Major and Minor Semi Finals, with Premiers Blacktown City back in action after a week’s rest.
Sutherland Sharks will face Sydney Olympic at Sydney United Sports Centre on Saturday night for a place in the preliminary final next weekend, while on Sunday afternoon Blacktown City will host preliminary semi final winners Marconi Stallions at Lilys Football Centre in the major semi final.
Sutherland Sharks FC v Sydney Olympic FC, 6.45pm at Sydney United Sports Centre
Sutherland lost in the first week of the finals but survive to face elimination semi final winners Sydney Olympic in the minor semi final of the Grade 20s competition on Saturday night.
Down 2-1 to Marconi Stallions in the 87th minute of their Preliminary Semi Final at Lambert Park last weekend, a late goal from a Patrick O’Shea free kick seemingly had the match destined for extra time, but Marconi scored straight from the restart to sneak past the Sharks 3-2.
Despite a stronger second half showing, the Sharks appeared fatigued throughout that match; a weakness that a fast-breaking Sydney Olympic side could be primed to exploit.
Olympic went ahead early in their elimination semi final against Sydney United 58 last weekend yet looked set for defeat after a comeback saw their opponents head into the final ten minutes up 4-3, but Adrian Vranic stole the match for Olympic with two late goals in the 84th and 88th minutes.
Of the two, Olympic appear to be the form side: they have won nine of their last ten matches, including a 3-2 victory over Sutherland at Seymour Shaw, while the Sharks have lost their last four matches in a row – all to teams still in the finals grouping.
Blacktown City FC v Marconi Stallions, 1.15pm at Lilys Football Centre
After earning a week off for finishing top of the Grade 20s competition ladder, Premiers Blacktown City will be raring to go in their first match in this season’s finals series; a major semi final against Marconi Stallions at Lilys Football Centre.
The Premiers are undefeated in their last 14 matches, a run during which they have scored an average of over 3 goals a game.
The Stallions enjoyed an almost equally successful run of form as they cemented their spot in second ahead of Sutherland Sharks, but have managed to score more than two goals in a game on only four occasions this season – including last week’s 3-2 preliminary semi final win over Sutherland.
The Stallions were ahead by two goals, from Ryan Peterson and Sebastian Malfara, with halftime approaching at Lambert Park last weekend before conceding a late goal before the break, and held on to a 2-1 lead until the Sharks equalised in the 87th minute. With extra time an apparent certainty, Matthew Stewart scored straight from the kickoff to win the game for Marconi.
Blacktown City finished six points ahead of the second-placed Stallions on the table, yet were unable to best them in either of their regular season fixtures this year: Marconi held Blacktown to a 1-1 draw at Lilys in round 19, while in round 8 the Stallions edged a 2-1 win at home, courtesy of goals from Zac Sfiligoi and Nikita Andricopoulos.
– By Max Grieve, PS4 National Premier Leagues Grade 20s Reporter