It was yet another thrillingly unpredictable weekend in the PlayStation®4 NPL NSW Men’s U20 competition with Sydney United 58 upsetting Manly United away from home, whilst Bonnyrigg White Eagles’ peerless form was scuppered by a resurgent Hakoah Sydney City East.
The Match of the Round was at Lambert Park, where APIA Leichhardt Tigers hosted competition leaders Blacktown City in a hugely anticipated top of the table clash.
Match of the Round
APIA Leichhardt Tigers 0-0 Blacktown City, Sunday 2.15pm at Lambert Park
There was no separating two league heavyweights as APIA Leichhardt held competition leaders Blacktown City to a hugely entertaining 0-0 draw at Lambert Park.
Title ambitions were up for exhibition and it was an absorbing, end-to-end Sunday afternoon encounter despite the lack of goals, with both sides offering a timely demonstration of their class and quality.
APIA keeper Blake Tuxford was the hero for the hosts, denying visiting midfielder Nikita Andricopoulous from the penalty spot midway through the second half with an excellent stop, and making several other crucial saves throughout an end-to-end contest to keep a fast-finishing Blacktown at bay.
Although the point preserves a three-point gap to Manly United in second place, it was an opportunity lost to open up a sizable lead on the competition for Blacktown, who were notably off-colour and outfought by their third-placed competitors in the opening stanza.
Ben Wright’s side will lament Andricopoulous’ missed penalty, the third successive failure from the spot for the league frontrunners this campaign, but were fortunate not to have been punished for a lacklustre first half in which APIA Leichhardt were unable to capitalize on a slew of presentable opportunities.
It was a start of high-tempo from both outfits that set the precedent for a fiercely contested ninety minutes as both sides wrestled for control in the early stages.
APIA gradually began to threaten the competition leaders and should have opened the scoring when centre-half Brendan Hooper headed wide of the target when he was found unmarked at the back post.
The hosts went close again when forward Julian Rinaldi escaped the clutches of the Blacktown rear-guard but dragged his shot wide after a promising dart forward.
Blacktown cantered through the first half with little attacking menace but the pendulum swung for the visitors after the restart when they were awarded a penalty after midfielder Mason Ireland was bundled over in the area by Hooper.
Andricopoulous seized the opportunity to convert the spot kick but was denied by an excellent save from Tuxford, who got two hands to the midfielder’s effort with a heroic lunge to the left.
The APIA custodian was called into action soon after and was again equal to Jake Borromeo’s snapshot, this time denying the visitors with his legs after the Blacktown winger had squeezed into the penalty area.
APIA could have taken the lead against the run of play after a wonderful individual effort from Rinaldi, who produced a mesmerizing surge forward from the left followed by a curling effort that sailed inches wide of the top corner.
There was no intention of either side settling for the point, and Tuxford came to the fore once again to deny Blacktown’s George Firth from long range, whilst Matthew Stewart blazed over the bar at the death for APIA as the riveting encounter came to an end.
Blacktown City coach Ben Wright rued his side’s penalty miss but gave credit to a battling APIA side after an intensely fought affair.
“They’re a quality side and they should be in the top three come the end of the year”, said Wright.
“It was one of our toughest matches so far this season and we had to really dig in and fight for the point.
“We probably need to tighten up in a few key areas, but I’m pleased with the result”.
APIA Leichhardt Tigers 0
Blacktown City 0
Sunday 15th May, 2016
APIA Leichhardt Tigers: 5 B. Hooper, 12 D. Cox (C), 25 R. Alassmi, 26 B. Mccarron, 27 J. Rinaldi, 28 M. Cook, 29 C. Phillips, 30 M. Stewart, 33 P. Bentley, 34 M. Rydzewski, 36 S. Adattini, 37 J. Van Den Berg, 38 S. Gulisano, 39 D. Nasrabadi, 40 M. Williamson, 50 B. Tuxford (GK)
Yellow Cards: 37 J. Van Den Berg 69’
Red Cards: N/A
Blacktown City: 1 N. Vekic (GK), 23 J. Borromeo, 25 Z. Speth, 26 M. Ireland, 27 N. Andricopoulos, 28 G. Panayi, 29 L. Fraser, 30 A. Koudakpo, 31 L. Beumie, 32 J. Dodds, 33 J. Grozdanovski, 34 D. Askew, 35 I. Elkhaldi, 36 I. Dandan, 37 G. Firth, 40 L. Gallo
Yellow Cards: N/A
Red Cards: N/A
Parramatta 3-0 APIA Leichhardt Tigers, Wednesday 8.15pm at Melita Stadium
Before Round 10 got underway Parramatta enjoyed a big upset win as they blitzed an in-form APIA Leichhardt Tigers team 3-0 at Melita Stadium on Wednesday night.
The rescheduled Round 2 fixture was dominated by Mark Zecchin’s ever-improving outfit who cruised to victory thanks to three first half goals, with striker Nicholas Chymiak opening the scoring with his seventh of the season, before Alex Boyadjaian and Chris Barboni completed the rout.
Blacktown Spartans 0-2 Sutherland Sharks, 5.00pm at Blacktown Football Park
Blacktown Spartans slumped to their fourth defeat in their last five outings with a 2-0 loss to Sutherland Sharks at Blacktown Football Park.
After spending the opening month and a half of the competition in the top four the Blacktown side have endured a poor run of form attaining a single point from an available fifteen since a 3-0 win over Rockdale at the beginning of April.
They were put to the sword by Allan Edmondson’s championship dark horses, with Judd Duncan and Michael Kouta each notching their first goals of the season for Sutherland’s third win in a row.
The results leaves Sutherland in fourth position, behind third-placed APIA Leichhardt Tigers on goals scored, whilst Blacktown Spartans slide into ninth place.
Manly United 1-2 Sydney United 58, 5.00pm at Cromer Park
Manly United suffered back to back losses for the first time this season after they were stunned 2-1 by Sydney United 58 at Cromer Park.
Andrew Christiansen’s side were rocked by goals from Richie Darko and Anthony Vrlic and despite a late consolation from Dylan Whitlock the hosts were unable to rescue a point from a barrage of late pressure.
It’s a priceless three points for Davor Bajsic’s visitors, with the result lifting Sydney United off the bottom of the table and setting up a crucial must-win encounter with Hakoah Sydney City East next Sunday.
Manly remain well poised in second position for their championship assault but have work to do after losing valuable ground on leaders Blacktown City, with a three point gap opening at the summit.
Hakoah Sydney City East 2-0 Bonnyrigg White Eagles, 5.00pm at Hensley Athletic Field
Jordan Swibel’s brace gave Hakoah Sydney City East a much-needed 2-0 triumph over an in-form Bonnyrigg White Eagles at Hensley Athletic Field.
Starting for just the second time this campaign, Swibel netted either side of half-time to clip the wings of the high-flying White Eagles, who had won five out of their last six matches prior to kick-off.
A huge win for Hakoah moves the finals hopefuls back within reach of the top six, whilst Bonnyrigg remain in fifth position with a host of teams breathing down their necks.
Rockdale City Suns 1-1 Sydney Olympic, 3.00pm at Ilinden Sports Centre
Honours were even at Ilinden Sports Centre as Rockdale held Sydney Olympic to a 1-1 draw.
James Petkovski netted for the home side but they were unable to finish the job with Aedon Kyra coming up with a crucial equalizer for an understrength Olympic.
The stalemate does little to lift the bottom placed Rockdale side off the foot of the table, but it could prove to be a valuable point for John Theodoropoulos’ Olympc side, who lie outside the top six on goal difference.
Wollongong Wolves 4-0 Parramatta, 3.00pm at WIN Stadium
Wollongong striker Ricky Zucco hit a hattrick as Wollongong dismantled Parramatta 4-0 at Win Stadium.
Zucco’s treble was followed up by Blake McGinn as Alfredo Esteves’ side atoned for a string of poor results in recent weeks with a resounding win.
It was the South Coast side’s first victory since early April, one that somewhat remarkably places Wollongong into sixth position on goal difference.
Having missed the opportunity to leapfrog Wollongong on the table, Mark Zecchin’s Parramatta remain in tenth position but still very much in the hunt for finals football.
-By Jacob Windon