Sydney United 58 remain on top of the PlayStation®4 National Premier Leagues NSW Men’s competition after beating Blacktown City 1-0 in a lively clash of the Goliaths at Sydney United Sports Centre on Sunday.
In the final match of the Heritage Round, the two top guns of the competition locked horns for the second time this season, with bragging rights and top place on the ladder up for grabs.
Sydney United 58 held a one-point lead in first place before kickoff and with only one loss from its first 12 games, had beenin superb form heading into the second half of the league.
They maintained that form against Blacktown City.
The first 15 minutes of the match were uneventful, with no shots on goal and both sides unable to create opportunities.
Blacktown were initially the more enterprising side, with Danny Choi causing problems down the left flank with his deft footwork and skill; while number seven Travis Major gave the home side some grief with his physicality. But as the half progressed, Sydney United 58 found their rhythm and strung together some decent passages of play, with Panni Nikas and Chris Payne showing their flair up front, while midfielder Peter Triantis and left back Masato Mochizuki hassled and harrassed the Blacktown defence.
In the 25th minute, Blacktown sent in a dangerous free kick for Joey Gibbs, with the striker thwarted by United goalkeeper Thomas Manos. This was to be the first of many fine saves by the Sydney United 58 custodian, who saved his side throughout the 90 minutes in a brilliant man of the match performance.
Sydney United 58 then camped themselves inside the Blacktown half, with Payne and Nikas
Creating mayhem. Payne blasted towards goal in the 28th minute and two minutes later, Nikas laid off a pass to Triantis who shot straight at the keeper. Jacob Tratt then sent a long diagonal pass to skipper Robert Mileski, who forced Blacktown keeper Nenad Vekic into a fine save.
Then it was Blacktown’s turn, a swift counterattack catching the home side on the hop just shy of halftime, with Sasa Macura belting a half-volley at Manos, who punched clear. From the resultant corner, Manos again came to the rescue, punching away safely, despite being surrounded by the raiders in black.
The two sides went to the break scoreless at halftime.
Blacktown came out for the second half with all guns blazing. Joey Gibbs forced Manos to pull off yet another athletic save; then Mitchell Malia struck a rasping shot just over the bar.
Sydney United 58 eased their way back into the contest and created their own opportunities but couldn’t quite penetrate the Blacktown defence. But just after the hour mark, Nikas fed No. 7 Yutaro Shin who volleyed past a despairing Nenad Vekic to open the scoring.
In the 66th minute Blacktown’s Choi sent in a perfect cross from the left, only for Travis Major to head straight at the keeper from point blank range. Manos then punched clear a dangerous cross from the right, again thwarting the visitors.
In the 72nd minute, Joey Gibbs hit a penetrating drive from just outside the box only to see his goalbound rocket flicked over the bar by Manos, who had so far proved to be the thorn in the side of Blacktown’s hopes of grabbing an equaliser.
Payne wasted a golden opportunity to extend his side’s lead in the 78th minute from close range, taking too much time to shoot. Chin blasted the rebound over the bar and then did so again in the 85th minute.
Payne again wasted a goal-scoring chance, this time from point blank range, heading a perfect Nikas free kick over the bar just shy of fulltime.
In a tight match between the two best teams in the competition, Sydney United 58 prevailed 1-0 to extend their lead at the top of the table.
“It was a game fitting for one and two on the table,” said Blacktown City coach Mark Crittenden.
“It took a nice little piece of interchange for them to open up the score but we kept coming at them (after that). Young (Sydney United goalkeeper Thomas) Manos made some good saves but while I’m disappointed in the result, I’m not disappointed in our performance.
“The difference between the two sides was one piece of interchange, other than that, the shots on goal were similar and possession was similar, so there wasn’t much in it. Just one nice little piece of footy that won them the game.
“They’re a very good footy side and it could’ve gone either way right up until they scored, it was a very even match and we competed.”
Sydney United 58 goalkeeper Thomas Manos was pleased with his side’s peformance.
“I think first half was pretty tight and once we grinded it out we knew we take the game to them in the second half,” he said.
“I think we played on the deck a bit more in the second half and once we started to get control of the ball and moved it around from side to side, it forced them to come out of position a bit and it worked in our favour.
“Everyone put in a good shift and we did well to keep a clean sheet and get the goal.”
Sydney United 58 1 (Yutaro Shin 62’)
Blacktown City 0
Sunday, 29 May, 2016
Sydney United Sports Centre, Edensor Park
Referee: Kurt Ams
Assistant Referees: Danny Horstead, Ray Osborne
Fourth Official: Toby Plasto
Sydney United 58: 21. Thomas Manos (GK), 17. Theo Kofinas, 10. Robert Mileski (C)(11. Nikola Taneski 80’), 3. Masato Mochizuki, 23. Panni Nikas, 6. Chris Payne, 7. Yutaro Shin, 14. Nick Stavroulakis, 24. Jacob Tratt, 8. Peter Triantis (4. Eddy Bosnar 88’), 20. Tomislav Uskok
Unused Subs: 12. Alex Vlismas, 18. Anthony Vrlic, 30. Luke Babic
Coach: Mark Rudan
Yellow Cards: 14. Nick Stavroulakis 40’, Chris Payne 45+2, Jacob Tratt 90+3
Blacktown City: 1. Nenad Vekic (GK), 4. Roberto Speranza (21. Riku Sasaki 73’), 6. Matthew Lewis (C), 7. Travis Major, 8. Sasa Macura, 9. Joey Gibbs (12. Jonathan Grozdanovski 85’), 10. Connor Evans, 11. Danny Seung-Joo Choi, 14. Mitchell Malia, 16. Patrick Antelmi, 19. Zachary Cairncross,
Unused Subs: 17. Lewis Beumie, 20. Tristan Prendergast
Coach: Mark Crittenden
Yellow Cards: 10. Connor Evans 52’, 4. Roberto Speranza 60’, 14. Mitchell Malia 87’
3 – Thomas Manos (SU)
2 – Panni Nikas (SU)
1 – Danny Choi (BC)
-By PlayStation®4 National Premier Leagues NSW Men’s reporter Derek Royal.