Sydney United 58 has secured its ticket to the PlayStation®4 NPL NSW Men’s Grand Final with an incredible 3-2 extra time win against Bonnyrigg White Eagles on Sunday to keep its hopes alive on claiming the treble after taking out this year’s Premiership and Waratah Cup.
A Glen Trifiro strike in the 117th minute was the difference maker with the crafty midfielder wrapping up a monumental PlayStation®4 NPL NSW Men’s Preliminary Final.
There was blood, sweat and tears at Edensor Park with both teams overcoming incredible odds throughout the match, but it was the Mark Rudan coached United 58 who would come away with victory.
The defeat was a hard pill to swallow for Bonnyrigg. The visitors played the final 35 minutes of the match with 10 players, while White Eagles defender Sam Gallaway was forced to finish the match despite suffering a serious ankle injury.
A Panni Nikas goal in the 50th minute opened the scoring for Sydney United 58 before Bonnyrigg’s Asmir Kadric turned the match on its head with two goals in the dying stages.
Despite seemingly beaten, the Reds found a way to keep the game alive and sent the match into extra time courtesy of a Chris Payne goal at the death.
Extra time was a battle of attrition with Bonnyrigg refusing to give in as Sydney United sent wave after wave of attack at the White Eagles makeshift defence.
Teenage goal keeper Stevan Savicic delivered an outstanding performance to keep Bonnyrigg in the match but in the end his heroics were not enough.
It was a tense start to the match with Sydney United 58 on the front foot in search of early goals.
United 58 midfielder Nikas led the charge driving play through the middle of the park.
Bonnyrigg sat back absorbing pressure but they were unable to build any offence of their own.
A free-kick to Nikas in the 20th minute was the best of the home side’s early chances.
His curling effort beat the wall and the keeper but sailed marginally wide of the upright.
In the 24th minute Bonnyrigg had a quality chance of their own from a dead ball situation.
Robbie Younis delivered a dangerous ball into the area but it was quickly cleaned up by United 58 shot stopper Thomas Manos.
As is not unusual in clashes between Bonnyrigg and United 58, the match become a physical battle.
The challenges from both sides would be best described as robust with neither willing to give an inch.
What seemed to be a regulation save for Bonnyrigg shot stopper James Chronopoulos turned into nightmare for the White Eagles veteran in the 29th minute.
Unable to walk and forced to be stretchered off the field, Chronopoulos suffered a serious knee injury after landing awkwardly.
The injury threw teenage back-up keeper Savicic into the deep end as he was forced to take to the field.
Sydney United 58 weren’t immune to the injury bug and soon lost captain Robbie Mileski to a hamstring issue.
Further heartbreak occurred for United 58 when a yellow card to Nick Stavroulakis meant the gutsy midfielder would have to miss the grand final after accumulating two cards during the Finals. It was a bitter blow to Stavroulakis who has been so influential throughout the course of the season especially after the setback he received when he took almost a year off football due to a head injury – but the solider he was he kept battling throughout the match.
Manos in the Reds net saved his side’s blushes on the cusp of halftime with an incredible save to keep the score locked 0-0 at the break.
The second half started the same way as the first. Sydney United 58 were on the offensive.
It didn’t take long for the home side to find a breakthrough with Nikas hammering home from inside the penalty area in the 50th minute.
The goal kicked Bonnyrigg into gear and the visitors found another level.
Aaron Peterson and then Mun Soo-Gil had chances denied by Manos as the visitors pushed hard for an equaliser.
A fast break from Kadric provided Bonnyrigg with the reward they had been searching for as the young striker chipped the keeper in the 77th minute.
Sydney United 58 were struggling in midfield and the visitors took advantage.
In the 86th minute Kadric pounced again.
The striker found space inside the box to hammer home giving Bonnyrigg the lead with only four minutes of regulation remaining.
Bonnyrigg fans could be excused for thinking their side had done enough, but the match was about to take another twist.
With only seconds to play Chris Payne found space inside the penalty area and converted to level the scores a 2-2 and send the match into extra time.
Bonnyrigg began extra time with only 10 players on the pitch after David Vrankovic was taken from the field after a head clash with United 58’s Matthew Bilic in the dying stages of regular time.
With no substations remaining, the visitors were forced to play with a makeshift defensive line marshalled by Younis while left back Gallaway was forced to play on despite a serious ankle injury.
From the outset it was one way traffic with Sydney United 58 taking advantage of the extra space to full effect.
The Reds blasted shot after shot at Savicic but the young gloveman could not be beaten.
Yutaro Shin had an incredible chance to give the home side the lead in the 98th minute when he broke through with only the keeper to beat. Unfortunately for Shin, his indecisive play once he received the ball gave Savicic enough time to smother the shot.
If Savicic was in need of a highlights reel his performance in extra time was exactly what the doctor ordered.
The teenager’s performance was one of the best pure shot stopping displays a football fan could witness and as his confidence grew the better his saves became.
Trifiro hit the cross bar in the 104th minute and then had another effort blocked in the 108th as United 58’s frustration grew.
With penalties becoming more likely, Trifiro struck sending the home fans into raptures and breaking the hearts of Bonnyrigg’s courageous players.
It wasn’t pretty in the end but it was all Rudan’s side needed.
“Sydney United 58 is known for doing things the hard way and we definitely did that today,” Rudan said.
“It was a massive feeling of relief when Glenn scored.
“Bonnyrigg pushed us all the way today and it took a huge performance from my players to win.
“This season has been incredible for us this year and it’s not over yet.”
Bonnyrigg coach Brian Brown praised his troops incredible effort despite the defeat.
“I can’t say enough how proud I am of my players. We went more than 30 minutes with a player down and stayed in the match right until the final siren,” he said.
“To lose this way is difficult but I’m in no doubt that every single one of my players can say they left everything out on the pitch today.
“We deserved to win today and to go home empty handed is a disappointment.”
Sydney United 58: 3 (Nikas 50’ Payne 91’ Trifiro 117’)
Bonnyrigg White Eagles: 2 (Kadric 79’, 86’)
Sunday, September 4 2016
Sydney United Sports Centre, Edensor Park
Referee: Stephen Lucas
Assistant Referees: Scott Edeling & James Tesoriero
Fourth Official: Michael Weiner
Sydney United 58 FC: 21. Thomas MANOS, 10. Robert MILESKI (11. Nikola TANESKI 45’ (19. Matthew BILIC 83′)), 3. Mosato MOCHIZUKI, 23. Panni Nikas, 6. Chris PAYNE, 7. Yutaro SHIN, 14. Nick STAVROULAKIS (8. Peter TRIANTIS 88’), 24. Jacob TRATT, 18. Glen Trifiro, 20. Tomislav USKOK, 2. Kristopher VLISMAS
Substitutes not used: 30. Luke BABIC, 4. Eddy BOSNAR.
Yellow Cards: Nikas 35’, Stavroulakis 45’, Tratt 60’, Vlismas 94’, Payne 117′
Red Cards: Nil
Bonnyrigg White Eagles: 1. James CHRONOPOULOS ( 20. Stevan SAVICIC 41’), 16. Sam GALLAWAY, 17. Mun-Soo GIL, 7. Greg KONDEK (18. Asmir KADRIC 46’), 31. Martin LO, 15. Ray MILLER, 19. Aaron PETERSON (10. Yuta KOKADO 61’), 4. Michael ROBINSON, 3. David VRANKOVIC, 9. Robert YOUNIS, 6. Nikola ZONJIC,
Substitutes not used: 21. Bo Hyun CHUN, 13. James MCKENZIE
Yellow Cards: Chronopoulos 29’, Savicic 113’
Red Cards: Nil
3. Stevan Savicic (BWE)
2. Thomas Manos (SU58)
1. Panni NIkas (SU58)