TWO GOALS in the last five minutes from striker Jordan Figon rescued a point for Rockdale in a pulsating 3-3 PlayStation®4 National Premier Leagues NSW Men’s competition draw with Manly United on Sunday afternoon at Cromer Park.
The home side were shell shocked at the final whistle, shattered they had just thrown two points away.
It was a match filled with twists and turns with Harris Gaitatzis giving Rockdale and early lead before Manly raced away when Scott Balderson and Dejan Pandurevic hit the back of the net.
An own goal for Rockdale just added to the visitors frustrations as they headed for what seemed like a demoralising defeat before Figon chipped in with his late game heroics.
It took only 7 minutes for United’s Brendan Cholakian to fashion the first chance of the game.
Combining with Nikola Taneski, the crowd favourite rushed his shot on the run, and Rockdale keeper Ante Covic dealt with the tame effort comfortably.
12 minutes later Manly skipper Jamie Lobb tried his luck from 25 yards, but his free kick didn’t trouble Covic.
Against the run of play with 25 minutes on the clock the away side took the lead.
Figon crossed into a good area from the left, and Harris Gaitatzis forced the ball home past Dylan Mitchell at the near post.
It was harsh on the hosts, who started the better of the two squads.
On 29 minutes Cholakian fed Dejan Pandurevic.
The one time Central Coast Mariners attacking midfielder unleashed a good effort, but it whistled just wide of the far post.
Moments later on 35′ minutes it was 1-1.
Pandurevic showed good control with the ball at his feet before finding the in form Scott Balderson, who took a touch before firing across Covic and into the back of the net.
A Daniel Saric corner after 39′ minutes resulted in United taking a 2-1 lead.
Rockdale were poor defensively, with the set piece eventually resulting in an own goal after the ball struck a retreating defender.
Manly coach Warren Grieve introduced Dylan Macallister into the fray at halftime, but it proved to be a nightmare cameo.
The striker limped off injured with half an hour to play against his old club, with his hamstring again causing concern.
Sipan Berti replaced Macallister and he almost had an assist to his name with his first touch.
Berti played the ball into the path of Cholakian, who then teed up Balderson, but his effort was straight at Covic.
On 66′ minutes it was Balderson’s turn to be the provider.
He found Pandurevic unmarked, and the youngster didn’t need a second invitation, slotting past Covic to give Manly what looked to be a match winning 3-1 lead.
With 78′ minutes gone Pandurevic should have sealed the game.
An inch perfect pass from Berti saw his teammate with only Covic to beat, but Pandurevic laced the ball wide of the target.
The Suns then made it 3-2 on 86′ minutes.
A sloppy back pass from Lobb fell at the feet of Figon, who couldn’t miss from 10 yards.
Incredibly, Figon made it 3-3 at the death.
A corner wasn’t cleared and the clinical striker headed home to leave the fans in the Lucas Neill Grandstand stunned, it was his seventh goal of the season.
For the home side, Sasa Macura and Joseph Fox were dynamic in midfield, with Figon equally impressive for the Suns.
Speaking moments after the final whistle, Lobb conceded it was two points dropped.
"It was a classic case of not playing for the entire 90 minutes,” the United skipper said.
"We didn’t close the game out and paid the price.
"We have a Cup game on Tuesday (Anzac Day) against Hakoah, we will focus on that."
His opposite Paul Reid was understandably happy to leave the northern beaches with a point.
"We knew it would be a tough game, so to score late on to get a draw shows the character we have in the squad,” he said.
"I still thought at 3-1 down we were still in the game.
"I’m really proud of the boys, we are still unbeaten as well."
Manly United 3 (Scott Balderson 35′, own goal 39′, Dejan Pandurevic 66′)
Rockdale City Suns 3 (Harris Gaitatzis 25′, Jordan Figon 86′, 90′)
Sunday, April 23, Cromer Park
Referee: Craig Fisher
Assistant referees: Lance Greenshields, Andreas Lyndon
Fourth official: Chris Hughes
Manly United: Manly United: 1.Dylan MITCHELL, 13.Scott BALDERSON, (6.Dom Ferguson 68′) 10.Brendan CHOLAKIAN, 12.Leigh EGGER, 21.Joseph FOX, 3.Jamie LOBB, 8.Sasa MACURA, 4.Travis OUGHTRED, 14.Dejan PANDUREVIC, 19.Daniel SARIC, 11.Nikola TANESKI (9.Dylan MACALLISTER 45′ ) (Sipan BERTI 60′)
Substitutes not used: 20.Shaun CATLIN, 15.Hamish GALBRAITH
Yellow cards: Nil
Red cards: Nil
Rockdale City Suns: 22.Ante COVIC, 17.Toufic ALAMEDDINE, 8.Alex CANAK, 23.Jordan FIGON, 10.Harris GAITATZIS, (6.Blake RICIUTTO 52′) 3.Steven HESKETH, 4.Trent McCLENAHAN,(19.Patrick SAVOR 73′) 2.Daniel PETKOVSKI, 5.Paul REID, 14.Brayden SORGE, 7.Alec UROSEVSKI (12.Jordan GROZDANOVSKI 85′)
Substitutes not used: 1.David BRADASEVIC, 16.Isaac SAVOR
Yellow cards: McClenahan 21′, Petkovski 77′
Red cards: Nil
3 – Sasa Macura (MU)
2 – Jordan Figon (RS)
1 – Joseph Fox (MU)
-By PlayStation®4 National Premier Leagues NSW Men’s reporter Andrew Prentice.