Nothing changed at the top of the table at the end of Round 20 of the NPL NSW Men’s 20’s competition as all three Premiership contenders won to remain within three points of each other, with Blacktown City leading the pack ahead of Sydney FC and Sutherland Sharks.
The race for the two other finals places remains wide open with any of up to five sides still in the hunt as the competition enters the final fortnight of the regular season. The Match of the Round saw Sydney United 58 overcome APIA Leichhardt Tigers 1-0 in a fantastic encounter at Lambert Park on Sunday afternoon.
Match of the Round: APIA Leichhardt Tigers FC 0-1 Sydney United 58 FC, Sunday 2pm at Lambert Park
APIA Leichhardt Tigers’ challenge for a place in the finals was dealt a near- fatal blow by Peter Markovic on Sunday afternoon, the supersub scoring the only goal of the game as Sydney United 58 overcame the Tigers in a 1-0 win at Lambert Park.
Markovic came on shortly after APIA had gone down to ten men before missing a penalty, and scored the game’s only goal to put Sydney United a point behind Wollongong and Hakoah heading into the penultimate round of the season next weekend.
Nathan Manno broke through on the right flank before cutting inside and having a shot blocked by a Leichhardt defender, shortly before his teammate Anthony had a header tipped over the bar from a corner by the APIA keeper.
The visitors continued to roll forward and knock on the door but APIA very nearly went behind by their own doing, letting a long ball from keeper bounce ahead of the defence for Stephan Adattini to desperately head back towards his own goal – and almost into the net.
Manno had another fantastic chance to open the scoring after being played through on the halfway line but was foiled by the goalkeeper after taking an age to shape his shot. The ball flicked up and the striker rose to contest the header but only copped a fist from the goalkeeper for his troubles, when he really should’ve scored the earlier chance.
APIA had several decent opportunities to snatch a goal before the break, but couldn’t put the finishing touch on dangerous attacking moves. Matthew Taverniti shot wide before having the ball claimed at his feet by the onrushing keeper a few minutes later, while Luca Kmet drilled a shot towards the top right which was tipped over well for a corner.
Any plans APIA had discussed for the second half were thrown out the window by Stephan Adattini’s red card just two minutes after the restart; his dismissal also having an impact on first grade preparations.
Still – surprisingly, given Sydney United’s earlier dominance – APIA pushed ahead and won penalty soon after, with Taverniti stepping up to take. Unfortunately he put it too high to the keeper’s right and John Hall was able to make a terrific save to keep the scores level heading into the final half hour.
Peter Markovic was brought onto the field and moments later had his name on the scoresheet, opening the scoring just after the hour with a fantastic shot that flew across the keeper and into the top corner.
Few opportunities followed the goal, with Taverniti having the best chance to level the scores when the ball came to him after some clever work from Nicholas Azzone, but the striker could only stab his shot into the onrushing goalkeeper to leave the Tigers six points adrift of a place in the finals – surely too much to make up now.
“Both teams went at it and it was a pretty open game,” said APIA’s Matthew Michael.
“If we took our chance that would’ve helped but at the same time it doesn’t help when you go a man down at a critical point in the game. The boys did well to stick with it – it was hot out there – and they put in a good effort.”
“We had plenty of chances to go in front their in the first half, but that’s football, right?” said Miro Vlastelica. “We butchered a fair few but got the one we needed in the end.
“We’re still in it – every week we take it a game at a time, so we give it everything we have because we can only control what we’re doing. Whatever happens in front of us is out of our hands.”
APIA Leichhardt Tigers FC 0
Sydney United 58 FC 1 (Markovic
Sunday July 30, 2018 – Lambert Park, Leichhardt
APIA Leichhardt Tigers FC: 5. ADATTINI Stephan, 32. ARMSON Jack, 42. AZZONE Nicholas, 28. CERASOLI Gino, 17. GULISANO Samuel, 27. GUZMAN Leandro, 31. KAMARA Kalilou, 30. KMET Luca, 35. REGAN Zander, 39. TAVERNITI Matthew, 22. TUXFORD Blake
Substitutes: 33. FINCH Corey, 40. KAMARA Mustafa, 24. LITSAS Bill, 25. MELLINO Nathan, 8. ELLUM Riley
Sydney United 58 FC: 36. HUSSAIN Modassir, 38. MANNO Nathan, 35. MUTTON Cole, 28. SARIGIANNIS Kyle, 24. TRIMBOLI Anthony, 33. VLASTELICA Luke, 32. VRLIC Anthony, 1. HALL John, 17. PERRE Sam, 16. RAHIMI Mohammad, 29. BENNISON Todda
Substitutes: 9. OZANIC Ivan, 31. PEDAVOLI Anthony, 27. PETRATOS Dimitrios, 5. MARKOVIC Peter, 26. DAWAND Harry
Bonnyrigg White Eagles FC 1-2 Hakoah Sydney City East, 5pm at Bonnyrigg Sports Club
Andre De Jong and Amaury Gauthier helped Hakoah Sydney City East to a 2-1 win away at Bonnyrigg White Eagles on Saturday; Hakoah’s first win in four games putting them fifth heading into the final fortnight of the regular season.
Milan Parenta scored the only goal for the hosts at Bonnyrigg Sports Club; the loss leaving Bonnyrigg too far adrift of the top five to make up the difference in the remaining two games.
Hakoah will look to consolidate their finals place when they take on Rockdale next weekend, while Bonnyrigg travel to APIA Leichhardt Tigers on Sunday as they try to finish their season on a high.
Manly United FC 1-2 Wollongong Wolves, 5pm at Cromer Park
Manly United head into the last two rounds of the regular season with a shot of reaching the finals despite going down 2-1 to Wollongong Wolves at Cromer Park on Saturday afternoon, sitting three points behind fifth-placed Hakoah with a crucial match against Sydney United 58 to come next week.
Mitchell Rooke scored the only goal of the game for the home team, while Brodie Clarkson and James Cakovski were on target for the visitors to clinch the Wolves’ first win since mid-June.
Wollongong move a place up to fourth ahead of their Round 21 clash with Sydney Olympic, and with Marconi Stallions to come in the final round they should fancy their chances of playing finals football come the end of the season.
Sydney Olympic FC 0-1 Sutherland Sharks FC, 12.40pm at Belmore Sports Ground
Stephen Kayes scored the only goal of the game to seal a much-needed win for Sutherland Sharks away to Sydney Olympic on Sunday afternoon; the Sharks’ first win in three weeks keeping them in the hunt for the Premiership with two rounds remaining.
Sutherland face competition leaders Blacktown City in a blockbuster match in Round 22, but must first take on Marconi Stallions back at Seymour Shaw next weekend.
Sydney Olympic remain just off the bottom of the table after yet another loss but could still have an impact on the race for the finals, with matches against Wollongong Wolves and Sydney United 58 to come.
Blacktown City FC 2-0 Rockdale City Suns FC, 1pm at Lily Homes Stadium
John Azar scored either side of halftime against Rockdale City Suns to keep Blacktown City’s Premiership challenge on track; the 2-0 win keeping Blacktown a point ahead of Sydney FC heading into the final fortnight.
The leaders face Sydney FC at Lambert Park next Saturday in what promises to be one of the games of the season, before taking on Sutherland Sharks in the final round – if Blacktown are to finish top of the pile in two weeks’ time, they’ll certainly have done it the hard way.
Rockdale are rooted to the bottom of the table after their seventh loss in eight matches, but could yet finish above 11th-placed Sydney Olympic – the two are separated by goal difference and face each other in the last round of the regular season.
Marconi Stallions FC 2-4 Sydney FC, 1pm at Marconi Stadium
Sydney FC surged to a huge win over Marconi Stallions at Marconi Stadium on Sunday afternoon, with Benjamin Koop and Marco Tilio adding to a Hamish Lamberton double to keep Sydney a point behind Blacktown City as the competition enters the last two weeks before finals.
With a match against Blacktown to come next week Sydney have every chance of finishing first ahead of both the current leaders and Sutherland Sharks, who they trailed by eight points back in Round 11.
Despite a terrific run of form in recent week Marconi Stallions were always relying on a perfect finish to make a late charge into the finals, and it now looks all but beyond them with matches against the Sharks and Wollongong Wolves to come in the next two weeks.
By Max Grieve