Blacktown City won the NPL NSW Men’s 20s Premiership with a crushing 4-0 defeat of Sydney FC, while the race for the top five heads into the final round of the regular season with just a point separating fourth from sixth after wins for Wollongong, Hakoah and Sydney United 58.
In the Match of the Round at Lambert Park, APIA Leichhardt came from behind to take all three points in a 2-1 win over Bonnyrigg White Eagles.
Match of the Round: APIA Leichhardt Tigers FC 2-1 Bonnyrigg White Eagles FC, Sunday 1.30pm at Lambert Park
Matthew Taverniti and Gino Cerasoli fired APIA Leichhardt to a 2-1 win over Bonnyrigg White Eagles at Lambert Park on Sunday afternoon, though the Tigers’ finals chances are now over after results elsewhere made a challenge in the last week of the season mathematically impossible.
Benjamin Tosi was one of a number of overage players to turn out for the visitors and put his side up inside half an hour, but a swing in the final fifteen minutes of the match saw APIA roar back to snatch all three points with two late goals.
Bonnyrigg started strong, rolling forward in waves as they looked for an opener. Milan Parenta was played through with a chipped pass from the midfield and tried to lob Blake Tuxford with a flick of his boot, but the goalkeeper put him off enough to concede a corner, rather than a goal.
A little over five minutes after Luca Kmet had a goal ruled out for offside, the visitors struck. A high ball to the back post fell to Ben Tosi on the penalty spot, and the Bonnyrigg man volleyed home to give his side a deserved lead inside the half hour.
APIA had a second goal dismissed by the linesman’s flag while Bonnyrigg searched for a second, with Parenta screwing a shot wide before the break and Sunny Chang hitting the post shortly after the restart.
The Tigers continued to look for an equaliser, with Kmet and Zeke Prisuda seeing their shots respectively saved and whistle wide of the mark before Matthew Taverniti struck the woodwork with an effort of his own.
Bonnyrigg pushed back against the run of play to offer a reminder of the danger they posed on the counter; Sunny Chang and Michael Borg breaking clean through on goal with just the keeper to beat only for Tuxford deny the pair with an incredible reflex save.
Taverniti had been central to APIA’s efforts all afternoon and when APIA levelled, the scorer’s name was little surprise to those at Lambert Park. Finishing a strong run with a terrific shot, Taverniti turned the game on its head and immediately went hunting for a second as the Tigers looked to finish the job.
There was, in the end, a sense of inevitability about APIA’s winner, though the manner in which it was scored still won’t sit well with the Bonnyrigg keeper: the visitors failed to clear the ball in a goalmouth scramble and Gino Cerasoli popped up to backheel a weak shot into the net, sealing a 2-1 comeback for the Tigers.
“A win’s a win,” said APIA’s Matthew Michael. “We were a bit sluggish to get going in the first half, we accepted decisions that went against us and the boys really focussed to get themselves back in the game.
“They were patient, and that patience paid off.”
“It was disappointing,” said Bonnyrigg’s Hamish Brown. “I think that after the first 10 or 15 minutes we settled down and controlled them from there, but when you give away goals like that you’re not going to win games. It’s been the story of our season.
APIA Leichhardt Tigers FC 2 (Taverniti 77’, Cerasoli 87’)
Bonnyrigg White Eagles FC 1 (Tosi 27’)
Sunday August 5, 2018
Lambert Park, Leichhardt
APIA Leichhardt Tigers FC: 32. ARMSON Jack, 76. AZZONE Nicholas, 38. CERASOLI Gino, 27. GUZMAN Leandro, 40. KAMARA Mustafa, 30. KMET Luca, 24. LITSAS Bill, 12. MCCARRON Benjamin, 35. REGAN Zander, 39. TAVERNITI Matthew, 22. TUXFORD Blake
Substitutes: 8. ELLEM Riley, 31. KAMARA Kalilou, 25. MELLINO Nathan, 7. PRISUDA Zeke, 5. TSIPONIS Francis
Yellow cards: Armson 68’, Prisuda 73’
Bonnyrigg White Eagles FC: 39. BANGURA Alhaji, 24. BORG Michael, 21. BRADASEVIC David, 32. CHANG Sunny, 26. CRACKNELL Jordan, 28. KIM Peter, 29. KREMENOVIC Nikola, 4. KRLJAR Nikola, 35. PARENTA Milan, 17. O’ROURKE James, 20. TOSI Benjamin
Substitutes: 74. KRLJAR Marko, 81. DENG Chan, 68. DENG Ngor, 80. STEGJAIC Nikola
Yellow cards: Kim 54’
Sutherland Shark FC 0-1 Marconi Stallions FC, 5pm at Seymour Shaw
Sutherland slumped to a 1-0 defeat at the hands of Marconi Stallions on Saturday afternoon, with Blacktown City’s win over Sydney FC later in the day confirming the end of their challenge for the Premiership.
The Sharks had beaten Marconi 2-0 earlier in the season but fell to their seventh loss in ten games at Seymour Shaw, to slip out of pole position weeks ago, though a vastly superior goal difference to the teams below them should ensure they finish above Wollongong Wolves and Hakoah in third.
Marconi still cannot make the five despite their win and return home to host Wollongong Wolves next week, while the Sharks have the opportunity to regather themselves before the finals series when they on Blacktown City in a blockbuster clash at Lily Homes Stadiums on Sunday.
Sydney United 58 FC 2-0 Manly United FC, 5.30pm at Sydney United Sports Centre
Sydney United 58 kept their finals hopes alive while simultaneously ending Manly United’s season with a 2-0 win at Sydney United Sport Centre on Saturday night, goals from Sam Perre and Dimi Petratos leaving their side a point behind fifth-placed Hakoah heading into Round 22.
Next week, Sydney United travel to Belmore Sports Ground for their final match of the regular season, hoping APIA can restrict Hakoah to a point or less while they themselves beat Sydney Olympic.
Manly United, meanwhile, look forward to their Round 22 match with Bonnyrigg White Eagles, with the opportunity to end their season on a relative high after a disappointing fortnight following earlier wins over Sutherland and Sydney.
Sydney FC 0-4 Blacktown City FC, 5.45pm at Lambert Park
Given the opportunity to wrap up the Premiership with a week to play, Blacktown City didn’t need to be asked twice.
They put four past Sydney FC at Lambert Park on Saturday night to go four points clear of Giancarlo Italiano’s men, with goals coming from Jack Stewart, Lachlan Campbell, Lachlan Rose and Jarrod Dodds.
Blacktown would surely head into the finals series as outright favourites were they to repeat the trick in their Round 22 clash with Sutherland Sharks, a match that presents itself as an opportunity for both teams to lay down a marker ahead of their respective challenges for the Championship.
Sydney FC, meanwhile, can only hope to pick themselves up in their final game of the regular season when they take on Rockdale City Suns at Ilinden Sports Centre; a chance to rebuild confidence and, more importantly, secure second place in front of Sutherland irrespective of results elsewhere.
Hakoah Sydney City East FC 3-0 Rockdale City Suns FC, 1pm at Hensley Athletic Field
Hakoah Sydney City East cruised to a 3-0 win over Rockdale City Suns to remain just one point clear in fifth place with one round of the regular season to play, with Joshua Orchard scoring two and Jordan Makridopolos chipping in the other.
The win wraps up a double for Hakoah against Rockdale this season, having previously seen off the Suns with a 3-2 win at Ilinden Sports Centre earlier in the year. Now, the competition’s fifth-placed side must get any kind of result against APIA Leichhardt – bar a draw, of course – to ensure their spot in the finals.
Rockdale City Suns continue to limp to the end of the season after their fourth loss in as many weeks, and face a Round 22 match against a stinging Sydney FC. Mercifully, the season is almost over.
Wollongong Wolves FC 1-0 Sydney Olympic FC, 1pm at Hooka Creek Park
Wollongong Wolves finished Round 21 where they started after a 1-0 win over Sydney Olympic kept them in fourth place behind Blacktown, Sydney FC and Sutherland, with only goal difference and a point separating them from Hakoah and Sydney United 58 below.
Three points against Olympic keeps Wolves in pole position among the three teams fighting it out for the final two spots in the five. They head to Marconi next week to face a Stallions side coming off the back of a surprising win over high-flying Sutherland Sharks.
Sydney Olympic, meanwhile, will host Sydney United 58 with the opportunity to have their voices heard in the race for the top five in one way or another. Wollongong will surely hope their defeated Round 21 opponents can bounce back next week.
-By Max Grieve