Harris Gaitatzis fired a brace in two first half minutes to lead Rockdale City Suns to a 2-0 victory over Blacktown City at Lily’s Football Centre on Saturday evening.
Rockdale’s mercurial attacker fired home from the edge of the box midway through the first half and coolly dispatched a penalty kick 64 seconds later as Paul Reid’s side established an unassailable two-goal advantage in the first half.
That damage proved terminal for Blacktown City, who were rocked by the visitors’ quick-fire double and were unable to match Rockdale’s intensity throughout the contest.
Mark Crittenden’s men have been among the benchmark outfits of the NPL NSW in recent years, but there will be plenty for the hosts to rue after concluding their campaign convincingly beaten on home soil.
It was the second straight season City had hosted Rockdale at Seven Hills in the first week of the finals, and it yielded a similarly emphatic away victory for the team from Ilinden.
Although the two sides were locked an intense opening period, Rockdale slowly gained the upper hand before breaking the deadlock in the 27th minute.
Gaitatzis took advantage of some lacklustre defending from a throw in to fire the visitors in front, and when Alec Urosevski was bundled over by Yianni Spyrakis a minute later, the Rockdale attacker doubled the advantage from the spot.
The loss of Charles Mendy and injuries sustained Danny Choi and Mitch Mallia has seen City struggle for attacking rewards throughout the second half of the season.
They’ve scored just 10 goals in their last 12 fixtures, and the Seven Hills outfit ran into the same frustrations again the second half, despite stepping up their efforts considerably from the opening 45 minutes.
Daniel Araujo, Giorgio Speranza and Danny Choi all saw their attempts gathered by Rockdale gloveman Ante Covic.
In the end it was comfortable for Rockdale – who twice struck the crossbar through Aleksandar Canak and Gaitatzis as the Suns secured a date with APIA Leichhardt Tigers next weekend.
Rockdale’s daring approach to rattle Blacktown early paid dividends, according to victorious coach Paul Reid, who said his side are gaining the discipline needed to become a genuine championship contender.
“I think sometimes we’re a team who needs to learn when to press and that’s sometimes why we concede so many goals,” he said.
“When we’ve come up against Blacktown in recent years there’s been goals galore, it’s been end to end and they’re are the sort of team that like that.
“We had to adjust a bit tonight to not make the game like that because they’ve got very good players in attack and if you give them too much space they can punish you.
“We stuck to a game plan tonight and it really did work. The boys put in a great shift and all credit to them because they deserve it.”
Blacktown City 0
Rockdale City Suns 2 (Gaitatzis 27’, 28’)
Saturday 18th August 2018
Lily’s Football Centre, Seven Hills
Blacktown City: 8. Daniel Araujo, 23. Daniel Bragg (10. Connor Evans 60’), 11. Danny Choi, 7. Devante Clut, 9. Joey Gibbs, 6. Matthew Lewis (18. Mason Versi 79’), 5. Grant Lynch, 1. Tristan Prendergast, 3. Giorgio Speranza, 4. Roberto Speranza, 22. Yianni Spyrakis
Substitutes not used: 17. Dakota Askew, 19. Zachary Cairncross, 20. Steven Savicic
Yellow cards: Bragg 60’, Evans 67’
Red cards: N/A
Rockdale City Suns: 8. Aleksandar Canak, 1. Ante Covic, 12. Idriss El Hafiane, 10. Harris Gaitatzis (3. Steven Hesketh 90’), 11. Jonathan Grozdanovski, 21. Michael Neill, 2. Daniel Petkovski, 6. Blake Ricciuto, 19. Patrick Savor, 14. Brayden Sorge (16. Isaac Savor 18’), 7. Alec Urosevski (17. Toufic Alameddine 87’)
Substitutes not used: 15. Nicholas Petrillo, 25. Jake Soutter
Yellow cards: El Hafiane 11’, Savor 54’
Red cards: N/A