Sutherland Sharks 2-0 Sydney United 58, Saturday 5.00pm at Lambert Park
Sutherland are one win away from back to back Grand Final appearances after edging out Sydney United 58 2-0 at Lambert Park’s elimination final on Saturday evening.
Leroy Jennings was the hero for Nick Dimovski’s side, opening the scoring early in the second half before laying on a sublime assist for Lachlan Everett’s match-clinching strike in the final minute of normal time.
The win redresses a torrid end to the season for the Sharks, who relinquished their 2017 Premiership title to Blacktown City and entered the contest off the back of a 5-0 hammering at the hands of Sydney FC last Saturday.
Moreover, Sutherland had won just three of their last eleven games prior to kick off and it took a huge show of character from the Sharks to bounce back from their implosion against the Sky Blies.
That defeat may have influenced a cautious opening half from both sides which offered little chances to either team, although Sharks centre half Harrison Quirk did have to head United 58 striker Nathan Manno’s goal-bound effort clear late in the half.
Miro Vlastelica’s Reds were the competition’s form team heading into the finals series and it took more desperation defending from Sutherland to repel an early barrage of pressure from the Reds in the second half.
But the Sharks would take the lead against the run of play through Jennings, who weaved past two defenders in the United 58 box before rifling the ball in at the near post on the hour mark.
It was the first goal United 58 had conceded in over 400 minutes and one that would prove the matches turning point – although the Sharks did live dangerously at times and required a huge second half from Quirk and Harry Sutherland to carry Sutherland over the line.
Having broken the deadlock early in the second half, it was the inspirational Jennings who turned provider in the final minute of normal time and found Everett at the back post, who lashed an unstoppable drive across goal.
Sutherland will now face Blacktown City in next weekend’s qualifying final after the 2018 Premiers were beaten 2-0 by Sydney FC at Lambert Park on Sunday afternoon.
Sharks coach Nick Dimovski said the gutsy performance from Sutherland was a strong show of character, and remarked that the team’s hopes of claiming back to back championships are still alive.
“We’re daring to dream,” he said.
“I think today Sydney United were well organised by Miro (Vlastelica) and are very hard to break down.
“We dug deep today and we showed a lot of character. Full credit to Sydney FC last week – no excuses, we got beaten but we bounced back today.
“I said to the boys that good teams don’t lose two in a row. No one’s going to remember the 5-0 defeat to Sydney if we go on to win the Grand Final.”
Sutherland Sharks 2 (Jennings 56’, Everett 89’)
Sydney United 58 0
Saturday 25th August 2018
Lambert Park, Leichhardt
Sutherland Sharks: 33. Thomas Papa, 17. Leroy Jennings, 53. Kuot Malliet, 10. Josh Da Silva, 6. Lachlan Everett, 12. Blair Brown, 24. Adam Massoud, 26. Harry Sutherland, 27. Harrison Quirk, 21. Nikolas Loe, 31. Gabriel Contigiani
Substitutes not used: 42. Mario Aleksic, 47. Jacob Gjorsevski, 43. Charlie Jones, 23. Deren O’Brien, 3. Richard Stewart
Yellow cards: Everett 31’, Massoud 41’
Red cards: N/A
Sydney United 58: 11. Joshua Derossi, 37. Modassir Hussain, 38. Nathan Manno, 35. Cole Mutton, 31. Anthony Pedavoli, 27. Dimitri Petratos, 28. Kyle Sarigiannis, 24. Anthony Trimboli, 33. Luke Vlastelica, 32. Anthony Vrlic, 1. John Hall
Substitutes not used: 26. Harry Darwand, 7. Mihael Marcic, 9. Ivan Ozanic, 4. Niokla Pintur, 12. Nicholas O’Brien
Yellow cards: Marcic 86’
Red cards: N/A
Blacktown City 0-2 Sydney FC, Sunday at Lambert Park
Blacktown City will now face Sutherland next weekend for a spot in the Grand Final after Sydney FC secured their ticket with a 2-0 win over the Premiers at Lambert Park on Sunday.
Ben Van Meurs picked a great time to open his account for the season after putting Sydney ahead with his first half header, while Daniel Maskin added another midway through the second half to seal the deal for the Sky Blues.
Following on from last Saturday’s sensational 5-0 win over Sutherland Sharks, it was another impressive showing from Giancarlo Italiano’s men, who will enter the Grand Final with back to back clean sheets.
After missing out to Blacktown in the Premiership race, Sydney’s ruthless display in the finals may just see them enter as favourites.
The Sky Blues have certainly learnt from the lessons of the 2017 finals series – which saw the team defeated on penalties by eventual champions Sutherland and turned over by underdogs APIA Leichhardt.
Blacktown will now face Sutherland in next weekend’s qualifying final.
By Jacob Windon