APIA Leichhardt Tigers against Marconi Stallions has always held a special place in the football annals of NSW and this derby – derby in the sense of the traditional alignment of both clubs to Sydney’s Italian community – was no different.
It delivered in spades but the result was a narrow win to the Tigers thanks to a Corey Biczo bomb close to the end of the first stanza of play.
In 2019 both clubs can celebrate the combined milestone of 125 years of history which is a truly wonderful achievement but there was certainly no love lost in what, at times, was an aggressive encounter.
The early part of the match had some niggle and no less than four yellow cards were dished out in the opening eight minutes of play.
However, it was a cautious start to the game from both sides and the first real chance didn’t arrive until the 25th minute when a nice cross from Paul Galimi was headed back by Brandon Vella to his own goalkeeper to safety.
A minute later and APIA Leichhardt were at it again.
Sean Symons pushed a nice chance wide from close range much to the despair of the substantial home crowd.
Corey Biczo then in the 33rd minute forced his close range header into the path of a Marconi defender as the signs of an opening goal were finally starting to appear.
The game eventually came to life in the 43rd minute when Biczo made a run on the edge of the box and then unleashed a thunderbolt that ended up in the top corner of the net. It was truly what the lacklustre encounter needed and full marks must go to Biczo who simply tried his luck and it paid off.
The early chance of the second half belonged to Marjan Pavlovic who on the turn forced Ivan Necevski into a great save.
Sean Symons replied with a wonderful free-kick for APIA Leichhardt that forced an amazing save from Nenad Vekic.
It was Sean Symons again on the run a few minutes later who charged dangerously into the box but once again Vekic was ready and made the save coming off his line look easy.
In the 65th minute it was Sean Symons who turned provider with a precise cross from the left but Biczo, unmarked with his header, couldn’t find the target.
In the 67th minute Galimi received his second yellow card of the game, this time for a shove from behind on Mitchell Mallia, and it was therefore a red for the APIA Leichhardt defender.
Down to ten men, it was always going to be an uphill task for the Tigers for the remainder of the encounter.
In the 70th minute Marko Jesic fired from outside the box and the ball hit the crossbar and bounced over.
It was close indeed for the Stallions who were now taking advantage of their numeric supremacy.
In the 75th minute a Jesic free-kick beat all and sundry and hit the crossbar as Marconi were now well and truly flexing some muscle.
In the 89th minute Giorgio Speranza handled the ball from a Franco Parisi shot and the referee duly awarded a penalty to the Tigers.
Parisi himself stepped up to the mark but Vekic got down well to his left and turned the ball around the posts for a corner.
It could have doubled APIA’s lead but, given the frenetic final few minutes, the Tigers supporters were still happy with the outcome and the narrow win.
After the game APIA Leichhardt Tigers coach John Calleja was very pleased with his side.
“I was really proud of the boys, especially after losing a man,” he said. “I was fairly comfortable in the first half with what we were doing and Corey was rewarded with a great goal.
“We were stretched with numbers given the suspensions and so we didn’t make any changes and just kept going with what we had, but I was very happy with our effort.”
Peter Tsekenis, Marconi’s mentor, was rather direct in his summary of the game.
“We were lucky to be in the game at halftime,” he said.
“We were average in the first half and credit to them because they defended quite well and didn’t let us settle down.
“The difference was a 30-yard bomb and we were definitely better in the second half. They went to ten men but once we settled down, it was much better and we created some chances and hit the post a couple of times.”
APIA LEICHHARDT TIGERS: 1 (Biczo 43’)
MARCONI STALLIONS: 0
Sunday, 10th March 2019
Lambert Park, Leichhardt
Referee: Ben Abraham
Assistant Referees: Nick Backo, Joon Park
Fourth Official: Samuel Grasso
APIA LEICHHARDT TIGERS: 1. Ivan Necevski, 3. Paul Galimi, 4. Joshua Symons, 7. Tynan Diaz, 8. Corey Biczo, 10. Franco Parisi, 12. Sam McIllHatton, 14. Lachlan Hughes, 15. Themba Muata-Marlow, 16. Sean Symons, 21. Michael Kouta.
Substitutes not used: 17. Samuel Gulisano, 19. Dominion Nasrabadi, 22. Blake Tuxford, 34. Zander Regan, 42. Camil Abouchaaya
Yellow Cards: Galimi 6’, Joshua Symons 8’, 51’ Muata-Marlow
Red Card: Galimi 67’
MARCONI STALLIONS: 1. Nenad Vekic, 3. Giorgio Speranza, 4. Roberto Speranza, 7. Sean O’Connell (12. James Andrew 79’), 8. Connor Evans (16. Liam Youlley 64’), 9. Anthony Frangie, 10. Marko Jesic, 19. Zach Cairncross, 20. Richard Cardozo (11. Mitchell Mallia 60’), 21. Marjan Pavlovic, 23. Brandon Vella.
Substitutes not used: 13. Yianni Nicolaou, 17. Kristian Sekutkoski
Yellow Cards: Pavlovic 8’, O’Connell 8’, Cairncross 50’, Evans 61’, Frangie 84’, G. Speranza 89’
Red Cards: Nil
3 – Sean Symons (ALT)
2 – Lachlan Hughes (ALT)
1 – Marko Jesic (MS)
-By National Premier Leagues NSW reporter Joe Russo