A brace from new recruit Chris Payne has powered APIA Leichhardt Tigers return to the winners circle as they edged Sutherland Sharks 2-1 in their National Premier Leagues NSW Men’s clash at Seymour Shaw on Saturday.
The win was a brilliant response from APIA who suffered a humiliating 3-0 loss last week with today’s three points moving the John Calleja coached side back into the top six.
However, it was Sutherland who started the better of the two sides when Jeremy Cox gave the home side the lead with a nifty finish after only 12 minutes.
Payne levelled the scores midway through the opening stanza with a clinical dispatch from the penalty spot to send the game into the interval locked at 1-1.
The veteran striker was at it again after the break to wrap up the win with a thunderous strike into the back of the net as APIA clung on for a hard earned victory on the road.
A frenetic opening produced plenty of effort but neither side had much to show for it with chances proving to come at a premium.
The Sharks made the most of their few early chances when Cox latched onto a Marc Warren centre to side-foot home after 12 minutes.
Sharks captain Warren, playing against his former club, waltzed through the Tigers defence before setting up his striker to net one of the easiest goal he is sure to score this season.
Harry Sutherland could have doubled the lead in the 21st minute when a Caoimhin Fowler cross from the right was powerfully headed just wide of the upright.
It was a let-off for APIA who were stretched at the back and yet to register an attempt at the other end.
Their best chance came when David D’Apuzzo, showing a speedy pair of heels down the Blues’ left flank, was brought down in the box by Tarik Ercan. Up stepped Chris Payne to level the scores from the spot.
Juan Carlos Romero tested Ivan Necevski but the wily glove man was alert to the peril and smothered the ball with ease to deny the goal-bound shot.
The visitors settled into the game after working through their early wobbles and were taking it to Sutherland late in the first half as both sides traded long range efforts
As a thoroughly entertaining half came to an end, the score was locked at one-apiece.
Corey Bizco had a chance to give his side the lead early in the second half but was denied by a brilliant Anthony Bouzanis save despite the APIA man being left unmarked in the penalty area.
APIA didn’t have to wait long to open up the Sharks again when Payne powered a shot past the hapless Bouzanis for his second of the night after 50 minutes.
The goal had been on the cards since the resumption of play and Payne was more than up to the task as he claimed his brace.
Sutherland found themselves under the pump as APIA seized the ascendency, yet were unable to add to their tally in a gripping test of nerve and skill.
The Payne and Biczo show continued with the latter putting just too much on the final ball through for his striker who could have walked it into the net for his hat-trick 65 minutes in.
Substitute Jordan Morfitis warmed the hands of Necevski in the 72nd minute with a viciously swerving volley the ‘keeper palmed away.
Payne again came close to his hat-trick when attempting to chip Bouzanis however, the ‘keeper was able to get a fingertip on the ball to send it over the bar in the final minute of the match.
In an absorbing second-half the Sharks were unable to break down a resolute Tigers’ defence despite a strong showing leaving coach,
Terry Palapanis could not fault his Sharks chargers on what was a Super Saturday showing of football.
“We need to think about utilising the final ball option better,” he said.
“I cannot fault the effort tonight but the vital decisions in the games we’re not getting through inexperience.
“We stay on three points and we have a bit to work on during the week but we are a in work in progress and we’ll move on to next week.”
APIA coach John Calleja was delighted to see his team take out their first three points for 2019.
“We were slow to get going into the match, even after going behind,” he said.
“Sutherland made it tough tonight but we worked on a couple of things and we played ourselves into the match and, in reality, could have perhaps scored a few more.
“However, it’s three points in a tough game against quality opposition so we have to be happy with that.”
Sutherland Sharks 1 (Cox 12’)
APIA Leichhardt Tigers 2 (Payne 26’p, 50’)
Seymour Shaw Park, Miranda
Saturday, 23rd March 2019
Referee: Andrew Higgins
Asst. Refs: Andre Giev & Joon Park
Fourth Official: Sam Kelly
Sutherland Sharks: 1.Antony Bouzanis, 3.Mark Warren, 4.Patrick O’Shea, 7.Juan Carlos Heras Romero (11.Jordan Morfitis 69’), 8.Mateo Poljak (6.Lachlan Everett 53’), 9.Jeremy Cox, 10.Raul Beneit Romero, 12.Blair Brown, 16.Caoimhin Fowler (2.Quentin Cheng 78’), 19.Harry Sutherland, 21.Tarik Ercan
Substitutes not used: 15.Thomas Papa, 25.Brodie Clarkson
Yellow Cards: Sutherland 35’
APIA Leichhardt Tigers: 1.Ivan Necevski, 3.Paul Galimi, 6.Chris Payne, 7.Tynan Diaz, 8.Corey Biczo, 10.Franco Parisi, 13.David D’Apuzzo (12.Sam McIllhatton 83’), 15.Themba Muata-Marlow, 16.Sean Symons, 18.Adrian Ucchino (14.Lachlan Hughes 87’), 21.Michael Kouta
Substitutes not used: 17.Sam Gulisano, 19.Dom Nasrabadi, 22.Blake Tuxford
Yellow Cards: D’Apuzzo 20’, Kouta 28’, Biczo 42’, Ucchino 56’
3 – Payne (ALT)
2 – Biczo (ALT)
1 – Warren (SS)
-By National Premier Leagues NSW Reporter Micky Brock