A sensational Chris Payne hat-trick has buried his former side Sydney United 58 as APIA Leichhardt claimed a 3-1 win in a blockbuster National Premier Leagues NSW Men’s clash at Sydney United Sports Centre on Sunday.
It was a fairytale return to the ground where Payne called home for three seasons with the veteran front man delivering a striking masterclass in front of his former fans.
An absolute screamer on the bounce from an Ivan Necevski goal kick opened Payne’s account on the cusp of half time.
United 58 levelled the score thanks to some clinical finishing from Patrick Antelmi but it was Payne’s day with the former A-League striker finishing off a sublime Franco Parisi assist to give APIA a 2-1 lead in the 68th minute.
Payne wrapped up the result, and his hat-trick, in the dying stages of the match when he converted from the penalty spot to condemn United 58 to their first defeat of the season.
It was a dour stat to the match with play locked in midfield with neither side giving an inch.
Both teams managed to manufacture a few half chances but were unable to test the goalkeeper.
It took nearly ten minutes for either side to really find their groove but it was APIA who had the best of possession.
A dangerous ball in from Corey Biczo on the left wing narrowly missed the run of Parisi at the near post in what very easily could’ve been the opening goal of the game.
Tigers striker Payne was making life difficult for United 58 keeper Thomas Manos by pressing him every time he was in possession.
It created a nervy moment after 14 minutes when he charged down a Manos clearance at the edge of the penalty area but the assistant referee ruled a hand ball.
Michael Kouta had a brilliant chance for APIA 30 minutes in when he unleashed a blistering shot from the edge of the box but it was easily saved.
United 58 had the momentum in the closing stages of the half and pinned APIA back with some dangerous attacks down the wing.
However, United’s efforts lacked the polish required to truly test Necevski in goal.
With the halftime interval only seconds away, Payne delivered a hammer blow to his former side with a sensational finish from outside the box which nestled in the top right corner to give the visitors a 1-0 lead.
United 58 raced out of the blocks at the restart as Josh McDonald forced a diving save from Necevski after unleashing from the edge of the penalty area when he was put into space.
Moments later Glen Trifiro was denied by an incredible block from Themba Muata-Marlow six yards out from goal.
However, the APIA defender’s efforts proved to be in vain with United 58 striker Antelmi poaching an equaliser from close range after poking home when a Nick Stavroulakis shot rebounded to his feet.
The goal supercharged the match with both teams throwing everything into the contest with play going from end to end.
Payne had a golden opportunity to reclaim the lead in the 60th minute when he was found unmarked in the penalty area.
The veteran striker set up to shoot but didn’t account for the desperation defending of Stavroulakis who blocked the attempt on goal before claiming possession and clearing the threat.
As he has done many times throughout his career, APIA legend Parisi changed the game with a moment of individual brilliance.
The silky skilled 35-year-old turned back the clock with a brilliant move on the ball to create space before setting up Payne for his second goal with a perfect pass through the United 58 defence.
United were desperate not to concede defeat and threw themselves forward in chase of an equaliser.
A long ball over the top put Matt Sim in space and if it was not for some quick thinking from Necevski to clear the threat the ball could’ve very easily ended up in the back of the net.
Payne went inches away from a spectacular hat-trick in the 81st minute when he hit a first time volley which was plucked out of the air by Manos at full stretch.
Biczo’s pace was creating plenty of headaches for United 58’s defence and that was very much the case in the 84th minute.
The winger blitzed through backline before being taken down in the penalty area to win his side a penalty.
Naturally, Payne stepped up to claim his hat-trick and the win.
United 58 had one last chance deep into added time but it wasn’t to be as they fell to their first defeat of the season.
A delighted APIA coach John Calleja praised his side’s resilience to bounce back after conceding the equaliser early in the second half.
“We always knew it was going to be a tough clash and I felt we were scrappy in the first half and was saved by an absolute screamer by Chris (Payne),” he said.
“Sydney United started well and deserved their goal but more importantly it fired us into action and from their I felt we really took control of the game.”
Calleja naturally had plenty of good things to say about new striker Payne and his hat-trick performance.
“Chris is an experienced played who knows how to perform in big games and he did that today,” he said
“During a pre-season game against United 58 earlier this year he scored two goals and said after the match he wanted to do it when the result had something riding on it. He definitely delivered on that today.”
Despite defeat United 58 boss Miro Vlastelica was upbeat after the match and said he side paid the price for losing their structure midway through the second stanza.
“We had such a strong start to the half scoring the goal and taking control of the ball, but after Pat Antelmi went down we had to change our shape and we lost our way a bit,” he said.
“Its never nice to lose but its only early days and we will regather and go again next week.”
Sydney United 58 FC: 1 (Antelmi 51’)
APIA Leichhardt Tigers FC: 3 (Payne 45’, 68′, 85’)
Sunday, March 31 2019
Sydney United Sports Centre, Endensor Park
Referee: Adrian Arndt
Assistant Referees: S Edeling, P Reynolds
Fourth Official: H Carawardine
Sydney United 58: 21. Thomas Manos, 3. Jordan Roberts, 4. Adrian Vlastelica, 5. Anthony Tomelic, 6. Petar Markovic (18. Glen Trifirio 45′), 9. Patrick Antelmi (8. Matthew Sim 61’), 11. Yianni Perkatis, 13. Sam Perre (12. Liam Rose 77’), 14. Nick Stavroulakis, 15. Tariq Maia, 19. Joshua McDonald
Substitutes not used: 1. Daniel Sadaka, 23. Luke Vlastelica.
Yellow Cards: Antelmi 52’ Vlastelica 70’, Stavroulakis 78′
Red Cards: n/a
APIA Leichhardt Tigers: 1. Ivan Necevski, 3. Paul Galimi, 6. Christopher Payne, 7. Tynan Diaz, 8. Corey Biczo (17. Samuel Gulisano 85’), 10. Franco Parisi (12. Sam McIllhatton 80’), 13.David D’Apuzzo, 15. Themba Muata-Marlow, 16. Sean Symons, 18. Adrian Ucchino (14. Lachlan Hughes90’), 21. Michael Kouta.
Substitutes not used: 4. Joshua Symons, 22. Blake Tuxford.
Yellow Cards: Ucchino 45’, D’Apuzzo 61’, Bizco 72′
Red Cards: n/a
3- Chris Payne (APIA)
2 – Franco Parisi (APIA)
1 – Nick Stavroulakis (SU58)