A dogged Hakoah Sydney City East has denied APIA Leichhardt Tigers from taking top spot after holding their opponents to a 0-0 draw at Hensley Athletic Field on Sunday.
Hakoah fought hard for 90 minutes to silence APIA’s high profile attack doing enough to claim a point and deny their opponents the chance to finish the round on top of the ladder.
Both sides had their chances to break the deadlock but the combination of determined defence and sloppy finishing proved costly for Hakoah and APIA.
It was an evenly matched start to the contest with Hakoah heaping the pressure on their more favoured opponents.
Early opportunities were few and far between with both sides guilty of being sloppy in possession.
APIA winger Corey Biczo spurned the visitors first real chance in the 10th minute when he fired wide with only the keeper to beat after breaking the the defensive line.
Hakoah rebounded after that near miss and went on the offensive.
Hristijan Tanoski was denied by an incredible reaction save from Ivan Necevski after 16 minutes before the rebound was blasted narrowly over the crossbar by Brad Walker.
APIA front man Chris Payne scuffed a chance midway through the half when he headed into the ground after a brilliant cross from Michael Kouta.
The visitors began to take the upper hand as the interval edged closer and it took some quick thinking from Ryan Norval to deny an APIA.
The Hakoah gloveman raced off his line and narrowly beat Tigers winger Sean Symons to the ball to stop a sure goal.
Payne slammed a free-kick from the edge of the box into the wall in the final moments of the opening stanza with the game going into the break deadlocked at 0-0.
Hakoah raced out of the blocks after the restart and forced APIA onto the back foot with desperation defence the only thing keeping the game locked scoreless.
The Tigers had a chance of their own when the upright denied Biczo from heading home after an amazing overhead pass from Payne found the winger in space in the box.
An amazing last ditch tackle from Paul Galimi saved the day for APIA in the 75th minute when he chased down Shohei Okuna and won the ball with a brilliantly timed sliding challenge.
A last ditch clearance from Robert Ezekiel on the goal line kept a Payne strike from the edge of the box out of the goal as the game raced from end to end.
A desperate APIA threw everything forward as the clocked edged closer and closer to full time and they looked like they had done enough in the 92nd minute.
A pinpoint ball from Galimi found the head of Payne who headed on target but Norval got a hand to the ball before smothering it to deny a follow up effort.
Hakoah boss Gavin Rae admitted he had mixed feelings towards the result.
“On one hand I’m happy we held them and claimed our first points at home but on the other we could’ve easily taken more from that match,” he said.
“Defensively I am really happy with how we played but at the other end of the pitch we needed to do better to make the most of our chances.
“A point is probably a fair result but the boys know we could’ve very easily taken the win.”
It was a similar feeling from APIA’s coach John Calleja who admitted his side’s usual clinical finishing was missing.
“We just weren’t as good today we have been. It’s as simple as that,” Calleja said.
“Hakoah deserve credit for that as they pressured us all game and got in our faces from the first minute.
“I’m not too worried that we missed out on going top of the table. It is only April – there is a lot of football to be played yet.”
Hakoah Sydney City East 0
APIA Leichhardt Tigers 0
Sunday, April 14
Hensley Athletic Field, Eastgardens
Referee: K Patterson
Assistant Referees: J Park & K Davies
Fourth Official: N Gongoliotis
Hakoah Sydney City East: 1. Ryan Norval, 2. Connor Shaddock, 4. Bradley Walker, 5. Steven Katsionis (14. Jordan Koton 45’), 6. Dominic Cox, 7. Adison Sayan, 8. Oliver Green, 9. Shohei Okuna (28. Hassan Soufi 78’) , 13. Robert Ezekiel, 16. Hristian Tanoski (12. Steven Chester 68’), 60. Takayuki Noji
Substitutes Not Used: 17. Harry Jones, 25. Max Ephraim
Yellow Card: Katsionis 45′
APIA Leichhardt Tigers: 1. Ivan Necevski, 3. Paul Galimi, 6. Chris Payne, 7. Tynan Diaz, 8. Corey Biczo (4. Joshua Symons 88’), 10 Franco Parisi (11. Andre De Jong 67’), 12. Sam McIllhatton, 15. Themba Muata-Marlow, 16. Sean Symons, 18. Adrain Ucchino, 21. Michael Kouta
Substitutes not used: 14. Lachlan Hughes, 17. Samuel Gulisano, 22. Blake Tuxford
3 – Paul Galimi (APIA)
2- Shohei Okuna (HSCE)
1- Sam McIllhatton (APIA)