An incredible last ditch goal from Chris Payne in added time has helped APIA Leichhardt Tigers snatch a dramatic 1-1 draw against Manly United at Lambert Park on Saturday.
The former Manly striker came back to haunt his former club to save the Tigers from defeat with a brilliant display of goal poaching in the final seconds of the match to put him within one goal behind the competition’s leading scorer Thomas James from the Wolves with 11 for the season.
It was a heartbreaking defeat for the boys from the Northern Beaches who thought Brendan Cholakian’s first half penalty would be enough to secure all three points.
However, it wasn’t to be for Manly as they slipped up in the dying stages to give APIA a morale boosting result.
It was a lethargic start from both sides with neither Manly or APIA able to create any early headway.
The match was locked in the middle of the park with sloppy possessions stopping the game from opening up.
A lapse in defence and moment of ill-disciple proved costly for the home side when an errant challenge from Sean Symons took down Kieran Paull in the penalty area.
Cholakian wasn’t to be denied from the spot firing his penalty past the outstretched arms of Necvecki to give Manly a 1-0 lead.
The goal sparked APIA into action but their efforts eventuated to nothing with the Tigers lacking the clinical ball required to break down Manly’s defence.
Mitchell was getting better as the match went on in the Manly goals and had an answer for everything APIA sent his way.
The scores remained the same at half time despite a late flurry from Manly with the visitors happy to cling on to their 1-0 lead.
The home side raced out of the blocks in the second stanza as they pushed hard for an equaliser.
An incredible goal line clearance from Keiran Paull denied what appeared to be a sure goal for APIA as he dived in to deny a curling shot from Corey Biczo.
APIA had another amazing chance in the 71st minute when consecutive bicycle kicks from Biczo and Payne were blocked by Mitchell before the Manly keeper snatched the ball just as it was set to cross the goal line.
It was one way traffic as Manly sat back and absorbed everything a desperate APIA attack could throw at them.
Mitchell remained steadfast between the posts as the pressure mounted and made another clutch save in the 90th minute when an unmarked Payne headed on goal.
With the final seconds ticking down APIA performed a miracle with one of the last plays of the game.
A lofted ball from Ucchino put Sean Symons into space who fired in a low cross for Payne to flick past the keeper and snatch a dramatic last ditch draw.
A much relieved John Calleja praised the never say die attitude shown by his star striker Payne.
“He just keeps running and kept fighting until the final whistle which saved the day for us in the end,” he said.
“I thought it was going to be one of those nights where we created chance after chance but wouldn’t have luck on our side.
“Thankfully the team kept the faith and Chris was able to find that all important goal to secure us a valuable point.”
Manly assistant coach Dylan Macallister rued what could’ve been as his side gave up an early lead for the second time in as many weeks.
“We paid the price for clocking off in the final minutes,” he said.
“We just lacked the discipline today to get the win. We played so well for 90 minutes and to then miss out on the win by a goal in the final seconds is heartbreaking.
“The team is giving it their everything week in and week out but we need to play smarter and make the most of our chances if we are to achieve the results I believe this team deserves.”
APIA Leichhardt Tigers: 1 (Payne 94’)
Manly United FC: 1 (Cholakian 26’)
Saturday, May 11 2019
Lambert Park, Leichhardt
Referee: B Abraham
Assistant Referees: P Teleki, E Kocbek
Fourth official: S Kelly
APIA Leichhardt Tigers: 1. Ivan Necevski, 4. Josh Symons, 5. Nicholas Azzone, 6. Christopher Payne, 7. Tynan Diaz (8. Corey Biczo 65’), 10. Franco Parisi, 12. Sam McIllhatton, 15. Themba Muata-Marlow-Marlow, 16. Sean Symons, 18. Adrian Ucchino, 21. Michael Kouta.
Substitutes not used: 22. Blake Tuxford, 17. Samuel Gulisano, 14. Lachlan Hughes,
Yellow Cards: S Symons 26’ D’Apuzzo 50’ (Asst coach), Ucchino 87’
Manly United: 1. Dylan Mitchell, 2. Kieran Paull, 4. Travis Oughtred. 5. Sam Gallagher, 6. Joseph Fox, 7. Sam Wilson, 8. Dominic Ferguson, 10. Brendan Cholakian, 12. Charles Mendy (9. Nikola Taneski 69’), 13. Scott Balderson (22.Jamie Glover 69′), 23. Bradley McDonald (11. Adam Parkhouse 75’).
Substitutes not used: 17. Lewis Miccio, 20. Samuel Benton.
Yellow Cards: Balderson 55’ Ferguson 88’
3- Oughtred (MUFC)
2 – Mitchell (MUFC)
1 – Payne (APIA)