A Corey Biczo strike in the closing stages has helped APIA Leichhardt Tigers fight back to snatch a dramatic 3-2 win against Mt Druitt Town Rangers at Lambert Park on Sunday.
Goals from Sean Symons, Adrian Ucchino and Biczo gave the Tigers the edge in a thrilling end to end clash.
Toufic Allameddine opened the scoring early in the first half, before Symons equalised before the break.
Ucchino put APIA ahead a little over ten minutes after the restart but the home side were pegged back when Uruguayan star Fabricio Fernandez scored for Mt Druitt with 10 minutes left on the clock.
However, Biczo was to have the final say in the closing stages netting the winner and a valuble three points for APIA.
APIA defender Michael Kouta was the first to cause trouble at either end of the field when he muscled his way onto the ball at the top of the box and dragged a shot towards the far post.
Saliadarre could only push the ball into the path of Payne, but the goalkeeper was able to get across to block the follow-up out for a corner.
APIA seemed to be settling on the ball but was left stunned by a quick goal from the visitors.
Fernandez found Allameddine with an inch-perfect ball from the midfield, with the Mt Druitt forward taking a touch inside before curling a shot over the goalkeeper and inside the far post.
Fired up after conceding, APIA kicked off again on the front foot, and had a decent chance to equalise when Thompson took down Biczo on the edge of the penalty area to give away a free kick.
Payne’s shot appeared to flick off the wall and out for a corner – APIA players appealed for a handball, but Mt Druitt were given a goal kick.
Mt Druitt continued to pose a threat on the break through Alex Boyadjian and Fernandez, who slipped between the lines well to keep the APIA backline busy.
Still, APIA could not be held back as the halftime whistle approached, and equalised in style when Sean Symons won the ball back in midfield and played a one-two with Franco Parisi before slotting the ball inside the far post.
Mt Druitt might have taken the lead back just after halftime when an error from Themba Muata-Marlow allowed the ball run to Fernandez, who hit a cross to Allameddine on the penalty spot. The Mt Druitt man hit a strong header goalward but it was blocked on the line by Ivan Necevski, who pushed the ball out for a corner.
APIA went in front just a few minutes before the hour; Parisi flicking a ball over the top for Biczo, who cut a pass back for Ucchino to slam home from the top of the box.
They might have increased their lead further soon after, but Payne struck the post rather than properly testing Carlos Saliadarre in the Mt Druitt goal.
Former Western Sydney Wanderers play Jordan Roberts showed huge promise down the right flank after coming on midway through the second half and looked to change the game for the visitors; speeding down the line before cutting the ball inside for APIA to clear after several shots at goal.
Roberts proved the difference a few moments later when he drove down the right again, this time finding Fernandez with his cutback for the Mt Druitt midfielder to fire home an equaliser.
APIA appeared frustrated after giving up their lead but found a final gear as the match came to an end, and Biczo was in the right place at the right time to sweep the ball into the net with five minutes on the clock.
“I was a bit stressed for sure,” said APIA Leichhardt coach John Calleja.
“You always want to win the game and we made a bit of hard work about it, but we showed a lot of good character, a lot of good courage.
“I thought we had a period where we really dominated the game but Mt Druitt, to their credit, they came back so that made it tough for us.
“The timing of our goal was fantastic for us, we got into the sheds nice and confident and positive. The character in this team is tremendous. By far, we’re not perfect. But we fight hard.”
Mt Druitt boss Aidan Desmond rued the result as an opportunity lost.
“It opened up really early and they were good enough to take their chances, and we weren’t.
“The boys showed what they were about, we came out and conceded before coming back to 2-2, and we had a few good chances to put the game to bed ourselves.”
APIA Leichhardt Tigers FC 3 (S. Symons 44’, Ucchino 58’, Biczo 84’)
Mt Druitt Town Rangers FC 2 (Allameddine 17’, Fernandez 77’)
Sunday, May 19 2019
Lambert Park, Leichhardt
Referee: J. Mcfarlane
Assistants: N. Wotton, R. Osborne
Fourth official: H. Fenton-White
APIA Leichhardt Tigers FC: 8. BICZO Corey (14. HUGHES Lachlan), 7. DIAZ Tynan, 21. KOUTA Michael, 12. MCILLHATTON Sam (11. DE JONG Andre), 15. MUATA-MARLOW Themba, 1. NECEVSKI Ivan, 10. PARISI Franco (3. GALIMI Paul), 6. PAYNE Christopher, 4. SYMONS Joshua, 16. SYMONS Sean, 18. UCCHINO Adrian
Substitutes not used: 32. AZZONE Nick, 22. TUXFORD Blake
Yellow cards: Muata-Marlow 69’
Mt Druitt Town Rangers FC: 1. Carlos, 16. AIROLDI Julian, 6. THOMPSON Blake, 7. CLIFFORD Luke, 8. CLOWES Mathew, 9. BOYADJIAN Alex (19. ROBERTS Jordan), 10. FERNANDEZ Fabricio, 11. ALLAMEDDINE Toufic, 12. TRIMBLE Nick, 13. DARKOH Lord, 4. GOULD Josh
Substitutes not used: 2. SATOH Hiten, 15. COSKERIE Cooper, 25. NIKOLOVSKI Matt, 17. GOMEZ Jordan
Yellow cards: Clowes 24’, Fernandez 43’
3- Corey Biczo (ALT)
2- Fabricio Fernandez (MDTR)
1- Sean Symons (ALT)