Blacktown City failed to win for the second time in three weeks but maintain an eleven point lead at the top of the National Premier Leagues NSW Men’s 20s at the end of Round 14.
Mt Druitt Town Rangers and Manly United shared the points in a dramatic draw at Popondetta on Saturday afternoon in this week’s Match of the Round, while APIA Leichhardt Tigers moved into second place as Rockdale were beaten by Hakoah, and Sydney FC were held by Marconi.
Match of the Round: Mt Druitt Town Rangers 2-2 Manly United, Saturday 5pm at Popondetta Park
Mathew Nikolovski saved a penalty with two minutes of the match remaining to earn ten-man Mt Druitt a 2-2 draw with Manly United on Saturday afternoon, which is extraordinary in itself. That this was Nikolovski’s second save from the spot, the first coming only two minutes after the kickoff, makes this performance the stuff of dreams.
Taneski was denied first, before Manly United opened the scoring through Maximilian Rogers early in the second half. Sallu Kamara equalised with a penalty before Manly United went ahead again, but Kamara was on hand to score a stunning leveller after Mt Druitt were reduced to ten men. Manly were given a final chance at all three points when they were awarded another penalty, but the goalkeeper came up trumps again.
There were players on either side who, after kickoff, had barely seen a glimpse of the ball before it was in the back of the net. After just two minutes, Tallon Zahra slipped Nikola Taneski down the left; the striker taking the ball in his stride and skinning Samuel Webb before being brought down as he skipped into the box.
Taneski stepped up to the spot and hit a poor penalty down the middle of the goal, with Mathew Nikolovski holding his ground to put the ball behind for a corner. The set piece was headed wide of the back post, and Mt Druitt were given a chance to breathe.
The hosts might have opened the scoring themselves as the first half came to close when a ball across the face of the goal fell to Sallu Kamara, who dragged a shot towards the back post only for Emmanuel Peters to rifle the ball into the side netting.
Manly broke the deadlock eight minutes after the restart: Nikola Taneski ran past his man and was held up on the byline, before Kye Conna came through to dig the ball out and square a pass for Maximilian Rogers, who couldn’t miss at the back post.
The visitors would hold their lead for just over ten minutes before Jordan Gomez was brought down by Lachlan McGrath, with Sallu Kamara on the spot to coolly equalise for the Rangers.
A good piece of interplay between Kye Conna and Lucas Rainbird resulted in a freekick on the right side of the Mt Druitt penalty area with a quarter of an hour to play, which Rogers curled into a dangerous position at the back post. Lachlan McGrath was virtually on the goalline when he put the ball into the net, and almost every Manly player turned to congratulate Rogers on a fantastic set piece.
Manly must have thought they had three points in the bag when Ismail Harris earned his second yellow card for a foul on Rogers only a few minutes after their second goal, but Sallu Kamara had other ideas. A long ball upfield dropped ahead of the Mt Druitt forward, who dropped inside and out in front of Luca Cavalieri before crashing a magnificent shot off the crossbar to level the scores at 2-2.
With two minutes to go, Manly substitute Jack Berte was brought down on the left side of the Mt Druitt penalty area, giving the visitors a final chance to take all three points against the ten-man Rangers. Rogers placed the ball on the spot and hit his shot to the left, but Nikolovski was there again.
A draw does little for either side in the grand scheme of things, though while Manly United can only be bitterly disappointed to have let three points slip through their fingers, Mt Druitt should be encouraged by a solid performance under some duress.
Mt Druitt Town Rangers 2 (Kamara 64’, 81’)
Manly United 2 (Rogers 53’, McGrath 74’)
8th June, 2019
Mt Druitt Town Rangers: 37. KAMARA Sallu, 35. CROSSLEY Matthew, 40. DULLEH Ali, 41. GOMEZ Jordan, 39. HARES Ismail, 30. PETERS Emmanuel, 36. COSKERIE Cooper, 38. WEBB Samuel, 29. RICHARDS Callum, 32. KOLIC James, 25. NIKOLOVSKI Mathew
Manly United: 9. TANESKI Nikola, 19. CONNA Kye, 31. ROGERS Maximilian, 33. ZAHRA Tallon, 48. HARRY Bryce, 36. MCGRATH Lachlan, 21. ASHTON Finn, 35. VARVARESSOS Ben, 25. CAVALIERI Luca, 30. RAINBIRD Lucas, 32. SYRON Mackenzie
Blacktown City FC 1-1 Sydney Olympic, 1pm at Lily Homes Stadium
Blacktown City dropped points for the second time in three weeks after being kept to a 1-1 draw at Lily Homes Stadium on Sunday afternoon, a result that is hardly disastrous given their eleven point lead at the top of the table.
Thomas Bienasz scored for hosts but Olympic held firm to earn an incredibly valuable point on the road against a seemingly unstoppable opposition.
Olympic sit in sixth place at the end of the round, level on points with Sydney FC, Rockdale and Sutherland Sharks. Three points are a must against Hakoah Sydney City East next week if they are serious about competing for the finals.
Marconi Stallions FC 1-1 Sydney FC, 1pm at Marconi Stadium
Marconi held a halftime lead over Sydney FC on Sunday afternoon but were pegged back in the second half as Calem Nieuwenhof scored for the Sky Blues, with the Stallions dropping one place down to ninth at the end of Round 14.
Damian Tsekenis opened the scoring for the Stallions, but they were unable to win for the second week running and now sit four points adrift of the top five.
Sydney FC, meanwhile, jump two places up into third following a valuable point on the road: the Sky Blues are level on points with Rockdale and Sutherland below them in fifth and sixth respectively, and will take anything they can get as they look to finish the regular season on a high.
Wollongong Wolves FC 3-0 Sydney United 58, 1pm at Win Stadium
Bul Juach led Wollongong to a 3-0 demolition of Sydney United 58 at Win Stadium, netting a hattrick as the Wolves moved within three points of the top five at the end of Round 14.
Wollongong have slumped in recent months after a promising start to the season, but could be back in business with their second win in three weeks. Three points against the competition’s lowest-placed side was surely a minimum for the Wolves, and Juach ensured they delivered in style.
Sydney United fall further behind at the bottom of the ladder, now sitting four points behind eleventh-placed Hakoah Sydney City Suns. Having won just once in their last ten matches, they now turn their attentions to a match against APIA Leichhardt in Round 15 as they look to avoid losing touch with Hakoah altogether.
APIA Leichhardt Tigers 2-0 Sutherland Sharks, 1.15pm at Lambert Park
Michael Trajkovski scored a brace at Lambert Park on Sunday afternoon to help APIA to a 2-0 win over Sutherland Sharks; the Tigers winning two consecutive games for the first time since Round 2.
APIA jump ahead of Rockdale into second place with their seventh win of the season; a result which takes them three points clear of Sutherland.
The Sharks would have hoped to stretch a winning streak into a third week at Lambert Park, but must now look ahead to next week’s blockbuster clash against Blacktown City.
Sutherland are clinging to the top five on goal difference, with Sydney FC and Rockdale above them in third and fourth respectively, while Sydney Olympic are breathing down the Sharks’ necks in sixth place.
Hakoah Sydney City East 3-2 Rockdale City Suns, 3pm at Hensley Athletic Field
Hakoah Sydney City East pulled four points clear of the bottom with a 3-2 win over Rockdale City Suns on Sunday afternoon; an unexpected victory coming courtesy of a brace from Zachary Sapsford and one from Hesan Soufi.
Hakoah were sitting just one point ahead of Sydney United at the beginning of Round 13, but should have a renewed sense of confidence ahead of next week’s game against Sydney Olympic after snapping a three-match losing streak.
Rockdale, meanwhile, continue to slip, having dropped points in six of their last eight matches to fall twelve points behind Blacktown City into third place.
-By Max Grieve