There was late drama aplenty at Edensor Park on Sunday night as a last-gasp Peter Simonoski equaliser helped Sydney United 58 snatch a 1-1 draw against Sutherland Sharks.
A tight first stanza saw Sutherland dominate the opening stages before United began to edge their way into the contest.
However it was the visitors who took the lead ten minutes into the second period, as Jordan Mofitis pounced on a fortuitous rebound to tuck home the opener from close range.
In the final quarter-of-an-hour, the contest sprung to life as Sutherland Goalkeeper Nathan Denham was injured and subsequently substituted, before up the other end their marksman Charles Lokolingoy was shown a straight red card for an off-the-ball incident.
The ten men of Sutherland then so nearly doubled their advantage, as Mark Warren was denied by a miraculous Adrian Vlastelica goal line clearance.
Cruelly, they were made to pay moments later as Peter Simonoski nodded home the equaliser to ensure United 58 a share of the spoils.
Jordan Morfitis and Charles Lokolingoy led an early Sharks charge, forging a raft of opportunities inside the match’s opening half an hour.
The pick the bunch arrived after 23 minutes, as Lokolingoy found himself with enough room in the area to unleash a venomous strike which rattled Thomas Manos’ crossbar.
United 58’s clearest sight on goal of the half arrived after 31 minutes as Matt Sim found himself through on goal with time on his hands, but the experienced attacker blasted his effort over the bar.
Sim continued to threaten early in the second half, as his 52nd minute curling strike forced a smart double save out of Nathan Denham.
Two minutes later, Lokolingoy came within inches yet again.
The former Sydney FC and Brisbane Roar striker picked the pocket of Jordan Roberts in a dangerous area and opened his body up to stroke the ball against the post before Raul Romero could only steer the rebound into the arms of Manos.
However despite their growing frustrations in front of goal, Sutherland’s pressure soon paid off.
That man Lokolingoy was at the centre of the action again, as his powerful driven effort was parried out by Manos into the path of Jordan Morfitis, who calmly rolled the ball into the bottom corner to grant the visitors the lead.
The match then settled as Terry Palapanis’ outfit consolidated their lead however it soon erupted inside the final 15 minutes.
Just as the Sharks looked to be cruising to a vital three points in the race for finals football, three dramatic moments turned their night on its head.
The 77th minute saw a lengthy stoppage observed as Nathan Denham suffered an injury, and was replaced by Mitchell Evans.
Then with less than ten minutes of regular time remaining, Lokolingoy was inexplicably shown a straight red card for a dissent-related incident in back play.
However despite their numerical disadvantage, Sutherland so nearly sealed the deal with two minutes to play.
After a slick counter-attack, two heroic pieces of defending from Adrian Vlastelica were enough to deny Jeremy Cox and Marc Warren from close range.
And with painful memories of defeat to a ten-man APIA Leichhardt in recent memory, United 58 pushed hard to avoid a similar fate unfolding.
Their efforts were duly rewarded inside the final minute of the ninety, as Matt Sim floated in an inviting cross which Peter Simonoski nodded home to break Sutherland hearts.
It was then the hosts’ turn to come within fractions of all three points as Simonoski was fed through on goal by Trifiro; but the former Wolves striker steered his low effort towards the wrong side of the post.
The vocal Edensor Park gallery were poised on the edge of their seat throughout a nail-biting seven minutes of stoppage time however the contest would ultimately conclude at one goal apiece.
Post-match, Sydney United manager Miro Vlastelica was content with the result.
“We seem to do things the hard way,” he said.
“We gifted them a goal against the run of play with a poor turnover that they punished us for.
“But we kept battling and created a couple of chances.
“We need to be better in the final third and do not want to concede cheap goals.
“That’s something we need to work on moving forward.
“At the end of the day, I feel a draw was the fair result.
“We could have even snatched it at the end there but that’s football.”
On the other hand, Sharks boss Terry Palapanis could not believe the ultimate outcome of the contest.
“I have felt better after losing,” he revealed.
“I thought we came out away from home against a good opponent and dominated large portions of the match.
“We had a lot of clear-cut one-on-ones that we couldn’t convert, especially the shot cleared off the line preventing us from going 2-0 up with ten men.
“Then a lapse of concentration within our central defenders sees them score, and the rest is history.
“I can’t believe how many chances we created – it almost feels worse than a loss.
“It was definitely one that got away.”
Sydney United 58 FC 1 (Simonoski 90’)
Sutherland Sharks FC 1 (Morfitis 55’)
Sunday 23rd June, 2019
Sydney United Sports Centre, Edensor Park
Referee: B. Abraham
Assistants: J. Adabjou, J. Park
Fourth official: N. Ryan
Sydney United 58: 21. Tom Manos, 3. Jordan Roberts (17. Matthew Bilic 60’), 4. Adrian Vlastelica, 5. Anthony Tomelic, 7. Peter Simonoski, 8. Matt Sim, 14. Tomislav Uskok, 15. Tariq Maia (9. Patrick Antelmi 66’), 18. Glen Trifiro, 19. Josh MacDonald, 20. Cristian Gonzalez (10. Sebastian Gallegos 77’)
Yellow cards: Uskok 89’
Red cards: Nil
Sutherland Sharks: 46. Nathan Denham (18. Mitchell Evans 77’), 2. Quentin Cheng, 3. Marc Warren, 4. Patrick O’Shea, 7. Bai Antoniou (21. Tarik Ercan 71’), 8. Mateo Poljak, 10. Raul Beneit Romero, 11. Jordan Morfitis (9. Jeremy Cox 64’), 14. Charles Lokolingoy, 17. Liam McGing, 22. Jerry Skotadis
Yellow cards: Warren 29’, McGing 59’, Evans 80’
Red cards: Lokolingoy 81’
Player Ratings have now been hidden due to the second half of the season commencing.
By National Premier Leagues NSW Men’s Reporter Chris Curulli (Twitter handle @ChrisCurulli)