The Sutherland Sharks cruised to a 5-0 demolition job of a ten-man Manly United outfit at Cromer Park on Sunday afternoon.
The hosts were shocked by a straight red card shown to defensive linchpin Travis Oughtred just six minutes in, which brought rise to a significantly one-sided contest.
Raul Romero converted the ensuing penalty, before a delightful Mateo Poljak chip and fierce Jeremy Cox drive put the visitors well and truly in the ascendancy by the interval.
Despite the numerical disparity, Paul Dee’s men forged some golden opportunities throughout the first period that could have added some additional spice to the contest.
However, their failure to convert resulted in a rather tame second period where Sutherland eventually compounded Manly’s misery courtesy of tidy strikes from Jerry Skotadis and Romero.
The emphatic result secured a crucial three points for Sutherland in the ever-intensifying race for the top five.
It was a day to forget for Manly from the outset, as the healthy Cromer Park crowd were silenced just six minutes in.
Sutherland striker Jeremy Cox, who had this week been promoted to the starting eleven following the suspension of Charles Lokolingoy, executed some superb trickery to get in behind the Manly back four and prepare himself to pull the trigger.
However a collision with Travis Oughtred prevented him from doing so, leading the referee to award a spot-kick and dismiss the defender.
Raul Romero made no mistake from the spot, coolly slotting home into the bottom corner as he sent Dylan Mitchell the wrong way.
Despite being confronted by a hefty uphill task, the hosts shifted to a three-at-the-back shape and responded positively to falling behind.
They so nearly squared the ledger soon after as Harry McCarthy, on his first start for the club since returning from Sydney FC, found himself one-on-one with Anthony Bouzanis.
However the youngster’s 22nd minute close-range strike was denied by a resolute stop from the goalkeeper.
Manly suffered another agonising moment half an hour in, as a promising counter-attack saw Dejan Pandurevic cut the ball back to an onrushing Scott Balderson six yards out.
However the attacker blazed his first-time effort over the bar, and Manly were soon made to seriously regret their lack of a clinical touch.
With five minutes remaining in the half, a threatening Sutherland set-piece wreaked havoc in the Manly penalty area.
Dylan Mitchell initially made an impressive stop, however the ball fell to Asian Champions League winner Poljak who showcased his quality with a precise dink over the outstretched goalkeeper and two defenders on the line to double his side’s advantage.
Cox then capped off a perfect first half for Sutherland in stoppage time, as he shrugged off his defender and hammered the ball home at the front post to make it three.
With the result just about secured, Sutherland’s midfield professionally controlled the tempo in the second period as the ten men of Manly continued to tire.
Jerry Skotadis produced his most eye-catching performances since making the shift to Sutherland mid-season and was duly rewarded with a place on the scoresheet 74 minutes in.
The former Sky Blues midfielder skipped past his marker and slotted the ball home into the bottom right corner.
Sutherland then put an exclamation point on their five-star performance with a superb team move that was finished off expertly by the mercurial Spaniard Romero.
Post-match, Sam Gallagher reflected on what was well and truly a day to forget for his side.
“Whether it was a red card or not it was a tough day at the office regardless,” the Manly captain said.
“With ten men we worked hard, but we still shouldn’t be conceding that many goals.
“We can all put our hands up and just say maybe today wasn’t our day but as a team we need to recover from that.
“We will get back into it for the Waratah Cup, FFA Cup and remaining league games to hopefully get us into the top five.”
In contrast, Sutherland skipper Mateo Poljak praised the persistence of his side as they creep ever closer to finals football.
“For us it was a very important win as we are getting closer to the top five- if we had lost it was pretty much game over for us,” the former A-League midfielder said.
“It is feeling very different from the start of the season.
“It was tough for us in the first half of the season with so many unlucky draws but that’s football, I guess.
“Copping a late goal last week when we should have finished it off earlier, today it happened for us with that early red card.
“I think we were very clinical; something that we have maybe been missing all season.
“It was a good day for the club with wins in all three grades.”
Manly United FC 0
Sutherland Sharks FC 5 (Romero 7’, 80’, Poljak 40’, Cox 45+1’, Skotadis 74’)
Sunday 30th June, 2019
Cromer Park, Dee Why
Referee: M. Bailey
Assistant Referees: M. McOrist, N. Wotton
Fourth Official: I. Covic
Manly United: 1. Dylan Mitchell, 2. Kieran Paull, 4. Travis Oughtred. 5. Sam Gallagher, 6. Joseph Fox, 9. Harry McCarthy (12. Charles Mendy 45’), 10. Brendan Cholakian, 14. Dejan Pandurevic, 13. Scott Balderson (11. Adam Parkhouse 62’), 17. Lewis Miccio, 23. Bradley McDonald (7. Sam Wilson 45’)
Substitutes not used: 32. Mackenzie Syron, 21. Finn Ashton
Yellow Cards: Cholakian 66’
Red Cards: Oughtred 6’
Sutherland Sharks: 1. Anthony Bouzanis, 2. Quentin Cheng, 3. Marc Warren (32. Alexander Lopez 29’), 4. Patrick O’Shea, 7. Bai Antoniou, 8. Mateo Poljak (25. Brodie Clarkson 83’),, 9. Jeremy Cox, 10. Raul Beneit Romero, 11. Jordan Morfitis (21. Tarik Ercan 75’), 17. Liam McGing, 22. Jerry Skotadis
Substitutes not used: 18. Mitchell Evans ,19. Harry Sutherland
Yellow cards: Morfitis 39’
Red cards: Nil
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)