Blacktown continue to lead the 2019 National Premier Leagues NSW Men’s 20s competition with just five rounds remaining, but the chasers are catching up.
The leaders slipped to a 2-1 defeat to Sydney FC in this week’s Match of the Round to see their advantage cut to seven points, with the Sky Blues jumping up into second place. A gap is beginning to open up between the top five and the teams below, with Sydney Olympic missing the chance to leapfrog APIA – albeit perhaps only temporarily – into fifth place after losing to Rockdale. Marconi’s win over Sydney United puts them within two points of the top five, while Sutherland Sharks are up to fourth after a tough win against Manly United.
Match of the Round: Blacktown City FC 1-2 Sydney FC, Sunday at Lily Homes Stadium
Sydney FC’s 2-1 win over Blacktown City on Sunday afternoon registers as significant for a number of reasons. With five rounds remaining the Sky Blues are now just seven points behind the leaders, who have difficult fixtures against APIA and Rockdale in coming weeks. The defeat on Sunday was only Blacktown’s first at Lily Homes Stadium in 2019, but there will be a desire for immediate improvement to avoid carrying inconsistent form into the finals.
Both teams threw caution to the wind and went at each other from the first whistle, though there was little to truly trouble either goalkeeper in the game’s opening stages.
Devante Clut sent a free kick narrowly over Sydney’s crossbar from a decent position on the left, and saw another set piece blocked under the wall shortly afterwards in a similar area.
Sydney FC looked to break quickly against the competition leaders, with Jaiden Kucharski causing problems for the Blacktown backline as he drove inside from the right wing at speed.
Blacktown won a series of corners as the half wore on but struggled to get any meaningful effort on target. Perhaps their best chance of the half fell to Alen Aganovic, who rose unmarked in the six yard box only to mistime his jump and hit a weak header straight at the goalkeeper.
Sydney’s pace out wide eventually got the better of the Blacktown defence: Kucharski was hauled down inside the box, giving the referee little choice but to point to the spot. Jake Hollman stepped up and hit a cool penalty past Dylan Niski to give the Sky Blues the lead with just a minute of the half remaining.
Sydney picked up in the second half where they left off in the first, and won a free kick in dangerous territory on the left fifteen minutes after the restart. Calem Niuewenhof lined up the set piece, curling a stunning shot over the wall and inside the near post to double his side’s advantage.
Blacktown hit back immediately through Suleyman Bangura, who scored his first goal in five games with a spinning backheel on the goalline after good work down the left flank from Jackson Bandiera.
The competition leaders might have levelled in the dying minutes of the match, but were let down by poor finishing on a number of occasions.
William Mutch charged down the right before coming inside and shooting from a narrow angle; the ball falling to Bangura only for the striker to send his shot into the side netting. Henry Davies had a golden chance to equalise after a free kick dropped into the six yard box and bounced up next to him, but the defender somehow managed to slice his volley over the bar.
Blacktown remain seven points clear of Sydney FC, but cannot afford too many more slip-ups like this.
Blacktown City FC 1 (Bangura 61’)
Sydney FC 2 (Hollman 44’, Neiuwenhof 58’)
30th June, 2019
Lily Homes Stadium, Blacktown
Blacktown City: 21. MUTCH William, 7. CLUT Devante, 14. DAVIES Henry, 34. BANGURA Suleyman, 32. DE OLIVIERA Carlos, 24. BANDIERA Jackson, 18. BARTOLOTTO Josh, 16. HOWARTH Dale, 20. NISKI Dylan, 26. AGANOVIC Alen, 33. GALLO Anthony
Sydney FC: 24. HOLLMAN Jake, 34. NIEUWENHOF Calem, 27. GURD Aaron, MAIN Thomas, 26. AMEY Samuel, 82. PEUPION Cameron, 56. SARACINO Antonio, 28. MCFARLANE Fletcher, 33. KUCHARSKI Jaiden, 57. TRENKOSKI Jayden, 81. FONG Cameron, 20. MALISHEV David
Saturday 29th of June 2019
Mt Druitt Town Rangers 2-0 Wollongong Wolves, 5pm at Popondetta Park
Mt Druitt jumped ahead of Wollongong Wolves into ninth place after their 2-0 win at Popondetta Park on Saturday afternoon, with first half goals from Emmanuel Peters and Luke Clifford.
The Rangers are now within six points of fifth place with five matches left, and must make winning a habit in the run-in if they harbour any hopes of reaching the finals.
This victory was Mt Druitt’s first since mid-May, and should give them confidence heading into next week’s match against Sydney United, also at Popondetta.
Wollongong, meanwhile, drop below Mt Druitt into tenth place; their finals push having come apart in recent weeks after an indifferent run of form which has seen them pick up just seven points from their last nine games.
Sunday 30th of June 2019
Manly United 2-3 Sutherland Sharks, 1pm at Cromer Park No. 1
Sutherland were pushed all the way by Manly United but held their hosts off to record a 3-2 win at Cromer Park on Sunday afternoon; a crucial result for the Sharks with just five rounds of the regular season remaining.
A hattrick from James Temelkovski put Sutherland three points clear of APIA Leichhardt in fourth place, though the Tigers still have a game in hand. The Sharks are beginning to fire up ahead of the final charge for the finish line, and look well placed to continue in this form as they prepare for matches against several top-five contenders.
Jamie Glover and Lachlan McGrath’s goals couldn’t prevent Manly from slipping to a defeat which isn’t terminal to their top five hopes, but will still hurt those at Cromer Park.
Had they managed a win, Manly would have sat just a point outside the finals places. As it stands, they drop to eighth, four points behind fifth-placed APIA.
APIA Leichhardt Tigers 1-2 Hakoah Sydney City East, 1.15pm at Lambert Park
APIA Leichhardt led at halftime against Hakoah Sydney City East on Sunday afternoon but a second-half implosion, featuring a red card for Anthony Sparacino and goals from Bradley Walker and Zachary Sapsford, gave the visitors their fourth win of a difficult season.
Hakoah have won twice of their last four matches, moving seven points clear of last-placed Sydney United but with nine points to make up on the top five.
APIA, meanwhile, have slipped from second place down to fifth in recent weeks, but there should be little cause for concern at Lambert Park as the end of the regular season approaches.
This defeat was the Tigers’ first in four matches, and with a game in hand APIA could yet leapfrog Sutherland and Rockdale back into third depending on how they react next week against Blacktown City.
Sydney Olympic 0-1 Rockdale City Suns, 1.45pm at Belmore Sports Ground
Rockdale City Suns edged a tight match at Belmore Sports Ground on Sunday afternoon to pick up three invaluable points on the road as they look to secure their place in the top five.
Noah Botic score the only goal of the game as Rockdale beat Olympic for the second time in 2019; a result which moves them into third place – three points clear of sixth-placed Olympic.
Rockdale face another tough opponent next week when they travel to Lambert Park to take on Sydney FC.
Three of Olympic’s remaining five matches are against sides below them on the table, starting with Manly United at Cromer Park in Round 18.
Sydney United 58 0-1 Marconi Stallions, 3pm at Sydney United Sports Centre
Marconi remain in the hunt for a place in the finals after a 1-0 defeat of Sydney United on Sunday afternoon; the Stallions’ third win in their last five matches.
Marconi sit just two points behind fifth-placed APIA Leichhardt, though the Tigers have a game in hand to play against Sydney United in a few weeks’ time.
United, for their part, are now seven points adrift of eleventh-placed Hakoah Sydney City East, and look certain to finish the season in last place.
Having lost each of their last four games, they will turn their attention to next week’s match against Mt Druitt Town Rangers at Popondetta Park.