Only five teams remain: Round 22 of the 2019 National Premier Leagues NSW Men’s 20s season saw the last of seven sides, while Blacktown, Sutherland, Rockdale, APIA and Sydney FC head into the finals series.
Rockdale and Sutherland served up a preview to their preliminary final with a 1-1 draw at Ilinden, while Blacktown failed to impress as they were held by Hakoah. APIA finish fourth after a scoreless draw with Mt Druitt, and Sydney United ended their season in style with a comfortable win over Manly United.
Match of the Round: Rockdale City Suns 1-1 Sutherland Sharks, Sunday 1pm at Ilinden Sports Centre
Rockdale and Sutherland split the points at Ilinden Sports Centre on Sunday afternoon; the hosts going ahead in the first half before being hauled back after the break by a determined Sharks side.
For a time Rockdale must have thought they’d wrapped up second place: had they held on in the second 45, they would have finished above Sutherland, five points behind Blacktown City at the top of the table.
Instead, Rockdale will head into the finals in third, having kept APIA Leichhardt at bay over the last few weeks of the regular season.
Jake Cakovski remains one of the most in-form strikers in the competition ahead of the finals; giving his side the lead midway through the first half with a poacher’s finish after a pass through the midfield bounced fortuitously off a Sutherland defender and rolled in front of the Rockdale player with only the keeper to beat.
Rockdale were only ten minutes from securing all three points when Sutherland struck. A cross from the right dipped just in front of the goalkeeper, who clattered into James Temelevski as they both challenged for the loose ball.
The referee had little choice but to point to the spot, leaving Temelevski to step up and calmly level for his side. The Sharks’ six-match winning streak came to an end with a stalemate at Ilinden, but the regular season runners up will still be full of confidence as they look forward to another clash with Rockdale in the preliminary semi final.
Sunday 11th of August
Hakoah Sydney City East 1-1 Blacktown City, 1pm at Hensley Athletic Field
Hakoah Sydney City East have bowed out of the 2019 season with a credible 1-1 draw against premiers Blacktown City; a marked improvement on the 5-0 drubbing they copped at Lilys Homes Stadium in the reverse fixture in May.
Oliver Kovarik was on the scoresheet for Hakoah, who end the year in tenth place despite a relative uptick in form over the second half of the season.
Blacktown, meanwhile, can look forward to a week off as they prepare for the finals, having made sure of their place in the top five some months ago.
Having dropped points in four of their last six matches, the premiers will be eager to prove they can turn up when it counts as they look to go one better than last season and take out the championship.
Sydney United 58 3-0 Manly United, 1pm at Sydney United Sports Centre
Sydney United breezed past Manly United with a 3-0 win at Sydney United Sports Centre on Sunday afternoon; their first victory since a 3-0 win over Sydney Olympic in May.
United have been guaranteed of finishing the year with the wooden spoon for weeks, with Hakoah and Wollongong both nine points ahead of the team in last place.
Still, a determined United side were able to make sure they saw out 2019 with an emphatic result over an opponent that sits twelve points and three places ahead of them in ninth.
Daniel Salinas, Gian Sacco and Anthony Pedavoli were on hand to give the hosts their third win of the season, a result which leaves Manly only marginally closer to the top five than the bottom of the table at the end of the year.
Mt Druitt Town Rangers 0-0 APIA Leichhardt Tigers, 1pm at Popondetta Park
APIA Leichhardt were held to a 0-0 draw by Mt Druitt Town Rangers at Popondetta Park, a result which means the Tigers will soon face an elimination semi-final against Sydney FC.
A 2-1 loss to Manly United last weekend meant APIA’s fate was out of their hands, and a point against Mt Druitt wasn’t enough to overtake Rockdale into third place.
Mt Druitt end the season in seventh place, eight points behind APIA after dropping off in recent weeks.
Wollongong Wolves 1-2 Marconi Stallions, 1pm at Win Stadium
Wollongong end 2019 in eleventh place while Marconi finish the year in enlighten after the Stallions beat the Wolves 2-1 at Win Stadium on Sunday afternoon.
Wollongong’s form has been inconsistent throughout the season, and an inability to take points in close matches ultimately leaves them closer to the bottom of the table than the top five.
Abilio Nunes set Marconi on the way to their first win in five matches, nodding the ball in from close range after a fantastic freekick from Kristofer Nicolaou was pushed off the crossbar by the goalkeeper.
The Stallions finish the season ten points behind Sydney FC in eighth place; their push for the finals having fallen away in a run of four straight defeats in July.