A Blake Powell strike in the closing stages has helped Sutherland Sharks fightback to claim a 1-1 draw against Southern Sydney rivals Rockdale Ilinden FC at Seymour Shaw on Saturday.
The result was a solid improvement from the Sharks after their round one drubbing at the hands of Marconi but new coach Nick Dimovski still has plenty to do in a performance which was still lacking at times.
After a scoreless first half, Rockdale thought they had done enough to claim the win when Sam Gulisano fired home from range with only 20 minutes left to play.
However, the Sharks rallied in the closing minutes with Powell finding the equaliser to ensure Sutherland went home with their first competition points of the campaign.
It was a slow start to the match, each side sizing their opponent up with chances few are fair between.
Mason Versi attempted an acrobatic bicycle kick that squirmed wide of the upright in the first meaningful goal attempt of the match in the ninth minute. It did little to spark the match into action, both coach’s adopting the slow, measured build up option.
Jonathan Grozdanovski, a Rockdale player last season, connected sweetly on the edge of the box but David Bradasevic got behind the ball to squash the attack.
Versi was toppled just outside the area by Gulisano before Lachlan Everett stepped up to take the free-kick which deflected off the wall for a corner.
The visitors replied in the 25th minute when a Gulisano corner was headed over by club skipper Daniel Petkovski at the near post.
Alec Urosevski picked up the first caution of the game on the half-hour as the local derby passion reared it’s head briefly.
The components were there and just needed to connect to spark the game into life and it was Tomoki Wada who almost provided it.
Slipping a defence splitting pass through for Urosevski that had Sharks’ ‘keeper Ryan Norval sharply off his line to smother at the feet of the visiting striker.
Marc Warren managed a sliding block on Gulisano, inside the box, that needed perfect timing but the corner came to nothing and with neither able to find the breakthrough it remained scoreless at the break.
Rockdale started the brighter on resumption forcing a desperate block and a corner from which Urosevski blasted goal ward only to see the effort forced out once more, all inside the opening two minutes.
Nikola Taneski went in for a brave header which left him spread eagled on the floor as the visitors piled on the pressure.
Brayden Sorge was next to show with a surging run to the edge of the area before laying it back to Wada who’s shot sailed well wide of the mark.
Bradasevic was forced into a diving save from Gorzdanovski, who was set-up by Simonoski, in the 57th minute and Blake Powell headed into the ground and over the bar from the corner.
Gulisano and Taneski combined with the latter forcing a fine save from the Sharks’ defence in tit-for-tat football and it proved his last effort of the game when replaced by Dimi Petratos.
Rockdale finally broke the deadlock in the 68th minute via a Gulisano long range effort to give the visitors the lead.
Substitute James Temelkovski had the home crowd on their feet when they thought he had equalised in the 75th minute but it was into the side netting before Simonoski fired over the woodwork.
With everything to gain, the Sharks were forcing the pace in the final stages that unsettled Ilinden.
Powell restored parity after good lead-up work from Temelkovski, Versi and Simonoski found him in the area and a sweet turn and curling effort into the bottom right-hand corner was enough to set up a grand stand finish.
Simonoski could have sealed the points for Sutherland in the final minute but for a point blank reaction save from Bradasevic kept the score level and the points shared.
The home side could do little with a succession of corners in stoppage time when pressing for the winner with Gulisano given the chance to steal it for the visitors however, this time he was wide of the mark.
“We didn’t know what to expect from them,” said Ilinden coach Steve Zoric
“We knew they had a potent attack so we set out to see what they would do.
“It started to open up at the end of the first-half and we started to push a few forward and went to a 4-4-3.
“We said at the break that we were showing them too much respect and pressed them high and were the better side until we scored, after which we seemed to go back in our shell a bit.
“We both had chances to win the game but four points from six is a good start and we move on from here.”
For Sharks coach Nick Dimovski his side’s inability to convert their chances was the big difference.
“There’s an old adage in football, If you don’t score goals you don’t win,” said Dimovski
“We had enough chances after the break to win three games but that’s the way it goes sometimes.
“Obviously we’re happy to get our first point of the season, and it is only early days yet, and the platform is now there to build on.
“We’ve faced two top sides and now know what to expect from this league.”
Prior to kick-off a minutes silence was observed for the brother of Sharks’ President Paul Smith. Our condolences to the family.
Sutherland Sharks 1 (Powell 82’)
Rockdale Ilinden 1 (Gulisano 68’)
Seymour Shaw Park, Miranda
Saturday, 7th March 2020
Referee: Craig Fisher
Assistant. Referees: Andre Giev & Amir Hosnani
Fourth Official: Sam Kelly
Sutherland Sharks 1.Ryan NORVAL, 3.Marc WARREN, 6.Lachlan EVERETT, 7.Peter SIMONOSKI, 8.Pat O’SHEA, 10.Blake POWELL, 11.Joey GROENBAST, 12.Blair BROWN, 15.Mason VERSI, 21.Oliver GREEN, 99.Jonathan GROZDANOVSKI (9.James TEMELKOVSKI, 69’)
Substitutes not used: 13.Thomas PAPA, 17.Mario ALEKSIC, 18.Brodie CLARKSON, 20.Conner SHADDOCK
Yellow Cards: Brown 60’, Powell 88’
Rockdale Ilinden: 1.David BRADASEVIC, 2.Daniel PETKOVSKI, 3.Mick NEILL, 6.Banri KANAIZUMI, 7.Alec UROSEVSKI, 8.Tomiki WADA, 10.Nikola TANESKI (9.Dimi PETRATOS 63’), 14.Brayden SORGE, 15.Mohamed Ahmed (17.Mark MORIC 80’), 18.Sam GULISANO, 19.Patrick SAVOR
Substitutes not used: 4.Mitchell STAMATELLIS,, 23.Jordan FIGON, 39.Andrew Di BLASIO
Yellow Cards: Urosevski 29’
3 – Gulisano (RI)
2 – Groenbast (SS)
1 – Ahmed (RI)
By National Premier Leagues NSW Reporter Micky Brock