Rockdale Ilinden FC have been crowned 2020 National Premier Leagues NSW Men’s Premiership winners after a thrilling final round of matches.
The title went down to the wire with Rockdale’s superior goal difference the deciding factor as they narrowly edged a fast-finishing Wollongong Wolves to snare a historic first premiership in more than half a century.
Wins for Wollongong, Sydney United 58 and Sydney Olympic’s draw in Round 11 wrapped up the top four setting up a blockbuster finals series which will get underway next week.
Sydney FC finished their season off with a win but it was a bittersweet result as United 58’s victory against APIA meant the Young Sky Blues narrowly missed out on a maiden finals appearance.
Blacktown City made it four wins from four to end their campaign on a high note, while it was disappointment for 2019 grand final winners APIA who secured the wooden spoon after finishing the rebooted season in last place.
Rockdale will now take on Sydney Olympic while the Wollongong Wolves will face Sydney United 58 with the winners meeting in this year’s 2020 NPL NSW Men’s Grand Final.
Marconi Stallions 0 – Sydney FC 3 (Swibel 10′, 38′, Wood 90′)
Sydney FC have finished their season in winning fashion after they cruised to a one-sided 3-0 victory against a listless Marconi Stallions at Marconi Stadium on Friday.
It was a bittersweet victory for the Young Sky Blues after Sydney United’s big win in Friday’s late match meant Jim van Weeran’s side would narrowly miss out on a maiden finals berth finishing the season in fifth place.
Sydney made a fast start to the contest and were rewarded for their early endeavour when Jordi Swibel fired past the keeper after some questionable defending from the home side.
The visitors made two big stops midway through the half to deny Marconi an equaliser.
In the 25th minute an Anthony Frangie volley was blocked on the line by some desperation defending, before Nathan Milgate’s effort in the 27th minute hit the post before being cleared to safety.
Marconi’s defensive frailties were punished again in the 38th minute when Swibel tapped home from close range after being left unmarked to send the visitors ahead 2-0 at the interval.
The Young Sky Blues came out of the break with increased energy and began to take over the contest creating several chances during the early exchanges of the half.
Patrick Wood, looking to clinch the Golden Boot award for top goalscorer, missed three big chances to score during the second stanza and it looked as if he would not add to his tally of 10 goals for the campaign.
However, as all good goalscorers do, Wood found the back of the net in the final minute of the match to claim his 11th goal of the season and finish the league campaign as the competition’s most prolific scorer.
Blacktown City 5 (Lewis 3′, Jalloh 5′, 15′, 75′, Collins 12′) – Western Sydney Wanderers 2 (Constable 38′, Auglah 79′)
A four-goal salvo in the opening 15 minutes has helped Blacktown to a one-sided 5-2 win against local rivals Western Sydney Wanderers at Lily Homes Stadium on Friday.
Hassan Jalloh was the star of the show for Blacktown after he claimed a hat-trick in his side’s most dominant performance of the season and their fourth win on the trot.
It was one-way traffic from the opening whistle with City Captain Matt Lewis giving the home side the lead with a well-hit volley from the edge of the penalty area in the third minute of the match.
It began a tidal wave of goals with Jalloh netting twice in the fifth and 15th minute as well as a headed finish from Daniel Collins in the 12th minute.
The Wanderers had no answers for Blacktown’s ferocious attack and were left staring at a 4-0 deficit with less than a quarter of the game played.
Western Sydney’s Lochlan Constable won his side a penalty in the 38th minute and duly capitalised from the spot to send the game into the break with a scoreline of 4-1.
It was a more reserved start to the second stanza as the Wanderers slowly found their way into the contest.
However, Jalloh made sure it would be a game neither he or his side would want to forget as he slotted his third goal of the game in the 75th minute to wrap up the win and a sublime hat-trick.
Ali Auglah netted a consolation goal for the Wanderers in the 79th minute, but it was Blacktown’s night as they finished a difficult campaign on a high note.
APIA Leichhardt 1 (Payne 30) – Sydney United 58 4 (Sim 15′, Payne OG 47′, Clut 71′, Khoury 79′)
Sydney United 58 gave their Premiership hopes a final push with a one-sided 4-1 win against APIA Leichhardt at Lambert Park on Friday.
The win temporarily moved United 58 into top spot, but it wasn’t enough as wins for Wollongong and Rockdale on Sunday meant the Reds finished the season in third position.
Needing to win to keep their slim Premiership hopes alive, The Reds made a fast start to the match and took a 1-0 lead in the 15th minute courtesy of a clinical Matt Sim finish.
APIA marksman Chris Payne missed a golden opportunity in the 22nd minute firing wide of the post from only six yards out with only the keeper to beat.
Payne made up for his earlier error firing in from the penalty spot in the 28th minute to equalise after he was taken down in the box by a United 58 defender.
United 58 wasted an incredible chance to snatch the lead in the dying moments of the half when Matt Sim stole the ball off APIA defender Josh Symons only 25 yards from goal to set up a two-on-one chance for the visitors with only the keeper to beat.
However, a sensational desperation tackle from Paul Galimi blocked Sim’s pass to United 58’s star striker Patrick Antelmi which allowed shot-stopper Luke Turnbull to parry the ball away for a corner kick.
Scores remained locked at the start of the second half, but it didn’t stay that way for long with a bizarre own goal from Payne giving United 58 the lead in the 47th minute.
The APIA striker heading into his net when he attempted to clear a corner kick.
It opened the floodgates for the visitors as Devante Clut netted a long-range goal in the 71st minute to make it 3-1.
United 58 wrapped up the win only minutes later with Jackson Khoury tapping home from close range after Turnbull parried an early save right at the feet of the young midfielder.
While the result sent United 58 to the top of the table, albeit temporarily, it also confirmed last season’s grand final winners APIA would finish the season in last place.
Mt Druitt Town Rangers 1 (Stewart 3′) – Sydney Olympic 1 (Lokolingoy 14′) at Popondetta Park
Sydney Olympic’s premiership hopes have gone down in flames after they were held to a 1-1 draw with strugglers Mt Druitt Town Rangers at Popondetta Park on Saturday.
Olympic wasted chance after chance, none more than when Jason Madonis missed a penalty in the 28th minute as the visitors were forced to fight back after going behind the home side in only the third minute.
It was a frustrating night for the visitors who needed a win to remain a chance of claiming an incredible premiership victory, but instead, they were unable to get the job done and will now turn their attention to making amends when the finals series kicks off next week.
Mt Druitt made a rapid start to the contest with Jack Stewart finding the back of the net in only the third minute to give the home side a surprise 1-0 lead.
The goal was a wake-up call for Olympic and the soon found their way again with Charles Lokolingoy who scored an equaliser in the 14th minute with a driven shot from the edge of the penalty area.
Olympic thought they were on their way to a win in the 28th minute after being awarded a penalty.
However, Jason Madonis failed to read the script with his attempt at a cheeky panenka penalty hitting the crossbar before being cleared away by Mt Druitt.
The game became bogged in midfield with neither side able to fashion any decent opportunities on goal as the match went into the break locked at 1-1.
Olympic was desperate to strike early in the second half but they struggled to break down a stingy Rangers defence.
Oliver Pufflett had an effort cleared off the line by the home side as the pressure to score began to take its toll on the visitors.
Peter Kekeris had one final chance for Olympic in the 90th minute but sent his free-kick agonisingly wide of the post.
The result meant Sydney Olympic had to settle for fourth place on the ladder and sets up a clash with Rockdale Ilinden FC in the first week of the finals.
Wollongong Wolves 5 (Beattie 4′,48′,77′, Bingham 64′, 86) – Manly United 2 (Balderson 22′, Pandurevic 52′) at Albert Butler Memorial Park.
Wollongong Wolves have fallen narrowly short of defending their Premiership title despite a thrilling 5-2 win against Manly United at Albert Butler Memorial Park on Sunday.
Wollongong finished the season level on points with 2020 premiership winners Rockdale Ilinden FC but their inferior goal difference meant the trophy did not come to the South Coast for the second straight year.
The Wolves meant business from the opening whistle and took the lead after only four minutes when Takeru Okada set up Marcus Beattie to finish from close range.
Manly threw a spanner into the plans of the home side on the 22-minute mark as Scott Balderson hit the back of the net to level the score at 1-1.
The visitors were offering plenty of resistance and were not going to give the game to Wollongong without a fight.
Scores remained locked at the break but it didn’t take long for Wollongong to take the lead once again.
Beattie tapped home from close range from a corner kick in the 48th minute after he was left unmarked at the back post.
But again, Manly refused to back down and hit back only moments later after a comical slip up from Wollongong Wolves defender Nicholas Littler to make it 2-2.
Unmarked and seemingly no under any pressure, Littler fell over when receiving a pass with Manly striker Richie Cardozo pouncing on the loose ball to tee-up Dejan Pandurevic for one of the easiest goals he will score at this level.
The goal didn’t slow Wollongong down and Josh Bingham hit back in the 66th minute to send the home team ahead 3-2.
The Wolves found their momentum and struck again through Beattie for his hat-trick in the 77th minute to stretch their lead to 4-2, before Bingham notched his second from the penalty spot to make it 5-2.
Wollongong, knowing they needed another goal to even the goal difference gap, pushed for a sixth in the dying moments but it wasn’t to be.
Wollongong will now turn their attention to securing a spot in the Grand Final when they take on Sydney Olympic in a semi-final clash next weekend.
Rockdale Ilinden 2 (Gauthier 61′, Urosevski 75′) – North Shore Mariners 1 (Caspers 59′) at Ilinden Sports Centre
Rockdale Ilinden FC has ended their 51-year premiership drought after securing the title with a hard-fought 2-1 victory against North Shore Mariners at Ilinden Sports Centre.
Goals to Amaury Gauthier and fan favourite Alec Urosevski secured the historic win for the club after fighting back from 1-0 down early in the second stanza.
It was a battle in the middle of the park in the opening stages of the match with neither side creating any clear cut chances.
Rockdale pushed hard for an opener but a determined North Shore defence refused to give in.
Chances were few and far between in the first 45 minutes with the match deadlocked at 0-0 going into the interval.
The match came to life after the break when the Mariners took advantage of Rockdale’s attacking push with a stinging counter-attack in the 59th minute to snatch a shock lead.
With the home side sending extra troops up for a corner kick, North Shore cleared the ball before transitioning perfectly into attack with Williams hitting Eddie Caspers in space for the midfielder to score.
Rockdale hit back almost immediately with Amaury Gauthier punishing the Mariners defence to snare an equaliser in the 61st minute.
The game see-sawed back and forth with both sides giving their all determined to take the lead.
With the home support behind them, it was Rockdale who broke through with talismanic attacker Alec Urosevski finding the back of the net with a clinical finish to give the home side a 2-1 lead after 75 minutes.
The goal sent the Ilinden faithful into raptures and it was the vocal home support which helped Rockdale hold on until the final whistle and to claim premiership honours.