The National Premier Leagues NSW Men’s returned in style on Friday night as a spectacular header from Manly United’s new recruit Seiya Kambayashi broke Mount Druitt Town Ranger’s resolve to seal a 1-1 draw deep into stoppage time at Cromer Park.
Sydney’s Northern Beaches played host to the competition’s opening fixture which kicked off in frenetic fashion, as both sides traded blows early on.
The headline moment of the first half arose after less than 15 minutes as Mount Druitt’s high profile signing Tarek Elrich required treatment for an injury and was forced to be substituted.
The home side created the bulk of the opportunities in the opening stanza, with fresh additions Jack Fulton and Ben Koop causing plenty of headaches for the Rangers backline.
Koop’s best chance arrived after 37 minutes as he broke in behind and was denied by a strong stop from Mount Druitt skipper Carlos Saliadarre.
The second half kicked off in a similarly entertaining manner to the first, except this time, the visitors broke the deadlock ten minutes in.
Young striker John Roberts eventually buried the opening goal of the 2021 season after his fierce header crashed off the crossbar and the following deflection crept over the line amidst a crowd of desperate Manly defenders.
Thompson so nearly doubled their lead moments later, but his stunning free-kick deflected off the woodwork to safety.
The match then settled into a familiar cycle as Mount Druitt sat back and clung to their precious lead.
Manly saw wave after wave of attack staved off by a stubborn back five and were beginning to sense that it may not be their day.
That was until an unlikely goal scorer stood up.
Japanese fullback Seiya Kambayashi, formerly of Bulli FC in the Illawarra Premier League, advanced up the pitch and found himself on the end of a Pandurevic cross with an outstanding header that sent the home crowd into delirium.
Manly then pushed hard for the most unlikely of winners as the match entered the seventh minute of stoppage time, but eventually, the final whistle blew and both clubs were forced to settle for a share of the spoils.
Post-game, Rangers skipper Saliadarre extracted the positives out of what he believes to be a decent result in the long run.
“Yeah it was tough to take but we’ll still take the point away from home,” he said.
“It’s tough to come so close and not be able to hold but it was a great goal – full credit to him (Kambayashi) for a great header.
“We’ve worked on a few things over the last few weeks and we set a goal to keep a clean sheet, and I guess for 90 minutes we did.
“We just got stung in the end there so there’s definitely a lot of positives to build on.”
Despite the late goal, Manly coach Adam Griffiths feels his side could easily have taken more out of the game.
“It was good that we got the goal, but I feel that we deserved to get a few more goals,” he said.
“I think we dominated the game, we played very good football, we had some good combinations but just in the box we didn’t have the composure to finish.
“I think once we get that we will be a dangerous team. The result was the result, but I feel we deserved a lot more from that game.
“Seiya (Kambayashi) is clever, has got good speed and he’s a nice player. It’s a joy to have him in the team.”
In round two action, Mount Druitt host APIA Leichhardt next Saturday Manly United make the long trip to face Wollongong Wolves at WIN Stadium on Sunday a match which will act as a curtain raiser to the A-League clash between the Wellington Phoenix v Perth Glory.
Manly United FC: 1 (Kambayashi 92’)
Mt Druitt Town Rangers: 1 (Roberts 55’)
Friday, 26 February 2021
Cromer Park, Dee Why
Referee: Toby Plasto
Assistant Referees: Patrick Teleki, Joon Park
Fourth official: Ivica Covic
Manly United FC: 19. Sam Benton, 2. Kieren Paull, 15. Jesse Piriz, 20. Alen Aganovic, 16. Seiya Kambayashi, 5. Sam Gallagher (C), 24. Finn Ashton (23. Jordan Devries 70’), 9. Ben Koop (13. Scott Balderson 64’), 10. Richie Cardozo (12. Luca Kmet 64’), 7. Jack Fulton, 14.Dejan Pandurevic
Substitutes not used: 18. Lucas Rainbird, 11. Daniel Fabrizio, 25. Harry Aquilina
Yellow cards: Paull 93’
Red cards: Nil
Mount Druitt Town Rangers: 1. Carlos Saliadarre, 17. Cooper Coskerie, 21. Tarek Elrich (Fumoto Kamada 13’), 18. Jared Macerola, 2. Solomon-John Monahan-Vaiika (Robert Fanella 80’), 19. Travis Oughtred, 8. Jason Perez, 9. John Roberts (10. Takumu Tsujimura 68’), 4. Mitchell Smith, 6. Blake Thompson, 33. Marc Warren
Substitutes not used: 32. Paulo Bonani, 26. Olayinka Sunmola
Yellow cards: Nil
Red cards: Nil
3 – Seiya Kambayashi (MU)
2 – John Roberts (MDTR)
1 – Blake Thompson (MDTR)
– By Football NSW reporter and commentator Chris Curulli (Twitter handle @ChrisCurulli)