Manly United proved to the rest of the competition that they won’t be a pushover side as they fiercely battled for a point in their 1-1 draw against Rockdale Ilinden at the Ilinden Sports on what was a dark and dreary Sunday afternoon.
Manly United attacker Dejan Pandurevic was gifted the opening goal for Manly in the 34th minute after a decent spell of sustained pressure when his shot squirmed under the body of David Bradasevic.
The lead was short lived however when Kyle Cimenti thundered home to restore parity four minutes later – these stood as the only goals of what was an action packed match.
Given the tough conditions, it was a high octane and polished encounter and an almost perfect start for the hosts as Alec Urosevski hit the upright inside the opening minute after good build up play from Bai Antoniou down the right flank saw him link up with Brayden Sorge and Wada, as an in form Ilinden went straight about their task against a rapidly improving Manly United side.
Manly soon replied with a long ball over the top for Japanese star import Sieya Kambayashi to smash a volley that Bradasevic did well to hold onto in the greasy conditions in what was a lively opening fifteen minutes.
Both sides looked sharp despite the slippery conditions early on, but last week’s hero for Manly Daniel Fabrizio, succumbed to an early injury and was replaced by Luka Kmet who did his bit to keep the visitors in the match.
It was Manly who put the ball in the net after 34th minutes when Pandurevic fired toward the Rockdale net much to the disapproval of the home fans that braved the rainy conditions.
Cimenti then equalised almost immediately thanks to some great build up work from Urosevski in the 38th minute. It was his fourth of the 2021 campaign.
Urosevski almost put the home side in the lead soon after as he rounded Benton only to have his shot cleared off the line by three rushing Manly United defenders as Steve Zoric’s men continued to pile on the pressure.
Pandurevic once again came to life in the dying stages of the first-half as he fired another effort across the face of the goal after breaking down the right once more as Adam Griffiths’ squad could’ve really taken a 2-1 lead at the break.
Rockdale continued to go hard in the second half with a succession of crosses into the box however the Manly defence stood firm to beat away the danger on countless occasions although Antoniou came close with a header that slipped narrowly wide and Urosevski had Benton saving at full stretch to keep the ball away from Cimenti following in.
Manly weathered the storm and slowly began to exert their football on Ilinden as the minutes ticked as they created several half-chances, mainly with the ball over the top, to utilise their pacey attack, without working Bradasevic.
Mitchell Stamatellis worked Manly keeper Sam Benton from a clever Tomoki Wada free-kick midway through the second-half but the follow up was adjudged offside and the threat dissipated as, expectedly, the home side threw everything at the Northern Beaches side in the final quarter-hour.
Rockdale skipper Daniel Petkovski then thrashed a shot into the side netting once more on the counter and Banri Kanazumi headed narrowly wide from a free-kick as the home side went in search of the lead but were careful not to over commit and leave themselves exposed at the back.
Substitute Sam Gulisano brought the best out of Benton once more. The Manly custodian, who has made the number 1 jersey his replacing Dylan Mitchell, saved Gulisano’s swirling shot in style.
“As I said to the boys, it’s a bit upsetting we didn’t get all three points today,” said Ilinden coach Steve Zoric post match.
“I feel we deserved them with the amount of chances we created throughout the match and were the more aggressive but again we gave them a goal lead which was sloppy.
“We probably should have taken the lead on a couple of occasions before their goal, especially when Alec (Urosevski) hit the post early on but in saying that we were a little too cautious in defence at times in that opening twenty-minutes but as we started to go through the gears, we looked more likely.
“I can’t fault the effort today especially in these conditions, but I am disappointed we didn’t win this match at home but we’re still unbeaten and we go on to Blacktown next week.”
“It was a hard game to assess,” said Manly United coach Adam Griffiths.
“It was pretty ugly from our point of view and we weren’t as confident today as in other games and we invited pressure.
“I was disappointed with the goal we conceded but they opened us up, I felt we didn’t play at our best today against a very good Rockdale side.
“We’ll take the point but remain disappointed we didn’t win because we want to win all our games and we cannot use the conditions as an excuse.”
Rockdale Ilinden 1 (Cimenti 38’)
Manly United 1 (Pandurevic 34’)
Ilinden Sports Centre, Rockdale
Sunday, 21st March 2021
Referee: Matthew Riedy
Ast. Refs: Hugh Fenton-White & Amber Morris
4th Official: Aaron Bloch
Rockdale Ilinden: 1.David BRADASEVIC, 2.Daniel PETKOVSKI, 3.Michael NEILL (11.Nikola TANESKI 82’), 15.Mitchell STAMATELLIS, 5.Banri KANAZUMI, 7.Alec UROSEVSKI, 8.Tomaki WADA, 9.Bai ANTONIOU (18.Samual GULISANO 75’), 14.Brayden SORGE, 19.Patrick SAVOR, 23.Kyle CIMENTI (10.Amaury GAUTHIER 65’)
Subs not used: 13.Zac SFILIGOI, 22.Andrew DI BLASIO
Yellow Cards: Nil
Red Cards: Nil
Manly United: 19.Sam BENTON, 2.Kieren PAULL, 5.Sam GALLAGHER, 4.Jimmy OATES, 9.Ben KOOP (6.Joe FOX 78’), 10.Richie CARDOZO (13.Scott BALDERSON 55’), 11.Daniel FABRIZIO (12.Luca KMET 25’), 14.Dejan PANDUREVIC, 15.Jesse PIRIZ, 16.Seiya KAMBAYASHI, 24.Finn ASHTON (7.Jack FULTON 78”
Subs not used: 1.Dylan MITCHELL, 6.Joe FOX, 20.Alen AGANOVIC
Yellow Cards: Ashton 74’
Red Cards: Nil
Man of the Match
3 – Benton (MU)
2 – Savor (RI)
1 – Wada (RI)
-By Football NSW Reporter Micky Brock