A Dejan Pandurevic double has helped Manly United secure a valuable 2-1 win against APIA Leichhardt in an action packed NPL NSW Men’s Round 5 match-up at Lambert Park on Saturday.
It was a difficult start to new coach Paul Dee’s APIA tenure with Pandurevic’s brace ensuring the Leichhardt based outfit remain slumped to the foot of the table.
An 84th-minute strike from substitute Corey Biczo wasn’t enough to answer an early goal and second-half penalty from Manly, leaving APIA heading into Round 6 of the 2021 NPL New South Wales Men’s competition without a win.
Manly raced out of the blocks desperate to get a win over Dee who was a fixture in the Northern Beaches dugout for six seasons.
The first goal came only minutes into the match as a darting Seiya Kambayashi run found Luka Kmet who attacked the goal and drew out APIA’s veteran goalkeeper Ivan Necevski.
Kmet squared the ball off to Pandurevic, who tapped it into an open goal to finish.
The home side almost equalised immediately following a ferocious header from Paul Galimi off a corner that thundered across the crossbar with the ball flying back to Sean Symons who blasted it over the bar in the eighth minute.
Carbon copy of their opening chance, APIA again asserted their dominance off set-pieces when yet another corner was met by a Josh Symons header this time flying over the bar in the 27th minute.
APIA knew it just wouldn’t be their day as yet another quality corner delivered in the box smacked the back of Kmet with the ball just flying over the bar much to the delight of Manly keeper Sam Benton.
Both teams created a multitude of chances in what was a very physical first half of football but Manly entered the sheds with a one-goal lead at the half time break.
The home side were dealt a major blow at the commencement of the second stanza when Galimi was substituted after three minutes following a head knock he received early in the first half and was replaced by youngster Gian Fiorese.
Kmet looked poised to extend the lead for Manly in the 51st minute, with an impressive goal-scoring opportunity in prime position, however Necevski was in place to reject his shot.
Tynan Diaz had the perfect opportunity to equalise for the home side in the 61st minute after receiving the ball from Sean Symons, but his effort dribbled wide of the posts.
Manly lined up for a free-kick just outside the box in the 73rd minute, however a handball from APIA’s defensive wall resulted in a penalty.
Pandurevic sent Necevski in the wrong direction, sliding his penalty into the netting to double Manly’s lead.
APIA substitute Biczo got the home side onto the score sheet in the 84th minute, firing a huge strike past Samuel Benton.
The goal put some fire into the APIA squad as they mounted pressure in the final stages of the game in an effort to score an equaliser and salvage one point from the match.
Huge penalty claims were heard across the Inner West in the 94th minute when Sean Symons looked as though he was upended by Dom Ferguson but referee Christian Verdicchio waved play on.
Adrian Ucchino then sent a cracking strike on target just moments before the final whistle, however Benton pulled off an incredible save to secure the win for his side in what would be the final touch of the game.
Victorious Manly United Coach Adam Griffiths was pleased with his side’s efforts to secure three points from the match and kept his side rolling yet to taste defeat in the 2021 competition thanks to his composed structure at the Northern Beaches club.
“The first half we dominated ball possession and we had some really good moments and opened them up a bit,” he said.
“We’re showing that we’ve got a real fight within the team to make sure that we go on and win these games.”
APIA’s Assistant Coach Nick Stavroulakis, highlighted that there were promising aspects of the match that would improve as the team settles into a new style of play under coach Dee.
“For us it’s a work in progress,” he explained.
“Obviously Paul [Dee] has come in and from day one his instructions have been really clear so I think his model, towards the end of the match, was starting to come alive.
“The positives were there towards the end and I think that once we get going, I think we will be able to turn the tide.
“When you have games like this, you want the next game to come around quickly so we’re lucky we have one with a three-day turnaround on Wednesday evening in our round 4 catch-up against the Sutherland Sharks at home and I strongly believe we’ll be ready for it.
“I have faith that our players will be more prepped in terms of what Paul is driving at the moment.”
APIA Leichhardt 1 (Corey Biczo 84’)
Manly United 2 (Dejan Pandurevic 6’, 75’)
Saturday 27th March, 2021
Lambert Park, Leichhardt
Referee: C. Verdicchio
Assistant Referees: C. Wright and M. Staples
Fourth Official: H. Al-Nakeeb
APIA-Leichhardt: 1. Ivan Necevski, 2. William Mutch, 3. Paul Galimi (23. Gian Fiorese 48’), 4. Joshua Symons, 6. Harry Callahan, 7. Tynan Diaz (8. Corey Biczo 68’), 9. Blake Powell, 10. Franco Parisi (18. Adrian Ucchino 71’), 11. Matthieu Cordier, 16. Sean Symons, 20. Sam McIlhatton
Substitutes Not Used: 5. Nicholas Azzone, 22. Luke Turnbull, 21. Michael Kouta
Yellow Cards: Joshua Symons, Paul Galimi, Franco Parisi, Sam McIlhatton
Red Cards: Nil
Manly United: 2. Kieren Paull, 4. James Oates, 5. Sam Gallagher (8. Dom Ferguson), 9. Benjamin Koop (7. Jack Fulton 24’), 12. Luca Kmet (10. Richard Cardozo 66’), 14. Dejan Pandurevic, 15. Jesse Piriz, 16. Seiya Kambayashi, 19. Samuel Benton, 23. Jordan Devries (13. Scott Balderson 89’), 24. Ashton Finn
Substitutes Not Used: 1. Dylan Mitchell, 20. Alen Aganovic
Yellow Cards: Sam Gallagher, Dom Ferguson, Scott Balderson
Red Cards: Nil
3 – Dejan Pandurevic (MU)
2 – Kieren Paull (MU)
1 – William Mutch (APIA)
By National Premier Leagues NSW reporter Madeline Riley (@madelineriley23)