APIA Leichhardt’s new recruit Peter Kekeris made an instant impact for his new club playing provider to skipper Sean Symons who scored the only goal of the match in the Inner West side’s 1-0 extra time victory against Northbridge Bulls at Sydney United Sports Centre on Saturday.
A Sean Symons goal deep into added time thanks to some magic lead up play by former Sydney Olympic star Kekeris helped the visitors secure victory only moments after they were reduced to ten men following the send-off of defender Josh Symons.
It was a third straight win for a resurgent APIA side who keep themselves in the playoff race with yet another three competition points with the club building momentum ever since Paul Dee took over the reins.
It was a cagey start to the contest from both sides with Northbridge controlling the tempo.
A free-kick on the edge of the 18-yard box after 18 minutes was APIA’s first real chance of the game. Sean Symons driven effort was smothered by Ryan Wood in the Bulls goal.
Wood was forced into making another crucial save only seconds later as he dived to his left to parry Sam McIllhatton’s volley.
A rapid Northbridge counter-attack nearly gave the home side a breakthrough but Eddie Caspers shot was cleared off the line by Will Mutch.
APIA turned defence into attack only a few plays later as Blake Powell forced an acrobatic diving save from Wood with a powerful volley of Mutch’s sublime cross from the right flank.
The game was being played at a breakneck pace with both sides throwing everything forward for an opening goal.
Sean Symons had a chance in the dying stages of the half but again was denied by Wood to ensure the game remained scoreless at the interval.
APIA raced out of the blocks after the restart with Powell forcing two big saves from Wood only 90 seconds into the second-half.
Wood wasn’t the only shot-stopper keeping his side in the game as Ivan Necevski denied Bulls marksman Milislav Popovic, tipping the striker’s shot on to the crossbar with an incredible one-on-one save.
A marauding run by Corey Biczo on the right flank had Northbridge on the back foot, but his driven ball into the box was cleared by a brilliant diving header from Theph Theph.
Biczo was at it again soon after and had his shot from the byline denied by the quick reactions of Wood.
APIA spurned a brilliant chance in the 84th minute when Harry Callahan fired wide after finding space on the edge of the penalty area during a blistering counter-attack
With the match in its final stages, Northbridge made one final push but Lachlan Sepping’s shot fired over the bar.
Sepping wasted another key opportunity moments later firing high again, this time from a free-kick 20 yards out.
APIA was reduced to ten men in the 91st minute when Josh Symons received his second yellow of the night, setting up a nervy end to the match for the visitors.
However, the match had one final twist with Sean Symons on hand to score a thrilling late winner deep in added time after a slaloming run and cross from Kekeris.
APIA Leichhardt boss Paul Dee was jubilant after the match praising his side’s determination and fighting spirit.
“It’s always a good feeling when you snatch a win in injury time,” he said.
“Tonight the team didn’t give up and against a very good Northbridge side found a way to win when the pressure was on.”
Dee had special praise for new recruit Kekeris.
“Peter, has come in and created the match-winner after only signing with the club this week and with only one training session with the squad under his belt,” Dee said.
“I told him to go out there and express himself which is exactly what he has done. He is a brilliant addition to the squad and tonight goes to show the sort of things he is capable of.”
Northbridge Bulls boss Mile Sterjovski rued another frustrating result for his young bulls side.
“I thought the team played very well tonight and felt we should’ve taken much more from the match.
“It is heartbreaking to lose the game in injury time but I am still very proud of the performance from the boys.”
Northbridge Bulls: 0
APIA Leichhardt: 1 (S Symons 93′)
Saturday, May 1 2021
Sydney United Sports Centre, Edensor Park
Referee: S Kelly
Assistant Referees: A Allum, M Staples
Fourth Official: M Ebrahimi
Northbridge Bulls: 1. Ryan Wood, 2. Jack McLoughlin, 3. Theph Theph, 5. Keanu Ismic, 6. Lachlan Sepping, 7. Stephen De Robilliard (9. Diego Bonilla), 10. Rory Jordan, 15. Edward Caspers, 16. Jake Jovanovski (25. Frederick Lawrence), 17. Yianni Nicolaou (30. Oliver Jones), 23. Milislav Popovic (12. Brodie Clarkson)
Substitutes not used: 39. Charlie Ragg, 40. Griffin Barry
Yellow Cards: Jovanovski 58′
APIA Leichhardt: 1. Ivan Necevski, 2. William Mutch, 3. Paul Galimi (15. Themba Muata-Marlow), 4. Josh Symons, 8. Corey Biczo, 9. Blake Powell (19. Peter Kekeris), 10. Franco Parisi (6. Harry Callahan), 11. Mathieu Cordier, 16. Sean Symons, 18. Adrian Ucchino (21 Michael Kouta), 20. Sam McIllhatton
Substitutes: 22. Luke Turnbull, 36. Vincent Fedele
Yellow Cards: J. Symons 25, 90′, Powell 28′, Cordier 29′, Callahan 75′
Red Cards: J Symons 91.
3 – Paul Galimi (APIA)
2 – Ryan Wood (NB)
1- Sean Symons (APIA)