A clinical Manly United performance secured Adam Griffiths’ troops a vital three points in the race for finals football with a 3-0 victory over a wasteful Rockdale Illinden at Cromer Park on Friday night.
Despite Rockdale enjoying their fair share of dominance, the home side established a two-goal buffer at the break thanks to a Dejan Pandurevic penalty and well-struck Luca Kmet effort, before putting the result beyond doubt late on through fullback Kieren Paull.
In a frenetic opening 15 minutes, there was goalmouth action at both ends.
The first sight on goal arrived for Steve Zoric’s men, as the Manly defence backed off Tomoki Wada, allowing him to curl a strike wide of the mark.
But despite Rockdale appearing the more likely early on, they would find themselves behind after 13 minutes after speedster Ben Gibson latched onto a through ball in the area and was brought to ground by David Bradasevic.
Manly’s top scorer Pandurevic took on penalty duties and snuck his spot-kick under the outstretched Rockdale shot-stopper, registering his third goal in as many games and granting the home side an early advantage.
Rockdale nearly found a quick-fire equaliser as Sam Gulisano fired a dangerous effort narrowly over the bar. Then less than four minutes after Manly found their first, they struck their second in spectacular fashion.
A corner was cleared directly into the path of Luca Kmet, who from the edge of the area, powered home his first goal of the season into the top corner.
Despite falling behind, the chances continued to stack up for Rockdale and if it were not for the heroics of Sam Benton on the half-time mark, Manly’s lead would have been halved as Gulisano’s well-struck free kick was impressively kept out.
The second half commenced like the first: with Rockdale on the offensive as Michael Neill and Patrick Savor steered efforts wide.
On the hour mark, Pandurevic nearly found his second of the evening as he glanced a header wide by the narrowest of margins.
In the 62nd and 65th minutes, Benton stood tall again with a pair of stunning stops.
The first was a strong palm to deny Jordan Figon at the front post, before moments later he diverted Alec Urosevski’s shot that was destined for the bottom corner.
Bai Antoniou then blazed a 69th minute strike over the bar and is beginning to look as though it would not be Rockdale’s night.
Adam Griffiths’ outfit had late chances to put the game to bed through substitute Sam Gallagher and Kmet, but they would not be made to pay as Rockdale were left to rue their wastefulness in front of goal.
Then to add further insight to the away side, Manly strung together a well-orchestrated attack which resulted in fullback Kieren Paull cooly slotting home their third inside the final ten minutes.
The result helped Manly into fourth and within one point of their opponents, who were kept scoreless in consecutive games and suffered back-to-back defeats for the first time this season.
The loss of Kyle Cimenti to the A-League with Macarthur FC has seen the Ilinden strike-force lose its spark slightly but the 2020 Premiers are hoping that better things will come following this tough loss at the Northern Beaches.
Post-game, goalscorer Dejan Pandurevic was pleased with how his side pulled off an important victory.
“We came out from the very first minute, executed the game plan,” he said.
“We got our goals early and kept pressure on them for the whole game. That’s exactly what we’ve been working on the last few weeks, we’ve been doing very well against team but just slipping up in one or two moments.
“But we executed everything perfectly tonight.”
On the other hand, Steve Zoric spoke in detail with his squad post-game in an attempt to re-instil their confidence moving forward.
“There’s a trend happening where we’re conceding early,” he said.
“We’re not scoring, it’s pretty much for the first time in the two years we haven’t scored a goal for two games in a row.
“We’re struggling to put our chances away now after banging them in for fun before, and we were keeping clean sheets for a long period of time.
“We’ve got a lot to work on, now we’re locked in a top three battle – we’ve let other teams into the race so now we have a lot of hard work to get us through.”
Manly United FC: 3 (Pandurevic 13’, Kmet 16’, Paull 82’)
Rockdale Illinden: 0
Friday, 4 June 2021
Cromer Park, Dee Why
Referee: Katie Patterson
Assistant Referees: H. Fenton-White, L. Jones
Fourth official: I. Covic
Manly United FC: 19. Sam Benton, 2. Kieren Paull, 15. Jesse Piriz, 4. Jimmy Oates, 16. Seiya Kambayashi, 3. James Georgaklis, 24. Finn Ashton (5. Sam Gallagher 68’), 12. Luca Kmet (13. Scott Balderson 86’), 10. Richie Cardozo (23. Jordan Devries 63’), 14. Dejan Pandurevic, 31. Ben Gibson (7. Jack Fulton 86’)
Substitutes not used: 1. Jacob Madden, 18. Lucas Rainbird
Yellow cards: Ashton 56’
Red cards: Nil
Rockdale Ilinden: 1. David Bradasevic, 3. Michael Neill, 5. Banri Kanaizumi, 6. Daniel Araujo, 7. Alec Urosevski, 8. Tomoki Wada, 9. Bai Antoniou (16. Mohamed Ahmed 71’), 11. Samuel Gulisano (80’ 13. Zac Sfiligoi), 23. Jordan Figon (10. Amaury Gauthier 66’), 14. Brayden Sorge, 19. Patrick Savor
Substitutes not used: 22. Enrol Ordonez Suarez, 45. James Nikolovski
Yellow cards: Gulisano 59’
Red cards: Nil
– By Football NSW reporter and commentator Chris Curulli (Twitter handle @ChrisCurulli)