APIA Leichhardt picked up a vital three points as it asserted itself into the top five of the NPL NSW Men’s competition with a 2-0 win against Sutherland Sharks at Seymour Shaw Park on Saturday.
The Sharks failed to back up their rock-solid performance against Sydney United 58 back on their home ground this afternoon conceding late goals to Harry Callahan and Peter Kekeris which rounded up a good week for the Inner West club.
The Sharks best chances came through from the set piece through Brendan Hooper in the second half but they paid they price for two late defensive lapses as APIA secured all three competition points.
For the visitors, a 120 minute FFA Cup Round 7 clash that saw them book a ticket into this year’s Round of 32 played a huge toll in their starting line-up as the likes of skipper Sean Symons, Themba Muata-Marlow, Paul Galimi, David D’Apuzzo out injured as well as the one match suspension to Josh Symons all but rocked the camp. It didn’t deter the troops that went onto the pitch at Seymour as they too had a point to prove to coach Paul Dee.
In a contest between two highly committed sides, the first half was a scrappy affair. Both midfields tried to took hold but were unable to fashion many clear-cut chances. Former Shark Blake Powell was the brightest with a dart on the left in the opening minutes.
APIA Leichhardt had the first real chance of the half when Callahan had his shot blocked into the path of striker Powell who wasn’t able to fashion anything from the chance as the game searched for an opening.
James Andrew has been the vocal point for Sutherland Sharks attack this year and he tried to weave through the APIA defense. Andrew burst into the box but got away a tame shot which was gobbled up by APIA custodian Ivan Necevski.
Powell kept being the main outlet for APIA this afternoon. A delightful ball from APIA captain Adrian Ucchino looped into the path of the striker who forced Sharks keeper Anthony Bouzanis into his first action of the game.
Both sides were fighting tooth and nail for the opener but the game headed to the break locked at 0-0.
Coming out of the break, APIA Leichhardt started to feel just fine. They were the brighter side since the resumption with another chance falling to Powell. He cut through the Sharks defense but his shot was well handled.
Set pieces looked to be the route to a goal for someone to break open the contest. A flighted ball from the left found the head of Sharks defender Hooper who nodded wide to the groans of the faithful at the ground.
APIA put together the best movement of the contest and almost went ahead. The ball on the right from William Mutch was put directly onto the head of Powell. He tried to crane the ball into the net but it flashed wide of the right post.
Once again Mutch provided the perfect delivery to put APIA Leichhardt in the lead. He put the ball onto the head of Callahan, a former Sharks junior, who thumped his header home to make it 1-nil for the visitors.
Quickly it was double delight for APIA Leichhardt which sealed the three points. They broke quickly and the ball fell to the feet of the dangerous Peter Kekeris. The lively attacking midfielder thrashed the ball into the bottom corner of the net for 2-nil. It was a well deserved goal for Kekeris who has been a huge buy for the club after making the switch from Sydney Olympic mid-season.
The Sharks continued to push forward to find a late consolation goal. The best chance fell to Jonathan Grozdanovski in injury time but he blazed over. APIA Leichhardt took home a well-deserved three points.
Sutherland Sharks FC coach Nick Dimovski credited his side for a solid 75-minute performance before they fell asleep and concede twice which sent them back to the drawing board,
“I think we were good for 75 minutes. We switched off and had some defensive lapses which were punished by APIA,” Dimovski said.
“We shot ourselves in the foot and were our own worst enemies but now it back to the drawing board for next week.”
While for coach Paul Dee, he proclaimed this was one of his proudest moments as an APIA coach as his side took on the heavy schedule and depleted player stocks and came away with the three points
“It’s the proudest I’ve been of our performances,” Dee said.
“We played Sunday then Wednesday in the FFA Cup and a heavily depleted side came out and won.
“It was an even first half after assessing the boys that played during midweek but we knew we had plenty left in the tank.
“In the second half, we ran all over them and took the points.”
Sutherland Sharks FC 0
APIA Leichhardt 2 (Callahan ‘83, Kekeris ‘84)
Saturday 5 June 2021
Seymour Shaw, Miranda
Referee: T. Plasto
Assistant Referees: S. Andrews & P. Teleki
Fourth Official: M. Limnios
Sutherland Sharks: 1. BOUZANIS Anthony, 3. CONTIGIANI Gabriel, 4. HOOPER Brendan, 6. O’SHEA Patrick, 8. GREEN Oliver, 9. COX Jeremy (21. SAUER ‘90+5), 10. EVERETT Lachlan (99. GROZDANOVSKI ‘78), 13. JONES Charlie (7. SIMONOSKI ‘62), 17. ANDREW James, 22. SCIBILIO Patrick, 88. MCSTAY Christopher
Substitutes not used: 16. ROEBUCK Gerard, 23. WILEY Jarrad
Yellow cards: Jones, Green, Everett, Scibilio
Red cards: nil
APIA Leichhardt: 1. NEVESKI Ivan, 2. MUTCH William, 6. CALLAHAN Harry (10. PARISI ‘86), 7. DIAZ Tynan, 8. BICZO Corey (27. GAMEIRO ‘86), 9. POWELL Blake (26. FEDELE ‘90+3), 11. CORDIER Mattieu, 18. UCCHINO Adrian, 19. KEKERIS Peter (23. FLORESE ‘90+4), 20. MCILLHATTON Sam, 21. KOUTA Michael
Unused subs: 5. AZZONE Nicholas, 22. TURNBULL Luke
Yellow cards: Cordier, Ucchino
Red cards: nil
By National Premier Leagues reporter Justin Davies (@JustDavies90)