Manly United have kept its Finals Series hopes alive and kicking thanks to a 94th minute equaliser via experienced campaigner Scott Balderson as Adam Griffiths’ side secured a point in its dramatic 2-2 draw against a resilient Sydney FC outfit at the Ilinden Sports Centre to close off round 17 of the NPL NSW Men’s competition.
Manly United, a side flying high in third position on the ladder, were hoping for three wins in a row but were thwarted by Sydney FC in an exciting 2-2 draw.
The first real shot in anger arrived in the 26th minute after both sides knocked the ball around from side-to-side but without any real penetration. It was Finn Ashton who found Richie Cardozo in the box but he fluffed his lines and the ball went wide.
Sydney FC replied almost immediately when a poor clearance by goalkeeper Jacob Madden was intercepted by Jake Girdwood-Reich who beautifully fed the ball to Adrian Segecic, but his powerful shot was then well saved by goalkeeper Madden who atoned for his action. Madden made his first official start for Manly United after coming on for Sam Benton who went off injured last week.
In the 30th minute Luca Kmet shot powerfully for the visitors, but the ball was deflected, and a corner followed.
After surviving that close call at their own end, it was Sydney FC that took the lead a minute later.
The ball moved up field and a shot from the left by Clayton Taylor towards goal was deflected straight into the path of Corey Hollman who, from close range and unmarked, slotted the ball home.
The home side almost made two shortly afterwards in the 37th minute when a long drifting ball from the left reached Cameron Fong on the right, but he shot straight at the visiting ‘keeper when really he should have done a lot better with his chance.
Just prior to the break, Manly United almost equalised when Kmet showed some dazzling skill on the edge of the box before firing straight at keeper Levi Kaye.
The second half started at a lively pace with both teams playing some exciting attacking football and it was only a matter of time before a successful breakthrough would arrive.
And that breakthrough belonged to Sydney FC in the 54th minute when a true thunderbolt from over 25 metres by Girdwood-Reich was driven with such vigour that it was never going to miss the intended target of the back of the net from the moment it left his boot. A goal that will almost certainly enter the end of season highlights reel, Girdwood-Reich proved to be one tricky customers as Manly failed to handle the talented youngster.
Manly United struck back though with a goal to experienced marksman Dejan Pandurevic in the 61st minute. A corner seemed to avoid all and sundry except the captain of the visitors who met the ball with a diving header from close range to score.
In the 68th minute a volley from outside the box by Dom Ferguson for the visitors brought out a world-class save from Levi Kaye who somehow miraculously turned the ball around the post for a corner with an outstretched hand. It could have been 2-2 there and then.
In the 78th minute Ferguson was again dangerous for the visitors when he drilled a loose ball towards goal, only to see Kaye once again rise to the occasion and make a great save.
Well into stoppage time though Manly United did equalise. A Kieren Paull shot somehow was cleared off the line and deflected for a corner. From the ensuing corner a spectacular volley by Balderson equalised the ledger for the visitors.
After the game Sydney FC coach Jim Van Weeren was unhappy to have been thwarted two weeks in arrow well into stoppage time as his young Sky Blues failed to capitalise on the three points.
“It’s just not good enough to be honest.
“At 2-1 up we need to be able to see that game out.
“We can say it every week that it is learning moments but at some stage we do need to learn. It’s about the fifth or sixth time this year that we have thrown maximum points away.”
His counterpart Adam Griffiths was pleased that side fought back from a 0-2 deficit.
“Sydney FC are very good in transition, and we played into their hands initially,” he said. “We had a really strong week with the FFA Cup in the middle and the type of work rate that I expect from my team is quite high, so we made some changes at halftime to get some more energy back into the team.
“We kept pushing for a result.
“We were never defeated in that game because we kept the pressure up and we put our players in a position to score.”
Sydney FC 2 (Hollman 31’, Girdwood-Reich 54’)
Manly United 2 (Pandurevic 61’, Balderson 94’)
Sunday 20th June 2021
Illinden Sports Centre, Rockdale
Referee: Michael Weiner
Assistant Referees: A. Giev and M. Allum
Fourth Official: L. Jones
SYDNEY FC: 1.Levi Kaye, 2.Cameron Fong, 3.Aaron Gurd, 5.Thomas Fay, 11.Adrian Segecic (7.Aidan Simmons 84’), 12.Jake Girdwood-Reich, 13.Clayton Taylor (10.Jaiden Kucharski 62’), 17.Jayden Trenkoski (32.Kai Kamikura 46’), 18.Oscar Priestman (8.Patrick Yazbek 62’), 19.Joseph Calusic, 33.Corey Hollman.
Substitutes not used: 60.Max Vartuli.
Yellow Cards: Trenkoski 41’, Hollman 93’
Red Card: Nil
MANLY UNITED FC: 1.Jacob Madden, 2.Kieren Paull, 3.James Georgaklis (5.Sam Gallagher 46’), 10.Richie Cardozo (8.Dave Ferguson 61’), 12.Luca Kmet (13.Scott Balderson), 14.Dejan Pandurevic, 15.Jesse Piriz, 16.Seiya Kambayashi, 18.Lucas Rainbird, 24.Finn Ashton (9.Benjamin Koop), 31.Ben Gibson (7.Jack Fulton 84’).
Substitutes not used: 25.Harry Aquilina
Yellow Cards: Trenkoski 41’ Hollman 93’
Red Card: Nil
By National Premier Leagues NSW Men’s reporter Joe Russo