Sydney United 58 triumphed over an NPL NSW Men’s finals-bound APIA Leichhardt with a 3-1 win at Lambert Park on Sunday afternoon.
APIA Leichhardt got off to the perfect start when star defender Themba Muata-Marlow nodded home in the 15th minute, but were unable to hold their lead as Jordan Roberts equalised with a wonderful strike, before Japanese ace Taisei Kaneko and substitute Christopher Payne completed the scoring.
Despite the loss, APIA Leichhardt did lock down fifth spot and will play finals next week against Marconi Stallions in a repeat of the Italian Derby from Round 21..
For Sydney United 58, it is a good way to end what has been a tough season for the proud club.
Chasing to confirm their spot in the top five, APIA Leichhardt started off the game brightly with an early chance to Diego Celis, which was pushed wide by Sydney United 58 keeper Danijel Nizic.
The hosts got reward for their strong start in the 15th minute.
A set piece was swung in well to find the head of Thema Muata-Marlow who nicked it off the post and in to make it 1-0 for APIA Leichhardt.
Yianni Nicolaou looked to double the delight for APIA Leichhardt with his cushioned cross that found Jack Armson in the air but was denied once again by Nizic.
Sydney United 58 were out to play spoiler on Sunday afternoon and equalised in impressive fashion.
The ball fell to the feet of Jordan Roberts who curled home for 1-1.
The visitors started to find their rhythm in the game and went close again through Patrick Antelmi as the striker created enough space to curve an effort wide of goal.
Armson had the final chance of the half for APIA Leichhardt, striding forward to find space before he flew wide of the goal frame as the game headed to the break locked up.
Coming out of the break, APIA Leichhardt had the first chance with a corner finding the head of Muata-Marlow again who nodded over then collided with a teammate.
United 58 rung the changes at the break to get themselves going again. It was one of those substitutes, Anthony Tomelic, who put his header over the bar.
APIA Leichhardt went close again through their own substitute a Sean Symons found space on the left side of the box before he thrashed wide.
The game started to open up as both teams searched for the winner.
Taisei Kaneko was free inside the box from a Roberts pass and tested APIA ‘keeper Ivan Necevski.
Kaneko once again the danger man for Sydney United 58. He twisted and turned inside the box before he fired a low shot right into the hands of Necevski.
Entering the final 10 minutes both teams pushed forward for the goal.
Jason Romero cut inside twice before he curled one right at Nizic.
Sydney United 58 turned the tables and took the lead in the 84th minute. Kaneko, who had been their best on the afternoon, smashed home from the angle to make it 2-1.
The visitors were in party mode in the 88th minute as substitute Christopher Payne finished off the cutback to make it 3-1 for Sydney United 58.
Post match APIA Leichardt coach Danial Cummins was frank in his assessment of his team after the defeat and looking forward to next week.
“That was terrible, one of our worst performances of the season,” he said.
“We’re in the semis so it’s a new competition that starts next week.
“We can’t play any worse than that with a tough game against Marconi.
“I thought we gave the ball away too much and too many silly fouls.
“That isn’t our usual go so now we get the boys ready for the do-or-die clash against the Stallions.”
For Sydney United 58 coach Miro Vlastelica, he was delighted to get through the contest without any drama and pick up a win before their huge cup games in the next few weeks.
“It’s always good to finish the season off with a win,” he said.
“The positive for us is taking that momentum into our Australia Cup match on Wednesday and Waratah Cup clash on Sunday.
“Today was about getting no injuries or send offs hence the rotation for us.
“It was never easy, APIA is a quality side so good luck to them.
“It is brilliant for [Taisei] Kaneko to get a reward for his effort with a goal tonight which is wonderful for us.”
APIA Leichhardt 1 (Muata-Marlow ‘13)
Sydney United 58 3 (Roberts ‘21, Kaneko ‘84, Payne ‘88)
Sunday 31st July 2022
Lambert Park, Marion
Referee: Stephen Lucas
Assistant Referees: Matt Staples & Michael Limnios
Fourth Official: Mujtaba Ebrahimi
APIA Leichhardt: 1. Ivan Necevski, 3. Paul Galimi (7. Matthew Cahill ‘76), 4. Joshua Symons, 5. Nicholas Azzone (16. Sean Symons ‘57), 8. Diego Celis (10. Franco Parisi ‘80), 9. Jason Romero, 14. Jack Armson (19. Fabian Monge ‘76), 15. Thema Muata-Marlow, 18. Adrian Ucchino, 21. Michael Kouta, 38. Yianni Nicolaou
Substitutes Not Used: 22. Luke Turnbull, 23. Walter Scott
Yellow Cards: Celis ‘30
Red Cards: Nil
Sydney United 58: 1. Danijel Nizic, 2. Cristian Gonzalez 3. Jordan Roberts, 4. Adrian Vlastelica (5. Anthony Tomelic ‘45), 7. Taisei Kaneko, 8. Kyle Cimenti, 9. Patrick Antelmi (6. Christopher Payne ‘45), 11. Yianni Perkatis (18. Glen Trifiro ‘60), 14. Andreas Agamemnonos, 15. Tariq Maia (17. Matthew Bilic ‘64), 16. Jacob Poscoliero (21. Yianni Fragogiannis ‘45)
Substitutes Not Used: 69. James Husoy
Yellow Cards: Poscoliero ‘24
Red Cards: nil
By National Premier Leagues NSW Men’s reporter Justin Davies (@JustDavies90)