After an exhilarating 90 minutes at Cromer Park on Sunday afternoon, Manly United FC have fallen devastatingly short of clinching the National Premier Leagues NSW Men’s Premiership after a 3-1 Victory over Rockdale Ilinden FC.
It was all on the line in the final round of action as Manly United welcomed Rockdale Ilinden to Cromer Park.
For the home side, a big win would need to be complimented by a result falling their way at Belmore Sportsground if they were to claim the Premiership.
Similarly for Rockdale, they would require a draw or win and results going their way elsewhere if they were to reach the finals.
As such, we were expecting an explosive contest with both sides going for it, and that’s what we got early on from Manly United.
Finding his way into the box in the 2nd minute, Bruno Mendes rounded Rockdale custodian David Bradasevic, however, amongst a crowd of bodies, was unable to lay the ball off to a teammate resulting in the Rockdale defence clearing the ball.
Off the back of this, Manly continued to press, creating a number of half chances, however, in the 10th minute they created a clear-cut opportunity down the right hand side through Kristian Santich.
The midfielder’s move ended with a lofted cross from the by line that found Mendes again although his header was blazed over the crossbar from close range.
After a quiet period from both sides, Mendes came close to a spectacular opener in the 24th minute. Being found again by Santich in the box, Mendes quickly pirouetted in the area and released a goal-bound strike.
Unfortunately for the Manly faithful, the ball was headed clear from three yards out by Rockdale defender, Brayden Sorge.
Manly finally found their deserved breakthrough in the 30th minute.
Coming via Thomas Fay, the midfielder found himself in space on the edge of the area after receiving a creative back heel pass from Seiya Kambayashi.
Setting himself, the midfielder fired off a thunderous strike that rose into the roof of the net.
After going behind, Rockdale began to find their feet in the contest, and created their first big chance in the 38th minute.
A slick move down the right resulted in a cut back cross finding the clinical Alec Urosevksi, although his goal bound effort was blocked metres from the line by James Oates.
Heading to the break, Sydney Olympic’s 1-0 lead over Blacktown City meant Manly would require two more goals in the second half if they were to take out the Premiership.
Despite both sides needing to find the back of the net, the second 45 began slowly with neither side managing to create any real opportunities.
With thirty minutes left on the clock, word had travelled of Sydney Olympic’s second goal against Blacktown, meaning Manly would now need three more goals to claim the Premiership.
From this, Manly began to press forward in search of more, however the Rockdale defence was proving difficult to break down, offering the hosts little in the final third.
For Rockdale, they forced Manly keeper Jack Greenwood into action in the 65th minute via a long range effort from Nikola Kuleski however the custodian reacted quickly, saving well to his right.
After another quiet period, Manly found a second via the left foot of Mendes in the 71st minute.
The man they’ve counted on again and again this season, picked up the ball on the edge of the area and fired a fizzing strike, low and hard into the bottom left hand corner.
With faint hopes of the Premiership still alive, Manly surged forward in search of a third goal.
With five minutes to play, they found that third.
Coming through substitute Benjamin Koop, the forward tapped in the rebound after Kambayashi’s strike was saved by Bradasevic.
Running to grab the ball, Manly required just one more goal to snatch the Premiership, setting up a grandstand finish at Cromer Park.
Charging downfield, Manly came centimetres from hitting the back of the net.
Burrowing his way forward and creating a yard of space, Mendes fired the ball just past the post as the Manly faithful cursed their luck.
Throwing men forward, Manly were left caught out at the back in the dying moments and it proved costly.
Breaking forward in the 93rd minute, Rockdale’s Kuleski forced Greenwood into another stunning save, however the rebound fell to Bai Antoniou.
Staying composed, the forward laid the ball off to Vincent Fedele, who made no mistake from six yard
Not long after, referee Michael Weiner called an end to the contest.
The result means Manly claim second spot and home semi-final against Blacktown City.
For Rockdale, the result sees them narrowly miss out on a finals spot after an exhilarating afternoon of football but the club will feel disappointed after starting off the year as one of the Premiership and Championship contenders.
Manly United FC 3 (Fay 30’, Mendes 71’, Koop 85’)
Rockdale Ilinden FC 1 (Fedele 90+3’)
Sunday, 31st July, 2022
Cromer Park, Cromer
Referee: Michael Weiner
Assistant Referees: Maddy Allum and Jackson Mackie
Fourth Official: Alessandro Llana
Manly United FC: 3. Jesse Piriz, 4. James Oates, 5. Thomas Fay (17. Daniel Fabrizio 78’), 6. James Georgaklis (14. Dejan Pandurevic 46’), 7. Seiya Kambayashi, 12. Finn Ashton (9. Benjamin Koop 86’), 15. Kristian Santich, 18. Lucas Rainbird, 19. Alen Aganovic, 20. Jack Greenwood, 22. Bruno Mendes.
Substitutes Not Used: 31. Max Martinello, 33. Lachlan Mills, 42. Hugo McKay
Yellow Cards: Georgaklis 36’, Fabrizio 89’
Red Cards: Nil
Rockdale Ilinden: 1. David Bradasevic, 2. Daniel Petkovski, 5. Will Mutch, 7. Alec Urosevski, 8. Nikola Kuleski, 9. Bai Antoniou (16. Mo Ahmed 74’), 14. Brayden Sorge, 15. Jamie Percevski (4. Mitchell Stamatellis 51’), 23. Jaden Casella (11. Peter Kekeris 74’), 25. Alex Mascioveccio (17. Vincent Fedele 67’), 88. Chris McStay (19. Patrick Savor 67’)
Substitutes Not Used: 31. Matthew Murram
Yellow Cards: Stamatellis 85’
Red Cards: Nil