Marconi Stallions and arch-rivals APIA Leichhardt shared the spoils in a thrilling 1-1 draw in Round 20 of the National Premier Leagues NSW Men’s competition.
In the longest running derby in football in Australia, sometimes colloquially known as the Italian Derby, both teams showed why they are at the top of the table.
After a scoreless first half, both goals were from errors in the second half. Jordan Swibel put Marconi ahead before a late equaliser from Jack Stewart gave APIA Leichhardt a well deserved point.
In the opening minute a shot from outside the box by Daniel Bouman was well neutralised by veteran ‘keeper Ivan Necevski.
However in the 12th minute Marconi should have taken the lead when Bouman threaded the ball for Swibel who, all alone in front of the goalkeeper, somehow skewed his shot just wide of the target and the golden chance went begging.
Another ten minutes went by on the clock before the Stallions were pressing again when a free-kick from captain Marko Jesic sailed directly over the crossbar.
APIA Leichhardt’s first chance arrived shortly afterwards when Yianni Nicolaou fed the ball to Sean Symons who fired a diagonal shot just wide of the mark.
An accidental but nasty midfield clash between Taylor McDonald and Rory Jordan held up the game for two minutes but thankfully, after a lot of attention, both players were able to get up and continue, even though for Jordan it was less than ten minutes before he was eventually substituted.
On the half hour mark Jack Armson from just outside the box had APIA Leichhardt’s best chance in the first stanza of play: his shot on target brought out the best in James Hilton who at full stretch managed to turn the ball around the post for a corner.
Prior to the break a nice run by Stewart ended up with him finding Alex Denmeade who fired on goal but ‘keeper Hilton made another very good save to deny the men from Leichhardt. The absorbing first half ended scoreless a minute later.
The first opportunity in the second half belonged to APIA Leichhardt in the 48th minute when Armson got around ‘keeper Hilton, but his shot from an acute angle was cleared off the line by Liam McGing.
In the 63rd minute Michael Kouta entered the box with some determination and fired a diagonal shot from close range that, once again, brought out the best in goalkeeper Hilton who turned it away for a corner.
Marconi opened the scoring in the 67th minute. A poor clearance from ‘keeper Ivan Necevski was intercepted by Jesic who then found Swibel and made no mistake with an open goal to give the Stallions the lead.
A few minutes later Marconi almost doubled their lead when a precise free-kick from Hiroaki Aoyama found Kyle Cimenti in the box who, with a lowdown header, forced Necevski to turn the ball away for a corner with a beautiful one-handed save. It was a great chance for the home side and the extra goal could have put APIA Leichhardt to the sword.
A late free-kick from Sean Symons from just outside the box went innocuously over the crossbar, but there was to be late drama shortly afterwards when APIA Leichhardt did meritoriously equalise in the 89th minute. A shot from Stewart was wickedly deflected by Bouman and ended up in the back of the net.
After the game Marconi Stallions coach Peter Tsekenis was disappointed not to have secured all three points.
“I thought that their keeper made a magnificent save on Kyle Cimenti when we were 1-0 up and we also missed a one-on-one in the first half,” he said.
“I thought that we played some very good football and limited them. We played good football and we were the better team with the chances.
“I am disappointed that they scored that late with a deflection. The boys put in a great effort and I am very pleased with that performance.
“There is a good history between the clubs, it was a big occasion tonight and there was a great turnout but today I really thought that we played the better football and they didn’t create that much.”
On the other hand APIA Leichhardt coach Franco Parisi was also disappointed to have secured only one point.
“I feel that both goals were not from great football and for us we know that we can be better,” he said.
“They made it difficult tonight for us and we are finding each week that our opponent’s goalkeeper is one of the stars of the game. It has become a common theme for us but that just means that we are having a lot of attacking plays.
“There was a lot on the line tonight for both clubs but no one walks away a winner, and for us I will never say it’s a fair result unless we win.”
MARCONI STALLIONS: 1 (Swibel 67’)
APIA LEICHHARDT: 1 (Stewart 89’)
Saturday 17th June 2023
Marconi Stadium Bossley Park
Referee: Craig Fisher
Assistant Referees: Emma Kocbek and Jackson Mackie
Fourth Official: Logan Jones
MARCONI STALLIONS: 24. James Hilton, 2. Nathan Millgate, 3. Giorgio Speranza, 5. Liam McGing, 6. Domenic Costanzo (21. Justin Vidic 46’), 8. Hiroaki Aoyama, 9. Jordan Swibel, 10. Marko Jesic, 11. Daniel Bouman, 19. Kyle Cimenti, 22. Taylor McDonald.
Substitutes not used: 7. Chris Hatfield 13. Aleksandar Duricic, 17. Martin Fernandez, 20. Jack Gibson, 23. Brandon Vella.
Yellow Cards: McGing 47’, Jesic 55’
Red Cards: Nil
APIA LEICHHARDT: 1. Ivan Necevski, 6. Anthony Sparacino, 7. Jack Stewart, 14. Jack Armson, 15. Themba Muata-Marlow, 16. Sean Symons, 17. Rory Jordan (30. Alex Denmeade 37’), 18. Adrian Ucchino, 19. Fabian Monge, 21. Michael Kouta, 38. Yianni Nicolaou.
Substitutes not used: 2. Harry Stavris, 4. Joshua Symons, 23. Dakota Askew, 33. Joshua Lazzaro, 42. Sebastian La Luz
Yellow Cards: Kouta 20’, Denmeade 92’
Red Cards: Nil
3 – Jordan Swibel (MS)
2 – Jack Armson (AL)
1 – James Hilton (MS)
By National Premier Leagues NSW Men’s reporter Joe Russo