A late strike from 19-year-old Alessandro Lacalandra has given Sydney United 58 a much-needed 2-1 win over the Central Coast Mariners on Sunday afternoon at Sydney United Sports Centre.
With many of the mainstays out for the Mariners, United 58 set the tone from the early stages and took control of the game from the first kick.
The strong start was capped off in the 11th minute when Leroy Jennings skilfully broke through the Mariners’ defence and perfectly placed his chance for the opening goal.
After a slow start to the half, the Mariners came out with intent and matched the intensity of the hosts to finish off the first half.
The second half produced the majority of the drama, starting in the 55th minute when shostopper Luke Cukar denied Jordan Segreto from the spot.
Segreto extracted revenge just four minutes later, levelling the game, but it was Glen Trifiro’s red card in the 68th minute that left the fans with a grandstand finish.
The Mariners’ on-field advantage was cancelled out in the 81st minute when Dean Larson was shown a straight red card.
United 58 secured the win in the final minute of regular time when Alessandro Lacalandra broke away and finished his chance across the face of goal.
Coming into this fixture with a youthful-looking side, due to the coinciding Australia Cup tie, the Mariners were up against it facing a much more experienced side.
United 58 dominated the opening exchanges, restricting the Mariners’ time with the ball and limiting their attacking opportunities.
Glen Trifiro gave the hosts their first chance of the game, setting up Patrick Antelmi who expertly got himself free and fired off a shot that fizzled away off the post.
After a handful of close chances, United capped off the strong start with the opening goal of the game courtesy of Leroy Jennings.
The United 58 attacker put his full set of skills on display, dribbling past the Mariners’ backline and calmly slotting his effort in the bottom corner.
After conceding the first goal, Central Coast clicked into gear and found their groove going forward after previously being put on the backfoot to start the match.
The Mariners’ first chance came through Luke Oresti after his curling effort was pushed away by the fingertips of Cukar before clipping the top of the crossbar.
Oresti continued to test Cukar and the United defence, coming close to levelling the score moments later shortly before the man between the sticks did his best to deny Nicholas Duarte.
With the game begging to even out in the latter stages of the second half, it was United who came closest to scoring again when Patrick Antelmi found an open Taisei Kaneko, but his close-range effort agonisingly went wide of the target.
After another close call, the Mariners turned the tide to end the first half, forcing United back into their own half and unloading a flurry of long balls into the box.
Both sides staked their case to find a goal in the backend of the first half, but it was the United 58 defence that came out on top, giving them a 1-0 lead going into the break.
Upon the resumption of play both sides picked up from where they left off in the first half, putting a strong display of physicality and fast-paced attack.
Despite the fast-paced start, neither could muster a genuine chance in the first ten minutes of play in the second half.
The action kicked off just after the 55th minute when Cristian Gonzalez conceded a penalty for taking down Duarte in the box.
Segreto stepped up and struck the ball with all his power only to be denied by a strong right arm from Cukar.
After missing the penalty, Segreto repaid his team with the Mariners’ lone goal of the game in the 59th minute.
Segreto was played through on goal courtesy of a long ball out from the back and with the United 58 defence assuming he was offside, he went through untouched and slotted his chance home.
The goal caused plenty of confusion amongst the United 58 squad, so much so that the hosts almost conceded a second just as quickly when Duarte’s header narrowly missed the top corner.
With the game hanging in the balance, United 58 were dealt a crucial blow after Trifiro was given a straight red card in the 68th minute.
Having to play the remaining 22 minutes with ten men, United 58 took it in their strides and maintained a strong physical presence in defence.
The playing field was evened out 12 minutes later when Dean Larson was also shown a straight red card for an incident with United 58 substitute Chris Payne.
With ten men on either side, both teams threw caution to the win desperately searching for all three points.
The winning goal came in the final minute of regulation as Chris Payne played Lacalandra goal bound, where the substitute riffled his effort into the bottom corner.
Central Coast produced a late surge of attacking chances, headlined by a flurry of corners but the United 58 defence remained solid and held on for the dramatic win.
Reflecting on a thrilling contest, United 58 coach Miro Vlastelica noted his joy in the performance whilst crediting an equally good showing from his opponents.
“We were dominating and dominated a lot of the game but it’s good to get a win at home, the boys played well and showed plenty of character after went down to ten men,” he said.
“First half we hit the post twice then had another chance to go up 2-0 then it probably would’ve been game over, but we let them back in the game and credit to them, they started getting a bit of momentum, but we managed it and got the result in the end.”
Despite the disappointing result, Mariners coach Abbas Saad remained positive when discussing his side’s performance.
“It was a great performance apart from the first 20 minutes, United were excellent in the first 20 they played great football… but then we got into the game, started to create chances and finished the first half the better team,” he said.
“Second half was predominantly us and it was only going to be one team to win it and it was going to be us but credit to them they went down to ten men, it was a great second goal from them.
“It’s down to taking our chances and we didn’t but I’m very proud, I thought we were probably the better team on the day, good football, great energy… I love playing against them because they play football the right way, it was a great game to watch.”
Sydney United 58 FC 2 (Jennings 11’, Lacalandra 89’)
Central Coast Mariners 1 (Segreto 59’)
Sunday 13th August 2023
Sydney United Sports Centre, Edensor Park
Referee: Karl Davies
Assistant Referees: Emma Kocbek and Arinath Gobinath
Fourth Official: Rowan Fisher
Sydney United 58 FC: 20. Luke Cukar, 2. Cristian Gonzalez (4. Adrian Vlastelica 85’), 3. Bailey Rule, 5. Anthony Tomelic, 7. Taisei Kaneko (17. Matthew Bilic 85’), 9. Patrick Antelmi (6. Christopher Payne 70’), 12. Hiyori Kawaguchi, 14. Andreas Agamemnonos (13. Alessandro Laclandra 70’), 18. Glen Trifiro, 21. Yianni Fragogiannis, 22. Leroy Jennings (10. Devante Clut 70’)
Substitutes not used: 50. Ryan Warner,
Yellow cards: M.Vlastelica 64’, Chris Payne 83’, Kawaguchi 86’
Red cards: Trifiro 63’
Central Coast Mariners: 30. Lewis Alvarez, 3. Cameron Windust, 4. Dean Larson, 10. Nicholas Duarte (18. George Daniel 70’), 14. Luke Oresti, 15. Jordan Segreto (32. Tommy Edmonds 79’), 16. William Arnold, 21. Maksim Kasalovic (39. Dylan Susovic 70’), 23. Gianni Di Pizio (26. Max Middleby 45’), 24. Zac Zoricich, 31. Amponsah Antwi
Unused subs: 20. Alexander Parkes, 22. Andre Parkes
Yellow cards: nil
Red cards: Larson 81’
3: Anthony Tomelic (SU)
2: Luke Cukar (SU)
1: Jordan Segreto (CCM)
By NPL NSW Men’s Reporter Dominic Criniti @DominicCriniti