Manly United veteran Matt Sim ended his career on a high, scoring a screamer as his side walked away from Sydney United Sports Centre with a 2-0 win over Bulls FC Academy on Sunday afternoon.
The already relegated Bulls were playing to spoil the Sim-retirement party, whilst Manly looked to continue its impressive form seen in the backend of the 2023 season.
It was a relatively even first half with both sides missing golden chances to take the lead, but it was the defences that came out on top in the first half.
The game came alive as the second half began to progress and as both benches started to clear out there was a clear intent in both side’s attacks.
Manly finally cracked the sturdy Bulls’ defence when substitute Marcus Lal found the back of the net from long-range in the 73rd minute.
After holding off a late Bulls’ surge in attack, Manly got a second through the retiring Matt Sim, who struck a powerful half-volley in the final minute of regulation.
Manly started off the game on the front foot with the retiring Sim leading the way in attack, setting up the first chance of the game which saw Alex Robinson deny Seiya Kambayashi.
The Bulls answered back with a chance of their moments later when Marco Arambasic had his close-range effort bravely pushed away by Levi Kaye.
Looking to finish his career on top, Sim continued to give his side flare in attack and called Robinson into action on a couple throughout the first half.
In a back-and-forth first half the Bulls came closest to opening the scoring when Eddie Casper’s shot fizzled away off the front stick.
Despite a couple of late chances for either side, it was the defences that came out on top in a goalless first half.
Coming out for the second half both sides looked determined to find the back of the net in the early stages.
The rapid style of attack from both teams saw limited success in the early stages but it was Manly who began to take the upper hand.
Holding possession of the ball for long stints of the second half, Manly carefully took its time in attack searching for an opener and possibly a farewell goal for Sim.
A flurry of corners for Manly on the hour mark was the closest either side had come at that stage in the game as Robinson and his defence continued to push to the limit.
Looking for a spark in attack, Patrick Zwaanswijk opted for Marcus Lal who changed the game immediately after coming on.
After being put through on goal, Lal’s effort from outside the box took a heavy deflection before dipping over the reach of Robinson for the opening goal.
It was a disappointing goal to concede for the Bulls’ defence who had up until that stage matched a much more experienced Manly attack.
Kristian Santich looked likely to add a second for Manly and had his chance when he found space from outside the box but narrowly missed the target.
With just five minutes to play, the Bulls pushed almost everyone forward in pursuit of ending their season on a high note.
Mason Wells’ low-driven shot narrowly dragged across the face of the goal whilst Ariath Piol’s header hit the crossbar in a matter of minutes for the hosts.
With the Bulls faithful in near disbelief with the number of close chances in front of goal, the hosts were made to pay by the man of the hour.
After a promising cross was defused by the Bulls’ defence, the ball fell to Sim at the edge of the box and from an improbable angle he sensationally picked out the back of the net.
Sending everyone home with a smile, Sim and Manly celebrated the emotional win after a dominant showing in the second half.
Reflecting on his masterful goal and last game in NPL NSW Men’s, Matt Sim admitted it was a special moment to cap off his career.
“It was pretty special, to get one at Cromer in my last game there and then here, obviously I spent a long time here, to get one there at that end, it was special,” Sim said.
“The boys were calling for a short free-kick and I said, ‘Nah give me one more chance’ and Dom Ferguson called, ‘Dom’s’, right as I was about to hit it but as soon as I hit, it was sweet and sometimes they go in.
“I just said to the boys, there’s a lot of players here who have been here since they were kids and went away to A-League environments and come back, that’s been the challenging part, we’ve ridden the wave.
“We’ve had a lot of injuries at times, but the best thing is that there’s more young ones coming through, the club’s in a good place so I’m proud.”
Bulls FC Academy 0
Manly United FC 2 (Lal 73’, Sim 90’)
Sunday 27th August 2023
Sydney United Sports Centre, Edensor Park
Referee: Craig Fisher
Assistant Referees: Matt Staples and Francesco Bolognini
Fourth Official: Liam Smith
Bulls FC Academy: 30. Alexander Robinson, 6. Frans Deli (5. Will McKay 83’), 8. Mason Wells, 12, Marco Arambasic (24. Dean Bosnjak 66’), 13. Jordan Ivancic (35. Sebastian Krslovic 83’),21. Lachlan Macdonald, 22, Edward Caspers (18. Federico Gagliano 45’), (31. Daanish Awaz 66’), 23. Flynn Madden, 29. Michael Marcevski, 53, Joel Bertolissio
Unused subs: 40. Griffin Barry
Yellow cards: Marcevski 40’
Red cards: nil
Manly United FC: 20. Levi Kaye (93. Montgomery Partington 89’), 2. Kieren Paull, 3. Jesse Piriz, 6. Finn Ashton (32. Saxon Hillyer 88’), 7. Seiya Kambayashi, 8. Dominic Ferguson, 9. Benjamin Koop (12. Kristian Santich 45’), 11. Matthew Sim, 14. Connor Rose (31. Marcus Lal 58’), 19. Alen Aganovic, 22, Bilal Belkadi (36. Lachlan Mills 58’)
Substitutes Not Used: 16. Oliver Burden
Yellow Cards: Paull 36’
Red Cards: nil
3: Matthew Sim (MU)
2: Jesse Piriz (MU)
1: Levi Kaye (MU)
By NPL NSW Men’s Reporter Dominic and Salvatore Criniti, @DominicCriniti