The 2019 National Premier Leagues NSW Men’s 20s competition moves on to the second round of the finals series after a tense first weekend; both preliminary and elimination finals going to penalty shootouts last Saturday as Rockdale, Sydney FC and Sutherland Sharks progressed to the major and minor semis.
Rockdale will have a shot at a place in the grand final when they take on Blacktown City on Tuesday night after beating Sutherland on penalties at Sydney United Sport Centre only a few days ago, while the Sharks have a second chance against Sydney FC earlier in the day; the Sky Blues having beaten APIA Leichhardt on Saturday to put the Tigers out of the finals.
Major semi final: Blacktown City v Rockdale City Suns, 7.30pm Tuesday 20 August at Lilys Homes Football Stadium
It’s anybody’s guess as to how Blacktown City will start their 2019 finals campaign; the premiers having slowed down considerably towards the end of the regular season to finish with only two wins from their last six matches.
Their opponents on Tuesday night, by contrast, arrive in the major semi final unbeaten in nine matches.
Rockdale went ahead against Sutherland through Alexander Malfara early in the second half of their preliminary semi on Saturday afternoon before the Sharks levelled with just five minutes remaining, but Noah Botic made two comfortable saves in the shootout to see Rockdale through to the second round of the finals.
These sides drew twice during the regular season, a 1-1 stalemate at Lilys followed by a scoreless draw at Ilinden Sports Centre. All signs point to an equally tight major semi on Tuesday night.
A final chance will be given to the loser, but neither team – arguably the best two in the competition – will want to play an extra game in this series. With a place in the grand final on the line, this match is shaping up to be a blockbuster.
Minor semi final: Sutherland Sharks v Sydney FC, 1pm Tuesday 20 August
Sutherland Sharks will play Sydney FC in 2019’s minor semi final; both sides coming into this match in contrasting spirits after the first round of the finals on Saturday afternoon.
Sutherland were beaten in a shootout against Rockdale City Suns at Sydney United Sports Centre; equalising with five minutes of normal time remaining before missing three from the spot to drop into the minor semi.
The Sky Blues were also taken to penalties in their elimination semi final against APIA Leichhardt, and ultimately came out on top after the shootout carried over to sudden death spot kicks.
Sutherland beat Sydney 1-0 when these sides last met, with Thomas Aquilina proving the difference between the two teams at Valentine Sports Park in mid-July.
They also met twice in the finals last season; Sydney FC winning 5-0 in the first round of the finals before Sutherland edged them in the grand final a few weeks later.
The Sky Blues will be desperate for revenge; the Sharks desperate to defend their Championship for a third year running.
-By Max Grieve