APIA Leichhardt Tigers are only one game away from clinching the PlayStation®4 National Premier Leagues NSW Men’s Premiership, its first since 2003, after defeating league leaders Blacktown City 1-0 at Lilly’s Football Centre on Sunday.
A 68th minute Jordan Murray goal was the difference as the visitors took advantage of a rare Blacktown defensive lapse.
Both sides appeared fatigued from midweek Westfield FFA Cup Round of 32 matches, but Danial Cummins APIA team found a way to secure the three points during a physical and relentless 90 minutes.
APIA now leads the competition by two points ahead of Blacktown City with the Lambert Park side in pole position to secure the title with only a draw against Rockdale City Suns in the final round required.
APIA took the match to Blacktown from the opening whistle and should’ve been in front after only five minutes.
Corey Bizco missed a gilt-edged chance after receiving the ball unmarked inside the penalty area when he scuffed his shot wide of the post with only the keeper to beat.
The visitors were back at it again only moments later as Tasuku Sekiya broke free of his marker at the edge of the 18-yard-box but his shot was easily saved by Prendegast.
APIA looked as if they were to take the lead in the 23rd minute when they were awarded a penalty after a Giorgio Speranza handball.
Josh Symons stepped up and fired to the bottom right but shot stopper Prendegast was one step ahead to make an incredible diving save.
The penalty save turned the momentum of the match and Blacktown began to force itself back into the contest.
On the half-hour mark the home side had their best chance of the first stanza. A slick passing move between Yuta Konagaya and Joey Gibbs released Speranza into space on the left wing who deliver a crisp cross across the front of goal. However, Daniel Araujo failed to get his shot on target with the ball going narrowly wide with an empty net beckoning.
It was a physical closing stages to the first half with both teams giving very little away. Tackles went in with purpose as more than just the match was on the line.
Blacktown and APIA took a more conservative approach to the start of the second-half after going into the break locked at 0-0.
As the half progressed it was APIA who looked more dangerous and on the 61st minute mark Symons tried an effort from outside the box which was easily accounted for by Prendegrast.
The visitors finally found a breakthrough when a precious through ball released Murray who rounded the keeper and fired into the back of the net to give APIA a 1-0 lead – it was his eleventh goal of the season and one that could prove to be telling come the end of round 22.
The pressure was mounting on Blacktown but they were not going to go down wondering.
Crittenden’s men pushed forward desperate for a late equaliser but APIA’s defence held firm.
Blacktown had one final chance in the 88th minute when Daniel Araujo unleashed a howitzer of a shot from inside the edge of the 18-yard box but APIA’s goalkeeper Ivan Necevski pulled of an incredible acrobatic save to ensure his side maintained its one goal lead at the full time whistle.
A jubilant Franco Parisi said desire was what won it for APIA Leichhardt Tigers.
“It was a tough much but at the end of the day we showed more desire and it lead us to a great win,” he said.
“All the boys showed good desire on the field and won their individual battles. When it came down to the key moments of the match we did enough to take home the points.
“We still have a big game next week but we are going to work hard and once again show the desire which helped us to victory today.”
Blacktown City coach Mark Crittenden said it was a rough end to a successful week for the club.
“It feels like we’ve gone from the penthouse to the outhouse,” he said.
“It was a game which was always going to come down to one or two chances and we just weren’t able to capitalise on our moments.
“We can still come away with the Premiership but for the first time this season we don’t control our fate. Hopefully Rockdale can snatch a result against APIA next week but our main focus will be ensuring we can defeat Sydney United.”
Blacktown City FC: 0
APIA Leichhardt Tigers FC: 1 (Murray 68’)
Sunday, July 6 2017
Lily’s Football Centre, Seven Hills
Referee: S. Lucas
Assistant Referees: L Greenshields & K Robinson
Fourth Official: N McOrist
Blacktown City FC: 1. Tristan Prendegrast, 3. Giorgio Speranza, 5. Grant Lynch (23. Pete Cjeka 73’), 6. Matthew Lewis, 8. Daniel Araujo, 9. Joey Gibbs, 10. Connor Evans, 16. Mark Rodic (21. Bo Hyun Chun 78’), 17. Lewis Beumie, 19. Zach Cairncross, 22. Yuta Konagaya (12. James Andrew 64’)
Substitutes not used: 20. Tomislav Romic
Yellow Cards: Gibbs 13’, Beumie 20’, Evans 45, Cairncross 83’
APIA Leichhardt Tigers: 1. Ivan Necevski, 2. Nathan Milgate, 4. Joshua Symons, 8. Corey Bizco, 11. Jordan Murray (17. Adrian Valstelica 87’), 12. Dominic Cox (7. Sean O’Connell 62’), 13. David Dapuzzo, 15. Themba Muata-Marlow, 16. Sean Symons, 19. Brandon Lundy, 20. Tasuku Sekiya
Substitutes not used: 22. Luke Turnbull, 10. Franco Parisi, 3. Paul Galimi
Yellow Cards: Muata-Marlow 54’, Murray 56’