Two exciting matches take shape as the Finals Series for the PlayStation4 National Premier Leagues NSW Men’s Under 20s enters the business end of the season with both the Elimination and Preliminary games ready to rock and roll.
Preliminary Semi Final
APIA Leichhardt Tigers v Sydney FC, Saturday 2.30pm at Cromer Park
A qualifying final date with premiers Sutherland Sharks next weekend awaits the winner of an exciting preliminary clash between second-placed APIA Leichhardt Tigers and third-placed Sydney FC in the Northern Beaches on Saturday afternoon.
With the APIA first grade team securing the Premiership last Sunday and Franco Consentino’s U20’s side hitting their best form of the season over the last six matches the Tigers are likely to enter the encounter as favourites.
The Lambert Park outfit endured a rocky middle third of the campaign and needed to beat Rockdale City Suns on the final day of the season to absolutely confirm their position in the top five but Consentino’s men should strongly be considered as Championship contenders, a label that will only stick further if they prevail over Sydney on Saturday.
APIA have no shortage of firepower as their joint best attacking record attests and boast two of the competition’s standout performers in attackers Jordan Morfitis and Aedon Kyra who have combined for 29 of the Tigers 58 goals.
Centre-forward Kyra clinched the golden boot with another brace in round 22 and has spearheaded the frontline expertly this year in contributing 18 goals. Formerly a midfielder by trade, the APIA frontman possesses the skillset of a genuine all-rounder and will not only offer a direct threat in the penalty area but through a range of intelligent passing in the final third.
On the other hand, former Western Sydney Wanderer Morfitis has terrorized defences this season with his lightning change of pace and ability to dart between defenders. The attacker’s combination play with the likes of Kyra and fellow attacker Samuel Gulisano on the edge of the penalty area has proven hugely successful this season.
Opponents Sydney FC comprehensively outplayed the Tigers in their last meeting in round 17 but since that evening the Sky Blues have stumbled to the finish line. The departure of manager David Zdrilic following that match and first team promotions to leading scorer John Iredale and midfield lynchpin Samuel Mcillhatton disrupted what looked like a strong claim to the premiership and Sydney went on to lose three of their next five matches, conceding 14 goals (nearly half their total for the season) in the process.
For this reason the Sky Blues may be inclined to adopt a more conservative approach particularly in light of APIA’s red hot form of late and a crazy 6-4 win over Wollongong Wolves last week. But the third-placed finishers will still fancy their chances at regaining their early season steel and can force a meeting with Sutherland if they recapture the verve displayed against the Tigers in their most recent meeting.
Elimination Semi Final
Blacktown City v Sydney United 58, Sunday 12.30pm at Lily’s Football Centre
Standards have dropped for Blacktown City over the past month and a second defeat in a week against the competitions most in form outfit in Sydney United 58 would make it a particularly bitter exit for the league heavyweights.
City went down 3-2 to the resurgent Reds last Sunday and having occupied second position for most of the campaign the defeat saw John Carnevale’s men slip into fourth place, setting up a difficult do or die rematch this Sunday at Lily’s.
Carnevale’s side appeared most likely to challenge Sutherland for the title this year but a complacent finish to the campaign in which City have failed to win any of their last four matches has dented their credentials as championship contenders.
Blacktown City’s recent underperformances will concern the former APIA Leichhardt manager however City have proven to be one of the competition’s most canny operators at the peak of their powers and in Mason Ireland possess one of the league’s standout players.
The City skipper has contributed 17 of Blacktown’s 43 goals scored this season and his impeccable timing and eagerness to make runs beyond the lone forward will present a very real danger for United 58.
Despite the considerable threat of Ireland the Reds will enter the winner takes all match with all the momentum and deservedly be favourites after claiming six consecutive victories. The Edensor Park outfit have played their best football all season at the tail end of the season and their ability to employ first grade talent like Adrian Vranic (who netted a double against City last Sunday) to bolster their ranks could prove crucial.
Blacktown will also need to keep an eye on one of their former products in Sam Perre who has proven a superb addition since joining from Marconi Stallions for the final stretch of the year and has netted five goals in as many matches.
Anticipate this clash to be one that captures the intensity and rivalry of the first-grade battles between the two clubs and if would be no surprise if the pair are scrapping deep into extra time come Sunday.
-By Jacob Windon