A first half goal from Scott Balderson helped Manly United beat Hakoah Sydney City East FC 1-0 during their PlayStation®4 National Premier Leagues clash on Sunday afternoon at Hensley Athletic Field.
The visitors knew a win was essential if they were going to potentially finish inside the top three – and have the all-important two chances come the semi-finals next weekend.
In the end, Rockale City Suns’ 1-1 draw with league champions APIA Leichhardt at Lambert Park saw Manly finish in fourth spot.
Still it was a solid performance from Manly with Balderson’s 28th minute strike enough to give them the win and a timely confidence boost going into the finals.
Hakoah struggled to match it with their opponents and suffered a disappointing loss with their crunch FFA Cup clash with Melbourne City looming.
Kieren Paull was United’s standout player early on, with the right back finding plenty of space down the flank.
Eleven minutes in, Manly fashioned the first chance of the game.
A brutal tackle on Sipan Berti saw the away side awarded a free kick from the edge of the area.
Dejan Pandurevic, who scored from virtually the same distance against Sydney United 58 FC last round, fancied his chances.
History didn’t repeat itself, with the one time Central Coast Mariners attacking utility curling an effort well over the crossbar.
Dom Ferguson then tried his luck from distance for Manly on 24 minutes, only to skew the shot wide.
With 27 minutes on the clock it was Hakoah’s chance to shine from a set piece.
Gideon Sweet produced a decent effort, but it also sailed over the crossbar from 22 yards.
It proved to be crucial with Balderson giving Manly the lead seconds later.
A great ball from Nikola Taneski found Balderson unmarked, and he didn’t need a second invitation, taking a touch before comfortably slotting home past Anthony Bouzanis.
Sasa Macura almost made it two for Manly on 40 minutes, and then Balderson should have grabbed his second on the stroke of halftime, only to be denied by an alert Bouzanis.
Both sides made early changes early in the second half, resulting in the game finally coming to life.
Manly substitute Marco Sama looked odds on to give his team a two-goal buffer after 58 minutes, but the retreating Hakoah defence ensured it stayed 1-0.
On 78 minutes the hosts should have equalised.
Aleks Lekoski only had Dylan Mitchell to beat in the Manly goal, but he inexplicably headed over the target.
Seconds later Macura had the chance to seal the result for Warren Grieve’s men.
He was played in by Dylan Macallister, only to lack composure from the edge of the area, producing a rushed strike which Bouzanis gobbled up with ease.
In virtually the next play Manly had another chance to put Hakoah to bed, but Pandurevic elected to shoot when passing to an unmarked Sama was the better option inside the area.
On 82′ minutes Sama shot over from the edge of the area after showing trademark good feet in the lead up.
It could have proved costly when Hakoah’s Lee Jones lined up a set piece at the death, but the Everton youth player shot well wide of Manly’s goal.
Manly skipper Jamie Lobb conceded it was an ‘ugly’ match, but the result followed.
“We created enough chances to win comfortably, we just didn’t put them away,” he said.
“It is job done – we got the win and no injuries or suspensions.
“We can now look forward to Sydney Olympic at home (Cromer Park) next Saturday night.
“Sudden death football, we all can’t wait.”
Hakoah player coach Gavin Rae was disappointed with what his team dished up.
“We didn’t play well, simple as that,” he said.
“Perhaps the lads have one eye on the FFA Cup (round of 16 versus Melbourne City) – our focus has to be finding our consistency week in, week out in the league.”
Hakoah Sydney City East 0
Manly United 1 (Scott Balderson 28′)
Hensley Athletic Field, Pagewood
Sunday, August 13, 2017
Referee: Ben Abraham
Assistant referees: Jack Bell, Karnie Robinson
Fourth official: Chris Hughes
Hakoah Sydney City East FC: 1.Anthony BOUZANIS, 10.Andre DE JONG, 6.Cameron DRAPER, 3.Rob EZEKIEL, (30.Connor ELDRIDGE 68′) 12.Jack GREEN, (14.Anthony FRANGIE 54′) 16.Oliver GREEN, 7.Aleks LEKOSKI, 33.Connor SHADDOCK, 17.Gideon SWEET, 4.Brad WALKER, (36.Lee JONES 49′) 15.Dean BEREVESKOS
Substitutes not used: 19.Gavin RAE, 45.Michael FIGUERIA
Yellow cards: Gideon SWEET 30′
Red cards: Nil
Manly United: 1.Dylan MITCHELL, 13.Scott BALDERSON, (15.Marco SAMA 46′) 16.Sipan BERTI, (7.Travis COOPER 74′) 12.Leigh EGGER, 6.Dom FERGUSON, 3.Jamie LOBB, 8.Sasa MACURA, 4.Travis OUGHTRED, 14.Dejan PANDUREVIC, 2.Kieren PAULL, 11.Nikola TANESKI (9.Dylan MACALLISTER 64′)
Substitutes not used: 20.Shaun CATLIN, 28.Mitchell ROOKE
Yellow cards: TBA
Red cards: Nil