APIA Leichhardt Tigers will need to bounce back from last weekend’s heavy defeat to Sydney FC against Sydney United 58 in order to keep their championship hopes alive, while premiers Sutherland can book their grand final appearance should they beat Sydney FC.
Minor Semi Final
APIA Leichhardt Tigers v Sydney United 58, Saturday 2.30pm at Lambert Park
Sydney United 58 will be looking for their eighth win on the bounce to maintain their championship bid when they take on APIA Leichhardt Tigers on Saturday afternoon at Lambert Park.
The Reds were dark horses entering the finals series and a 1-0 knockout win over Blacktown City last weekend only furthered their positive momentum generated in the final third of the regular campaign.
Their current form mirrors the 2016 finals series for reigning champions Sydney Olympic who also scraped into fifth position on the back of a late season dash which will prove an ominous sign for opponents APIA Leichhardt – who were knocked out by the eventual winners in this exact stage last year.
United 58 will be soaring with confidence following back to back wins against competition heavyweights Blacktown City and will in particular be pleased with their ability to keep their opponents scoreless for the first time since round eleven (ironically in a 0-0 stalemate with City).
Ante Tomic’s side have looked increasingly dangerous in transitions where the likes of Sam Perre (five goals in six matches) and Samuel De Oliveira (who scored an 85th minute winner against Blacktown last Sunday) have offered great supply to frontman Liam Ivancic but have also been patient and disciplined in the final third in longer spells of possession.
APIA will be wary of the considerable threat the Reds pose on the break and must be eager to respond to what was a disappointing 3-0 result against Sydney FC in their qualifying final last Saturday.
The Tigers were previously unbeaten in five and come off back to back 4-1 wins over Rockdale and Blacktown to cement their championship credentials and claim second place at the conclusion of round 22.
Franco Consentino’s men drew a rare blank in last week’s defeat and will be banking on top scorer Aedon Kyra to return to goal scoring form at Lambert Park, an arena that has proven a successful stomping ground for APIA this season.
The two sides have beaten each other once over the course of the year with Sydney United 58 claiming a 2-0 opening day victory over the Tigers before succumbing to a 5-1 defeat in round 12.
The winner of Saturday afternoon’s clash will take on the loser of this weekend’s major semi-final between Sutherland Sharks and Sydney FC with the defeated side eliminated from competition.
Major Semi Final
Sutherland Sharks v Sydney FC, Saturday 4.30pm at Lily’s Football Centre
Premiers Sutherland Sharks were comfortably the best side over the course of the regular season but will face their biggest test of the campaign when they take on a rejuvenated Sydney FC in Saturday’s major semi-final at Lily’s Football Centre.
A place in the Grand Final goes on the line when the two teams clash on Saturday with the winner sure to enter September’s big day as title favourites.
Sutherland finished the year with the best offensive and defensive records and entered the finals series with six wins in a row to earn a week’s rest but will need to recover peak intensity against the Sky Blues given their formidable win over APIA Leichhardt last weekend.
With leading scorer John Iredale and midfielder maestro Samuel Mcillhatton both making goalscoring returns from the Sydney first grade team against the Tigers in finals week one, the Sky Blues look to have returned to their best and will go into the encounter with a significant amount of confidence having kept a normally free-scoring APIA side at bay.
However it will be a different test up against the season’s benchmark outfit in Nick Dimovski’s Sutherland who will be out to prove their status as championship favourites. The Sharks offer goal threat across a lethal and interchangeable front four that includes some of this year’s standout performers.
The likes of Matias Da Silva Santos and Jake Borromeo have been operating on an elite level for the majority of the season and their pace and ability to create chances from both the byline and running in behind the fullback must be marshalled closely by the Sky Blues defence.
Sutherland have held the upper hand over their opponents this season thanks to a 3-1 win in round 20 and a 1-1 draw with Sydney in round nine but should anticipate a different type of clash given the intensity of finals football.
The loser of Saturday afternoon’s fixture will play the winner of the day’s other semi-final matchup between Sydney United 58 and APIA Leichhardt Tigers next weekend.
–By Jacob Windon