It was a five star performance as 2017 PlayStation4 National Premier Leagues NSW Premiers APIA Leichhardt Tigers cruised their way into the Grand Final with a convincing 5-0 win over Rockdale City Suns at Lambert Park in a game that really slipped away from the visitors in the second half.
After going into the break only a goal down after the Tigers took a one-goal lead thanks to a fantastic Sean Symons strike, the visitors were hit with four in the second half thanks to a Jordan Murray double and goals to David D’Apuzzo and Dominic Cox.
In the 15th minute a shot by Jonathon Grozdanovski along the ground was just wide of the mark in what was the opening salvo of the game and it was in favour of the visitors.
Rockdale City Suns were at it again in the 20th minute when Jordan Figon played a nice ball to Grozdanovski but he again fired just wide of the mark.
They were the only real chances for the visitors in the encounter because APIA were definitely the dominant team after those early Rockdale chances.
APIA’s first real chance arrived in the 21st minute when Murray fired on target and Ante Covic made a great save.
Two minutes later there was a double chance to Sean Symons when his first diagonal shot was saved by Covic’s feet, only to receive the ball again but this time he fired over the woodwork.
In the 26th minute Tasuku Sekiya played a lovely ball through to Murray who drilled it directly on target but Covic saved and they didn’t have to wait too long before finally cracking the Rockdale defence.
It was Symons who scored in the 29th minute when he blasted his diagonal shot into the roof of the net much to the joy of the home fans.
Just prior to the break Symons should really have made it two when he curled his free-kick over the wall and just a millimetre off target.
Straight after the break, in the first few seconds of the second stanza of play, APIA did indeed double their advantage. Symons charged down the sideline with brute intent before delivering a pinpoint accurate cross into the middle for Murray who volleyed home from close range.
APIA made it three in the 60th minute and it was Symons again who was the key provider. This time it was for David D’Apuzzo who headed home from a close-range position.
In the 68th minute Rockdale City Suns can thank their goalkeeper Ante Covic for not letting Murray get his second goal. When Sekiya played a beautiful ball to Murray it was the out-coming Covic who blocked the APIA striker’s attempt.
In the 75th a deft chip from the ever experienced Franco Parisi found Nathan Millgate who shot just a fraction wide of the intended target. It was another close attempt from APIA Leichhardt and clearly they were intent on extending their lead.
However, in the 84th minute APIA Leichhardt did indeed make it four and it was Murray’s second goal of the night. A square ball from Sekiya was played to Murray and he neatly placed it into the bottom corner of the net.
Two minutes later APIA Leichhardt made it five.
Replacement Dominic Cox slid the ball under the out-coming Covic and by now the celebrations in the Tigers’ den were well and truly underway.
After the game, a jubilant Danial Cummins coach of APIA Leichhardt couldn’t hide his delight at being into the Grand Final.
“We are rapt with tonight and the second half was probably one of the best second halves that we’ve had all year,” he said.
“Rockdale are a tough team and we knew from the last game in the regular season that we needed to change structurally and we did today.
“We have had a tough schedule and last week’s break was what we needed. We still have the Westfield FFA Cup on Tuesday and we do have a few injuries.”
Paul Reid coach of Rockdale, while disappointed, was still looking at the result with a glass half-full attitude.
“It’s disappointing because we thought before the game that we were good enough to win today,” he said.
“We just weren’t at it and APIA to be fair played well. They pressed and played with plenty of intensity, so it’s a bit of a wake-up call for us.
“I am sure that the boys will bounce back next week and we have to pick ourselves up against Many United. It’s fortunate that we were not eliminated from the Finals series, so we’ve still got a chance next week even though Manly will be very tough.”
APIA Leichhardt Tigers 5
(Sean Symons 29’, Murray 46’ & 84’, D’Apuzzo 60’, Cox 86’)
Rockdale City Suns 0
Saturday 26th August, 2017
Lambert Park, Leichhardt
Referee: Stephen Lucas
Assistant Referees: Joon Park, Matthew McOrist
Fourth Official: Kurt Ams
APIA Leichhardt Tigers: 1.Ivan Necevski, 2, Nathan Millgate, 4. Joshua Symons, 8. Corey Biczo, 11. Jordan Murray (17. Adrian Vlastelica 84’), 13. David D’Apuzzo, 15. Themba Muata-Marlow, 16. Sean Symons (10. Franco Parisi 73’), 18. Adrian Ucchino (12. Dominic Cox 79’), 19. Brandon Lundy, 20. Tasuku Sekiya,
Substitutes not used: 22. Luke Turnbull, 9. Matthew West
Yellow Cards: D’Apuzzo 53’
Red Cards: Nil
Rockdale City Suns: 22. Ante Covic, 2. Daniel Petkovski, 4. Trent McClenahan, 6. Blake Ricciuto, 7. Alec Urosevski (50. Giuliano Airoldi 88’), 10. Harris Gaitatzis, 11. Jonathon Grozdanovski, 12. Idriss El Hafiane, 14. Brayden Sorge, 19. Daniel Saric (3. Steven Hesketh 65’), 23. Jordan Figon (37. James Temelkovski 81’).
Substitutes not used: 1. David Bradasevic
Yellow Cards: El Hafiane 42’, Grozdanovksi 78’
Red Card: Nil
-by Joe Russo, PlayStation®National Premier Leagues NSW Men’s Reporter, at Lambert Park Leichhardt