A devastating first half spell from Rockdale City Suns was enough to defeat Blacktown City at Lily’s Football Centre in Sunday’s PlayStation®4 National Premier Leagues NSW Men’s competition Finals SeriesPreliminary Semi-final at Lily’s Football Centre.
Paul Reid’s side were handed the perfect start when Jonathan Grozdanovski pounced on a goalkeeping error from Tristan Prendergast and raced to a 3-0 lead before the half-hour mark thanks to an expertly taken double from Jordan Figon.
Blacktown pulled a goal back through Matthew Lewis on the cusp of the interval and restored genuine optimism when Yuta Konagaya added another early in the second half but the visitors survived several scares and made sure of the victory late on through Harris Gaitatzis’ penalty.
The result means Rockdale will play Premiers APIA Leichhardt in next Saturday’s major semi-final at Lambert Park.
Blacktown meanwhile will need to muster their strongest league performance in some time against Manly United when they return to Lily’s for Saturday’s do or die clash.
Although City redeemed their lacklustre start and hit the crossbar in the second half, concerns will nonetheless be mounting for Mark Crittenden’s side who are now winless in their last five matches and will be without captain Zachary Cairncross who was dismissed late on for two bookable offences.
Blacktown started the match in the worst possible fashion when Prendergast struck a clearance into former teammate Grozdanovski but were denied a swift equalizer by Covic who made a series of excellent saves including a magnificent double stop from Joey Gibbs and Cairncross.
Covic’s heroics would haunt City further when Figon added a brace in clinical fashion, first squeezing Brayden Sorge’s cross underneath Prendergast at the near post before sweeping home Grozdanovski’s cutback on the penalty spot.
The Suns front man might have completed a sensational hat trick and killed the tie after racing clear from halfway only to scuff his finish, instead allowing the hosts to pull a goal back through Matthew Lewis who struck a fine effort across Covic on the stroke of half time.
Blacktown continued to rally in the second half and halved the deficit when Yuta Konagaya turned the ball home after Connor Evans’ curled a shot off the underside of the post and went inches within restoring parity when James Andrew crashed an effort off the crossbar.
But Rockdale sealed the match and a date with APIA when Harris Gaitatzis stroked in a fourth from the penalty spot after Cairncross received a second yellow for a foul on Blake Ricciuto inside the box.
Suns goalkeeper Covic hailed a fantastic opening half display from his side but warned they would need to iron out some minor deficiencies when they take on the premiers next Saturday.
“It was a crazy game, we could’ve been four nil up in the first half and they had several opportunities to score in the second,” he said.
“We did get a bit lucky at times with them hitting the crossbar in the second and we will need to tighten up when we play APIA next week but we’re still really happy with the performance.
“We’ve had a really good end to the year and showed our quality when we drew with Blacktown last time and again today so I’m very pleased for the boys.”
Blacktown City assistant coach Luke Roodenburg hailed his side’s response after going 3-0 down but admitted the 2016 champions need to raise their level against Manly.
“I thought we played outstandingly well in the second half and the difference was Ante Covic once again,” he said.
“Football’s a cruel game – we dominated for the majority of the game but we know we can’t afford to start like that against Manly.”
Blacktown City 2 (Lewis 43’, Konagaya 59’)
Rockdale City Suns 4 (Grozdanovski 4’, Figon 23’, 31’, Gaitatzis pen. 83’)
Sunday 20th of August 2017
Lily’s Football Centre, Seven Hills
Referee: A. Arndt
Assistant Referees: K. Robinson & J. Bell
Fourth Official: C. Young
Blacktown City: 12. James Andrew, 8. Daniel Araujo, 19. Zachary Cairncross, 10. Connor Evans (23. Pete Cejka 77), 9. Joey Gibbs, 22. Yuta Konagaya, 6. Matthew Lewis, 5. Grant Lynch (21. Bo Hyun Chun 85’) 1. Tristan Prendergast, 3. Giorgio Speranza, 4. Roberto Speranza
Substitutes Not Used: 16. Mark Rodic, 20. Tomislav Romic, 17. Lewis Beumie
Yellow Cards: Cairncross 26’, 82’, Andrew 71’
Red Cards: Cairncross 82’
Rockdale City Suns: 22. Ante Covic, 23. Jordan Figon (37. James Temelkovski 89’), 10. Harris Gaitatzis, 11. Jonathan Grozdanovski (12. Idriss El Hafiane 66’), 4. Trent Mcclenahan, 2. Daniel Petkovski, 5. Paul Reid (16. Isaac Savor 80’), 6. Blake Ricciuto, 19. Daniel Saric, 14. Brayden Sorge, 7. Alec Urosevski
Substitutes Not Used: 1. David Bradasevic, 50. Giuliano Airoldi
Yellow Cards: N/A
Red Cards: N/A
-By PlayStation®4 National Premier Leagues NSW Men’s reporter Jacob Windon