MANLY United have progressed to their first PlayStation®4 National Premier Leagues NSW Men’s grand final since 1995 after beating Rockdale City Suns 5-4 on penalties at Cromer Park on Saturday evening.
In one of the games of the season, the two squads couldn’t be split after 120 minutes of enterprising football.
Rockdale, the ‘home’ side after failing to secure an alternate venue midweek, had a dream start.
Paul Reid’s men opened the scoring inside 2 minutes.
Alec Urosevski fired the Suns into the lead, with a bullet free kick.
Manly shot stopper Dylan Mitchell was never going to save the effort from 20 yards, such was the accuracy of the effort.
Moments later Mitchell was alert with Rockdale bearing down on goal, reacting first to clean up a loose ball in the box.
United eventually woke from their slumber, and on 12 minutes striker Dylan Macallister almost created something out of nothing.
The journeyman turned his marker but mishit his shot, with the chance going begging.
On 17 minutes Rockdale should have doubled their lead.
Trent McClenahan peeled away from his marker, but headed over from six yards.
It proved crucial, with Manly squaring the ledger moments later.
With 19 minutes on the clock, Brendan Cholakian drove at the Rockdale defence before playing in Sash Macura.
The classy midfielder then squared an effort for Macallister, who tapped home from point blank range.
Macallister when close on 44 minutes, before referee Kris Griffith-Jones ended a frantic first stanza.
After the break Rockdale again started the better, with Harris Gaitatzis stinging the palms of Mitchell after 53 minutes.
Seconds later Macallister released Scott Balderson for Manly, but Ante Covic reacted well to snuff out the half chance.
Macallister again went close on 61 minutes, blazing over the crossbar, but he was a happy man when teammate Leigh Egger headed Manly into the lead after 65 minutes.
Jamie Lobb whipped in a teasing corner to the far post and Egger timed his run to head past Covic.
Both teams cleared their benches ahead of the last 20 minutes, and on 81 minutes Urosevski was unlucky after he hit both posts from another quality free kick.
He made amends at the death, stabbing home a loose ball in time added on to make it 2-2.
Sama then could have dramatically won it for Manly with the last kick of the game in regulation time, but he fired straight at Covic.
When Rockdale substitute Jonathon Grozdanovski smashed a simple effort over the bar on 97 minutes, you sensed it was going to be Manly’s night in extra time.
Both squads were out on their feet in the final 15 minutes, with Sama again spurning a late chance for United with 116′ minutes played.
Ultimately the gripping encounter was decided on penalties, with Mitchell the hero.
His save from Grozdanovski’s tame effort ensured Manly will play APIA next Sunday at Leichhardt Oval from 4pm.
Manly coach Warren Grieve was on cloud nine when reflecting on the game.
“I’m so happy for the boys, they work so hard for each other,” he said.
“We recovered well after conceding an early goal, playing our brand of football.
“We now have momentum leading into APIA next week.”
Rockdale player coach Paul Reid felt his team was the better side.
“That’s football, a few times in recent years penalties have gone our way,” he said.
“I’m really proud of our boys – we kept fighting and I can’t fault the effort, we gave our all.”
Manly United 2 (Dylan Macallister 17, Leigh Egger 65′)
Rockdale City 2 (Alec Urosevski 2′, 90′)
***Manly United win 5-4 on penalties
Cromer Park, Saturday September 2, 2017
Referee: Kris Griffith-Jones
Assistant referees: A.Giev, N.Backo
Fourth official: C.Young
Manly United: 1.Dylan MITCHELL, 13.Scott BALDERSON, (11.Nikola TANESKI 75′) 10.Brendan CHOLAKIAN, 12.Leigh EGGER, 4.Travis OUGHTRED, 3.Jamie LOBB, 2.Kieren PAULL, 6.Dom FERGUSON, (28.Mitchell ROOKE 88′) 8.Sasa MACURA, 14.Dejan PANDUREVIC, 9.Dylan MACALLISTER (15.Marco SAMA 71′)
Substitutes not used: 20.Shaun CATLIN, 17.Sam WILSON
Yellow cards: Nil
Red cards: Nil
Rockdale City Suns: 22.Ante COVIC, 9.Alex CANAK, 23.Jordan FIGON, (11.Jonathon GROZDANOVSKI 77′) 10.Harris GAITATZIS, 3.Steven HESKETH, 4.Trent McCLENAHAN, (12.Idriss EL HAFIANE 81′) 2.Daniel PETKOVSKI, 5.Paul REID, (19.Daniel SARIC 91′) 6.Blake RICCIUTO, 14.Brayden SORGE, 7.Alec UROSEVKSI
Substitutes not used: 1.David BRADASEVIC, 16.Isaac SAVOR
Yellow cards: Canak 44′, Ricciuto 68′, Grozdanovski 102′
Red cards: Nil
3 – Kieren Paull (MU)
2 – Blake Ricciuto (RCS)
1 – Dylan Macallister (MU)