Rockdale City Suns has kick started their National Premier Leagues NSW Mens 2018 season in style edging Sutherland Sharks 1-0 at the Ilinden Sports Centre.
It took something special to settle the fiercely contested opening round match and it was Rockdale’s Alex Canak who delivered a moment of magic when he lobbed the keeper from 30 yards out.
Canak’s goal had been on the cards as the home side amassed a number of opportunities they spurned with alarming regularity.
Sutherland were always in the game but came away battered and bruised but defiant in the aftermath of the 90 minutes.
The Sharks created a few chances but can have no complaints of the result at the final whistle.
The first opening came in the 10th minute when Nick Littler was judged to have brought down Toufic Alameddine.
Alec Urosevski’s free-kick was fired straight into the Sharks wall before Littler’s poor clearance nearly sailed into his own net.
Rockdale made the early progress in the opening stages but had nothing to show for their efforts as the Sharks dug in and hung on.
Sutherland mounted a mini fight back mid way through the opening stanza.
Juan Zapata cut across the box to gather the ball, but his cross had too much on it for Nick Olsen to control. Moments later Suns’ captain Daniel Petkovski put his body on the line to deny Hristijan Tanoski from close range.
The game was always going to be a feisty affair and almost boiled over when Tratt attempted to hurdle two Sutherland players but came down on top of them sparking an unseemly scuffle.
The fracas left both Tratt and Rockdale’s Blake Ricciuto in the book on the half hour. It was more clumsy than calculated.
Toufic Almeddine should have opened the scoring late in the half when Canak slipped his marker and played in a sumptuous ball from the right that took a bobble just prior to the strike.
The Sharks countered in the 43rd minute when Olsen slipped the ball to Keisuke Hayashi but his shot was once again blocked to finish the half without troubling the score board.
There would be stern words in the dressing rooms from both coaches as the game was crying out for someone to put their foot on the ball and calmly dictate play.
The second-half started as briskly as the first finished, plenty of pace and endeavour but little in the way of goalmouth action.
Neither side seemed capable of breaking down their opposite defence until the 52nd minute when Canak lobbed Norval from some distance out to give the Suns the lead. It was a special goal in more ways than one.
Urosevski skewered a curling shot wide of the upright 4-minutes later as the Sharks were caught out at the back again as the home side attempted to press home their advantage.
The match was finely poised.
Steven Hesketh came within a whisker of doubling the home side advantage only to see his effort slip past the wrong side of the woodwork, with the aid of a deflection, in the 61st minute. Petkovski fired straight at Norval seconds later from the corner as Rockdale were enjoying their best spell of dominance in the match.
Covic was down sharply to his right to foil the attempt of Ryoga Suyama in the 67th minute when Sutherland squeezed themselves an opportunity.
In the 69th minute Hayashi wasted a great chance when he headed wide after he was set up by Olsen on the Sharks’ right who beating two defenders and curling in an inviting cross.
Substitute Jordan Figon brought the best out of Norval when she unleashed a rocket of a shot the Sharks’ gloveman did well to tip over in the 88th minute.
A three-way head clash caused a lengthy stoppage in the final minute with Trent McClenahan, Covic and Tratt finishing the match in a swathe of bandages after requiring plenty of attention.
The late flurry by Sutherland wasn’t enough to see them gain anything from a match but Sutherland coach Grant Lee wasn’t too displeased.
“You know what you’re going to get with the squad Rockdale has and the players on their books,” he said.
“You know how they are going to play and now they have a good pitch you might think that would change a little.
“They used their physicality well and were able to intimidate some of the younger players which is fine. You’ve got to be prepared for that and mentally tougher.
“We had to push on and change things a little to present some different problems to them. It showed it’s the opening game of the season and everyone was still a little rusty but it gives us the basis to build on for next week.”
Suns player coach Paul Reid said his side expected a battle and felt the match lived up to expectation.
“I think it showed it was the first game of the season as there were a few sloppy passes and it wasn’t our best performance but I think we thoroughly deserved to win,” Reid said.
“We created the better chances and perhaps we should have won by a few more but it was a gutsy performance, a real battle.
“In the opening rounds you simply want to pick up the results as you know the performances will come so I’m pleased with a tough win.”
Rockdale City Suns: 1 (Canak 52)
Sutherland Sharks: 0
Sunday 11th March, 2018
Ilinden Sports Centre, Rockdale
Referee: Adrian Arndt
Assistants: Janush Adabjou & Joon Park
4th Official: Amol Verma
Rockdale City Suns: 1. Ante Covic, 2. Daniel Petkovski, 3. Steven Hesketh, 4.Trent McClenehan, 6.Blake Riccutio, 7.Alec Urosevski (5.Paul Reid 81’), 8.Alex Canak, 10.Harris Gaitatzis (23.Jordan Figon 77’), 12.Idriss El Hafiane, 14.Brayden Sorge, 17.Toufic Alamaddine (9.Bai Antoniou 71’)
Substitutes not used: 21. Michael Neill, 25. Jake Soutter
Yellow Cards: Ruccuito 30’, Urosevski 60’
Sutherland Sharks: 1. Ryan Norval, 2. Jacob Tratt, 5. Bradley Bartels, 6. Lachlan Everett, 8.Lachlan Hughes (12.Blair Brown 74), 11.Hristijan Tanoski (10.Joshua Da Silva 68), 15.Nick Littler, 16.Ryoga Suyama, 18.Juan Felipe Zapata, 20.Keisuke Hayashi, 22.Nick Olsen
Substitutes not used: 4. Hayden Morton, 14. Leo Malfara, 21. Nick Loe
Yellow Cards: Tratt 30’, Bartels 47’
3 – Ruccuito (RCS)
2 – Tratt (SS)
1 – Petkovski (RCS)
-By National Premier Leagues NSW Mens reporter Micky Brock