Patrick Antelmi’s second half strike helped Sydney United 58 topple competition leaders APIA Leichhardt Tigers 1-0 in a fierce battle at Sydney United Sports Centre on Saturday evening.
The former Wollongong striker clinched his fourth goal of the season twelve minutes after half time when he pounced on a long ball over the top before firing past APIA goalkeeper Blake Tuxford who deputized for Ivan Necevski who was called up by the Newcastle Jets in the Hyundai A-League Grand Final.
NPL NSW Men’s frontrunners APIA Leichhardt had scored 15 goals in their previous four matches before the clash at Edensor Park but were unable to muster a response following Antelmi’s opener and were held scoreless for just the second time this campaign thanks to a tactical masterclass and some exquisite defending by the home side.
Despite enjoying the more goal scoring opportunities Sydney United 58 were not at their clinical best, however the Reds will be buoyed enormously by what was a resolute defensive performance and all-round committed showing in the wake of back to back defeats to Hakoah Sydney City East and Bonnyrigg White Eagles.
A third consecutive loss would have mounted concerns for United 58 who had head coach Jason Culina resign during the week but now find themselves four points behind the leaders after nine matches played.
On another day the Reds may have paid the price for failing to capitalise on a series of created chances with Chris Payne and Jordan Roberts both guilty of missing the target in an opening half dominated by the home side.
But Antelmi settled the nerves around Edensor Park early in the second half after catching the APIA defence too far up field to seize on a clearance before keeping his composure and slotting the ball to the right of Tuxford to break the deadlock.
United 58 came close to doubling the advantage through Roberts, who fired over the bar on the counter attack, before Tuxford parried a close-range header from Payne away.
Reds gloveman Thomas Manos had earlier pulled off the save of the match from a Jordan Murray header in the first half and made a catalogue of brave punches and commanding claims late in the second as APIA launched the ball into the United 58 area in search of an equaliser.
Substitute Corey Biczo came closest for the Tigers on the cusp of stoppage time but Manos stood tall to preserve the shutout and a hugely significant three points for the hosts.
The final whistle was meant with a raucous cheer by the home faithful crowd who were proud of their chargers and the work United 58 put in minus a head coach – but well marshaled by the club’s senior players.
Reds frontman Chris Payne, who netted six during their midweek 12-0 FFA Cup win over Henwood Park, said the victory is a significant one in the context of United 58’s season.
“It’s a massive win and reaction from the boys, APIA are top of the table and a great side so there isn’t a better way to bounce back,” he said.
“Last week came as a big shock for all the boys but we had to move forward. We needed more energy in our performance in we brought that tonight, I couldn’t ask any more of the lads.”
APIA coach Billy McColl was pleased with his charges following the match and said he wasn’t concerned by the Tigers’ second defeat of the season.
“Goals win football matches and we didn’t get one tonight,” he said.
“We’ll learn from it and we’ll bounce back next week, it’s a competition that has a long way to go.
“The boys are on a mission – we’re on a mission – this is just one of those days, I don’t have any complaints over how the boys played, we created chances and didn’t take them.”
Sydney United 58 1 (Antelmi 58’)
APIA Leichhardt Tigers 0
Saturday 5th May 2018
Sydney United Sports Centre, Edensor Park
Sydney United 58: 9. Patrick Antelmi, 22. Yianni Fragogiannis, 2. Cristian Gonzalez, 21. Thomas Manos, 20. Peter Markovic, 6. Christopher Payne (17. Kyle Cimenti 90’), 11. Yianni Perkatis, 3. Jordan Roberts (18. Glen Trifiro 80’), 8. Matthew Sim, 5. Anthony Tomelic (14. Nicholas Stavroulakis 84’), 4. Adrian Vlastelica
Substitutes not used: 1. John Hall, 7. Mohammad Rahimi
Yellow cards: Tomelic 42’
Red cards: N/A
APIA Leichhardt Tigers: 7. Howard Fondyke, 3. Paul Galimi, 9. George Howard (8. Corey Biczo 68’), 19. Brandon Lundy, 2. Nathan Millgate, 11. Jordan Murray (10. Franco Parisi 76’), 20. Tasuku Sekiya, 4. Joshua Symons, 16. Sean Symons, 22. Blake Tuxford, 18. Adrian Ucchino
Substitutes not used: 33. Corey Finch, 6. Zachary Mackenzie, 12. Marc Warren
Yellow cards: N/A
Red cards: N/A
3 – Peter Markovic (SUFC)
2 – Thomas Manos (SUFC)
1 – Yianni Perkatis (SUFC)
-By National Premier Leagues NSW reporter Jacob Windon