APIA Leichhardt Tigers have maintained their challenge at the top of the NSW National Premier Leagues NSW ladder with a 3-1 win against Hakoah Sydney City East at Hensley Athletic
It was an important win for APIA as they kept their chances of a Premiership defence alive keeping the Lambert Park based side within three points of league leaders Sydney Olympic.
Both sides gave little way in a hard fought opening stanza before the gates opened in the second half.
Jordan Murray found the back of the net with a clinical finish at the resumption of the second half before Tasuku Sekiya stretched the visitors lead to 2-0 in the 70th minute.
Anthony Frangie gave the home side hope of snatching a point from the match with a goal from the penalty spot in the 84th minute.
However, it wasn’t to be for Hakoah with APIA’s Murray netting in added-time to wrap up the win and ensure the visitors went home with all three competition points.
It was a physical opening to the contest with both teams fighting hard in midfield to establish possession and control of the early proceedings.
Corey Bizco had the first real chance of the match in the 17th minute when his low driven effort from 25 yards out was denied by an athletic diving save from Hakoah shot stopper Anthony Bouzanis.
Bouzanis was at it again in the 23rd minute to deny a well placed Murray shot from just inside the penalty area with an impressive save.
Hakoah should’ve taken the lead in the 25th minute when De Jong found space on the counter attack. The New Zealand international broke free on the western sideline and cut into the penalty area but his shot sailed across the face of the goal only narrowly missing the target.
It proved to be the final true chance of the half with both side’s going into the break locked in a scoreless stalemate.
APIA didn’t take long to take charge when play resumed and struck only 90 seconds into the second stanza.
Murray was in perfect position at the back post to fire home after a curling cross from Sean Symons to make it 1-0.
Hakoah immediately pushed for an equaliser and Dom Cox nearly had one in the 56th minute. The midfielder broke free of his marker on a corner kick and headed at goal, but his effort was expertly saved by veteran APIA glove man Ivan Necevski.
Corey Biczo went inches away from doubling APIA’s lead in the 60th minute when he fired narrowly past the outside of the post.
Sekiya missed a gilt-edged chance in the 69th minute after a brilliant solo run, but it wouldn’t take long for the Japenese import to make amends.
A Murray breakaway run in the 70th minute opened the Hakoah defence before the striker squared the ball to Sekiya to fire home and extend APIA’s lead to 2-0.
Hakoah’s fans finally had something to smile about with seven minutes left on the clock when Frangie was awarded a penalty after being taken down in the penalty area by Zach Mackenzie.
Frangie stepped up to take the kick and duly fired it into the back of the net to cut the deficit to 2-1.
Hakoah desperately pushed forward for an equaliser launching long balls into the APIA defence hoping their direct tactics would test their opponents.
However, It proved fruitless with APIA wrapping up the result with one of the final kicks of the game as Murray tapped home at the far post after a slick run and pass from Bizco to make it 3-1.
It was Murray’s eleventh goal of the season – 11 from 11 matches, not a bad strike rate for the hottest striker going around the NPL NSW Men’s competition at the present moment.
APIA talisman Franco Parisi praised his team’s response after a slow first half display.
“We just weren’t able to play at the same tempo as we are used to during the first 45 minutes and Hakoah did a good job at disrupting any momentum,” he said.
“Thankfully we were able to compose ourselves and return after the break playing the way which has helped us be successful this season.
“Jordan Murray has been in great form for us this season and to nab his eleventh goal of the season from as many games is testament to that.
“While it wasn’t out best performance, we showed in the second half what we can do and most importantly took home all three competition points.”
Hakoah boss Gavin Rae rued what he felt was another tough loss for his side.
We were very strong in stages and really kept it with APIA in the first half, but once again we let ourselves down with a few lapses in concentration,” Rae said.
“There were positive signs but ultimately we paid the price for a couple of mistakes in important moments.”
In Round 12 APIA will return home to host Manly United in a grand final rematch, while Hakoah returns to Hensley Athletic Field for a clash with bottom side Sydney FC.
Hakoah Sydney City East: 1 (Frangie 85’)
APIA Leichhardt Tigers: 3 (Murray 47’, 90’ Sekiya 70’)
Sunday, March 20 2018
Hensley Athletic Field, Eastgardens
Referee: B Abraham
Assistant Referee: J Adabjou & H White
Fourth Official: C Wright
Hakoah Sydney City East: 1. Anthony BOUZANIS, 3. Michael KOUTA, 5. Mitchel STAMATELLIS (7. Jack GREEN 77’), 6. Cameron DRAPER, 8. Oliver GREEN, 10. Andre De JONG, 13. Robert EZEKIELL, 17. Harry JONES, 19. Dominic COX (14. Anthony FRANGIE 58’), 20. James COOMBES, 60. Takayuki NOJI
Substitutes Not Used: 16. Joshua ORCHARD, 21. Duncan STEWART, 40 Michael FIGUEIRA
Yellow Cards: N/A
Red Cards: N/A
APIA Leichhardt Tigers: 1. Ivan NECEVSKI, 2. Nathan MILLGATE. 4. Josh SYMONS, 6. Zach MACKENZIE, 8. Corey BIZCO, 11. Jordan Murray. 15.Themba MUATA-MARLOW 16.Sean SYMONS, 18. Adrian UCCINO, 19. Brandon LUNDY, 20. Tasuku SEKIYA (10. Franco PARISI 72’)
Substitutes Not Used: 9. George HOWARD, 12. Marc WARREN, 17. Samuel GULISANO, 22. Blake Tuxford,
Yellow Cards: Mackenzie
Red Cards: N/A
3- Jordan Murray (APIA)
2 – Sean Symons (APIA)
1- Dominic Cox (HSCE)