APIA Leichhardt has squandered a glorious chance to overtake Sydney Olympic at the top of the NPL NSW Men’s ladder after suffering a surprise 1-0 defeat at the hands of Manly United at Lambert Park on Sunday.
It was an afternoon defined by missed opportunities for the home side who couldn’t find a much needed goal as Manly took full advantage of the luck on their side to collect all three points.
Despite enjoying the run of play for the best part of the match, the Tigers were unable to make the most of the chances that fell their way, leaving the visitors to edge the game with a single goal from Kieren Paull in the dying moments of the first half.
Shaun Catlin put in an imperious performance in the Manly goal, earning Paul Dee’s men their first win in a month.
Sitting alone at the top of the individual scoring charts, Jordan Murray charged after the ball hellbent on adding a 12th to his tally in the game’s opening exchanges.
His first proper opportunity came after ten minutes: drifting under a high ball at the back post, the young striker couldn’t quite get up for the cross and his header back across the goalkeeper looped well over the bar.
Murray was central to nearly everything APIA produced in the final third, holding the ball up for Corey Biczo to test Shaun Catlin with a curling shot towards the far post, before heading over again shortly after.
Howard Fondyke took on his man and dropped inside before dragging a low drive wide, before Biczo cut onto his left and smacked a curling shot towards the far post, drawing a spectacular save from Catlin.
Apparently content to soak up the pressure while their opponents dominated possession and chances, Manly hit back in the final minutes of the half with a bizarre goal.
Kieren Paull shaped up a shot from deep and the ball took a deflection on its way through the box, throwing Ivan Necevski enough to skip beyond the goalkeeper and into the net.
The visitors took a lead into halftime and were comfortable to sit on it as the second half began.
The match tightened as the sun faded and the temperature dropped, with the open exchanges of the first half giving way to a midfield battle played out in much closer quarters.
With half an hour to play, APIA began to push again.
Murray spun clear of his marker and skewed a shot high and wide with the goal gaping, before Tasuku Sekiya had two shots blocked away following a corner.
Franco Parisi came on with immediate impact, lofting a ball in for Josh Symons to head towards the far post, and onto Catlin’s outstretched palm.
Biczo jinked his way through the box and fired over the bar before APIA very nearly scored one of the goals of the season, an incredible passing move ending with Sekiya slamming his shot wide with Lambert Park expecting an equaliser. It wasn’t to be, and Manly held out for a stoic win.
APIA’s Billy McColl was able to see the positives in a difficult defeat for his side.
“If you don’t score you don’t win, and the game’s all about goals,” he said.
“I’ve got no complaints. We’re a team on a mission. There’s days where we’ll score none, and there’s days where we’ll score five or six.
“Congratulations to Manly, they took their goal and defended with their heart and soul. But I’m happy with my squad, I’m happy with how we’re playing. We’re creating chances – it’s just if you don’t take the chances, you don’t get the points.”
Manly coach Paul Dee praised his side’s fighting spirit after the win.
“It was a good win, a really good win. This is a hard place to come away from home, and they’re a tough side,” he said.
“We looked at APIA – we know they’re strong up front, we know they’re strong on the break. We knew we’d have to be strong on the counter and desperate in defence at times if needed, and I think we did all that when we had to.”
APIA Leichhardt Tigers 0
Manly United 1 (Paull 43’)
Sunday May 27, 2018
Lambert Park, Leichhardt
Referee: S. Lucas
Assistant Referees: N. Wotton, J. Park
Fourth Official: B. Wright
APIA Leichhardt Tigers: 1. NECEVSKI Ivan, 8. BICZO Corey, 7. FONDYKE Howard, 19. LUNDY Brandon, 2. MILLGATE Nathan, 15. MUATA-MARLOW Themba, 11. MURRAY Jordan, 20. SEKITA Tasuka, 4. SYMONS Joshua, 16. SYMONS Sean, 18. UCCHINO Adrian (10. PARISI Franco)
Substitutes not used: 5. ADATTINI Stephan, 3. GALIMI Paul, 17. GULISANO Samuel, 22. TUXFORD Blake
Yellow cards: Biczo 19’, Millgate 90’
Red cards: N/A
Manly United: 20. CATLIN Shaun, 23. ALESSI Daniel, 7. CHENG Braden, 10. CHOLAKIAN Brendan, 6. FERGUSON Dominic, 21. FOX Joseph (9. MACALLISTER Dylan), 3. LOBB Jamie, 8. MACURA Sasa (14. ROOKE Mitchell), 4. OUGHTRED Travis (13. BALDERSON Scott), 2. PAULL Keiren, 11. TANESKI Nikola
Substitutes not used: 12. EGGER Leigh, 1. MITCHELL Dylan
Yellow cards: Macura 28’
Red cards: N/A
Player Ratings have now been hidden due to the second half of the season commencing.
-By National Premier Leagues NSW reporter Max Grieve