A stunning Jordan Murray hat trick has helped APIA Leichhardt Tigers score a comprehensive 6-2 thrashing of Sutherland Sharks at Lambert Park on Sunday.
The competition’s top scorer with 19 for the season put APIA ahead early before the hosts were pegged back by Ryoga Suyama.
However, the Tigers pushed out to a 3-1 lead at halftime and never looked like going behind as they laid on another three after the break.
The result was a serious message of intent from the Lambert Park based side as they leapfrogged Sydney Olympic and move closer to an incredible defence of their Premiership title.
Tasuku Sekiya made APIA’s intentions clear in the opening minutes with a hopeful chip that clipped the top of Ryan Norval’s crossbar and dropped over for a goal kick.
Jordan Murray followed up shortly after, cutting in from the left to send a curling shot across the goal and towards the far post for Norval to slap away with an outstretched palm.
Knocking at the door as they were, it was little surprise when APIA went ahead inside ten minutes: Jordan Murray broke through the centre and pushed past the onrushing Norval to give himself an open goal, with a late intervention from a Sutherland defender not enough to stop the ball crossing the line.
Sutherland had shown little in possession before going behind but Murray’s goal seemed to galvanise the visitors, and they rallied to hit back less than ten minutes after conceding.
Lachlan Everett pushed through a gap in the APIA backline and hit his shot at Ivan Necevski, but the goalkeeper could only pop the ball up for Ryoga Suyama to follow through and equalise.
Sekiya had another shot well saved by Norval before Howard Fondyke saw a shot blocked after a strong run down the left flank by Corey Biczo.
APIA looked likely to score again sooner or later, and sooner it was: Murray headed against the post and a few moments later the ball came back to Fondyke, who sliced a volley up into the top right corner to give APIA the lead.
Sutherland might have hoped to get into the sheds at 2-2 but found themselves behind by two when Sekiya latched onto a ball into the box from the left and hooked a volley back across the goal for Murray to head into an unguarded net.
The hosts picked up in the second half where they left off in the first, and Murray nearly turned provider when he skinned his man on the byline and cut the ball back to Corey Biczo, only for the shot to be blocked away.
It was a missed opportunity of little consequence, as APIA would have a fourth less than five minutes later: Sean Symons took a shot after being put through in space on the left, and the ball deflected off Nicholas Littler to settle in the net.
Nicholas Olsen pulled one back for Sutherland a few minutes later, bursting through the defence to and sticking his shot to the keeper’s right to give the Sharks real hope of a comeback with half an hour remaining.
Unfortunately for the visitors the match became bogged down in the midfield, and neither side had a chance of any real note until Jordan Murray popped up to complete his hat-trick.
Picking the ball up from Sekiya, Murray calmly rolled the ball past Norval for his 19th of the campaign.
Adrian Vranic might’ve scored another consolation goal after being played through by Jacob Tratt, but Necevski made a smart double save to keep the Tigers in front by three in the last few minutes.
They weren’t finished yet, either; Sekiya picking up a thoroughly deserved goal in extra time to give the match its final 6-2 scoreline.
Billy McColl was delighted with another strong performance from his side.
“It was good to score six but if we were going to score ten then it was going to be today – we missed so many chances. Jordan Murray is playing very well – he’s a young man on a mission,” he said.
“It was an entertaining game – it’s good when you get two teams who really want to play. Different styles, but it was good entertainment and that’s what you want in this competition.”
A bitterly disappointed Grant Lee said schoolboy errors cost his side against an opportunistic APIA outfit.
“It was just poor. Nothing against APIA, who played well, but they scored six goals and they all came from nothing. We gave it to them on a platter,” he said.
“They’re a good side and they’ve got good players, but we’re trying to be too cute and too smart, taking risks at the wrong time, and it just invites trouble. It’s so naive.
“To say that we made schoolboy mistakes is nasty to a schoolboy.”
APIA Leichhardt Tigers FC 6 (Murray 9’, 45’, 78’, Fondyke 31’, Littler OG 55’, Sekiya 90’)
Sutherland Sharks FC 2 (Suyama 18’, Olsen 59’)
Sunday July 8, 2018
Lambert Park, Leichhardt
Referee: R. Mattei
Assistant Referees: M. McOrist, P. Teleki
Fourth Official: J. McFarlane
APIA Leichhardt Tigers FC: 8. Corey BICZO (10. Franco PARISI), 7. Howard FONDYKE (3. Paul GALIMI), 11. Jordan MURRAY, 2. Nathan MILLGATE, 19. Brandon LUNDY, 15. Themba MUATA-MARLOW, 1. Ivan NECEVSKI, 20. Tasuku SEKIYA, 4. Joshua SYMONS, 16. Sean SYMONS (17. Sam GULISANO), 18. Adrian UCCHINO
Substitutes not used: 5. Stephen ADDATINI 22. Blake TUXFORD
Yellow cards: J. Symons 24’
Red cards: N/A
Sutherland Sharks FC: 16. Ryoga SUYAMA (9. Adrian VRANIC), 6. Lachlan EVERETT, 15. Nicholas LITTLER, 20. Keisuke HAYASHI, 1. Ryan NORVAL, 2. Jacob TRATT, 22. Nicholas OLSEN, 17. Leroy JENNINGS, 12. Blair BROWN (8. Evan PATRAMANIS), 10. Joshua DA SILVA, 5. Bradley BARTELS
Substitutes not used: 21. Nicholas LOE
Yellow cards: Littler 80’
Red cards: N/A
-By National Premier Leagues NSW reporter Max Grieve