All top three teams slipped to shocking defeats in Round 18 of the NPL NSW Mens’ 20s competition, leaving the race for the Premiership wide open as the run-in heats up.
Still, the top of the table remains as it was at the end of the previous round, with Sutherland leading Sydney FC by a point while Blacktown City sit just behind. This week’s match of the round took place at Lambert Park, where APIA Leichhardt Tigers served up a comprehensive defeat of Sutherland Sharks.
Match of the Round: APIA Leichhardt Tigers FC 3-1 Sutherland Sharks FC, 1.30pm Sunday at Lambert Park
APIA Leichhardt Tigers stunned Sutherland Sharks 3-1 at Lambert Park on Sunday afternoon, racing to a 3-0 lead by halftime to punish the competition leaders for a lazy start from which they never recovered.
The Tigers blew their opponents away in the first half hour, killing the match before halftime with one each from Matthew Taverniti, Luca Kmet and Gino Cerasoli. Thomas Hilton pulled one back for Sutherland in the second half, but it was little more than consolation as the Tigers bounced back from last week’s defeat to Sydney FC in style.
Stung by a heavy loss in Round 17, APIA came out against competition leaders Sutherland determined to make their mark early. Still, even they themselves might have been surprised at just how quickly they got going: Taverniti brought down a lofted through ball and finished across Nicholas Loe to give the Tigers the lead after just six minutes.
APIA seemed in a rush to capitalise on the run of play and soon had a second; Luca Kmet drifting towards goal from the right before driving a shot past Loe to double the hosts’ advantage.
A third followed within the half hour, as a free kick into the box was swung back into play by Taverniti to leave Cerasoli to finish past Loe, giving APIA a nearly unthinkable 3-0 lead.
A triple substitution on the half hour mark spoke volumes for Nick Dimovski’s mood; the Sutherland coach exasperated by a perceived lack of effort from his players. It wasn’t immediately clear if his changes had the desired effect, as Kmet slid onto a ball over the top only to push his shot wide.
APIA should’ve added a fourth before the break when they broke forward in numbers with Kmet on the ball, but Gulisano saw his shot saved well after receiving the pass from the middle.
Halftime came and went, and APIA appeared content to sit on their lead as Sutherland pushed up early in the second half. Noah Chia might’ve pulled one back when he arrived late to a ball dipping in on the penalty spot, but the keeper held his flick-on to preserve APIA three-goal advantage.
The Tigers would have done well to be a little tighter despite their position, and were fortunate to be ahead by three when Thomas Hilton pulled one back for Sutherland with a simple header in the 68th minute. It could’ve been closer still had James Temelkovski’s curling shot towards the far post not been dug out by Blake Tuxford; the APIA keeper ensuring a comfortable end to the match, and confirming an unlikely result for the Tigers.
APIA coach Matthew Michael only had praise for his players after a week which saw Franco Consentino leave his post following a difficult loss to Sydney FC. “Credit to the boys,” he said. “They all went out there and they did their jobs. It’s been a tough week for them – it’s been a tough week for all of us, but in the end they pulled together as a team and got the result they deserved.
“We could’ve easily got another three or four in the first half but in the end we’re really happy with the three points. It was a good effort.”
Sutherland’s Nick Dimovski was furious with his players’ performance, but was heartened to hear Sydney FC’s loss to Manly United would keep his side top for at least another week.
“Full credit to APIA. They were hungrier than us and deserved their win, so I’ve got no complaints with them. I do have some complaints with my boys.
“I was let down by 15 players out of the 16 man squad. There’s going to be changes because there are ways to lose a game, and today was embarrassing. There are certain individuals there who I’ll be having words with at training next week.”
APIA Leichhardt Tigers FC 3 (Taverniti 6’, Kmet 14’, Cerasoli 29’)
Sutherland Sharks FC 1 (Hilton 68’)
Saturday July 8, 2018
Lambert Park, Leichhardt
APIA Leichhardt Tigers FC: 5. Stephan ADATTINI, 32. Jack ARMSON, 26. Nicholas AZZONE, 28. Gino CERASOLI, 17. Samuel GULISANO, 27. Leandro GUZMAN, 30. Luca KMET, 12. Benjamin MCCARRON, 35. Zander REGAN, 39. Matthew TAVERNITI, 22. Blake TUXFORD
Substitutes: 38. Daniel ALESSI, 33. Corey FINCH, 36. Bill LITSAS, 25. Nathan MELLINO
Yellow cards: Gulisano 63’
Red cards: N/A
Sutherland Sharks FC: 31. Gabriel CONTIGIANI, 25. Blake CURREY, 29. Thomas HILTON, 21. Nicholas LOE, 24. Adam MASSOUD, 23. Deren O’BRIEN, 33. Thomas PAPA, 27. Harry SUTHERLAND, 32. James TEMELKOVSKI, 18. Juan ZAPATA, 13. Robert WATSON
Substitutes: 42. Mario ALEKSIC, 28. Noah CHIA, 53. Kuot Maliet, 26. Harrison QUIRK, 3. Richard STEWART
Yellow cards: Contigiani 37’, Hilton 37’, Temelkovski 63’, Currey 85’
Red cards: N/A
Bonnyrigg White Eagles FC 1-1 Wollongong Wolves FC, 5pm at Bonnyrigg Sports Club
Wollongong Wolves were held to a 1-1 draw when they visited Bonnyrigg White Eagles at Bonnyrigg Sports Club on Saturday afternoon; the competition’s fourth-placed side now in serious danger of slipping out of the top five unless their form picks up.
The visitors went ahead in the first half through Tory Musumeci, only for Gregory Kondek to peg the Wolves back after the break to secure a point for Bonnyrigg. Wolves will look ahead to hosting a buoyant APIA Leichhardt side in two weeks’ time, while Bonnyrigg face a trip away to Sydney United 58 in Round 19.
Sydney United 58 FC 2-1 Hakoah Sydney City East FC, 5.30pm at Sydney United Sports Centre
Sydney United 58 edged a 2-1 win over Hakoah Sydney City East in a crucial clash at Sydney United Sports Centre on Saturday afternoon.
United needed three points this week to keep pace with Hakoah ahead of them in fifth, and with a win in Round 18 move two within two points of the side from Sydney’s east. Ahead at halftime, they scored again after the break to render Oliver Green’s goal a footnote on the match.
Sydney United 58 will host Bonnyrigg White Eagles in Round 19, while Hakoah will hope to bounce back when they host high-flying Blacktown City.
Marconi Stallions FC 1-0 Blacktown City FC, 1pm at Marconi Stadium
Blacktown City’s hopes of overhauling Sutherland and Sydney FC were dealt a heavy blow as they fell to a 1-0 defeat to Marconi Stallions at Marconi Stadium on Sunday afternoon.
Blacktown must now win their game in hand against Bonnyrigg or risk dropping out of the race for first and into the tussle for fourth and fifth, with plenty of competition snapping at their heels.
Marconi Stallions will look to carry their good form into their next match against Rockdale City Suns, while Blacktown City look ahead to a clash against Hakoah at Hensley Athletic Field in a fortnight.
Manly United FC 4-1 Sydney FC, 1pm at Cromer Park
Manly United registered a stunning win over Sydney FC at Cromer Park on Sunday afternoon, putting four past the competition’s second-placed side to give themselves an outside shot of sneaking into the top five in the final few weeks of the regular season.
Hamish Lamberton put Sydney FC in front at halftime but Many roared back after the break, with two goals from Leigh Egger and one each from George Firth and Mitchell Rooke giving the hosts an unassailable lead at the final whistle.
Sydney FC have APIA Leichhardt and Marconi to thank for keeping Sutherland and Blacktown City pointless this weekend; their heavy defeat here not quite so costly as it might otherwise have been. They’ll take on Sydney Olympic in two weeks’ time, while Manly United will look to cause another upset when they travel to Sutherland Sharks.
Rockdale City Suns FC 1-2 Sydney Olympic FC, 3pm at Ilinden Sports Centre
Sydney Olympic prevailed in the Round 18 clash between the NPL NSW Mens’ 20s competition’s two bottom sides, coming away from Ilinden Sports Centre with a 2-1 win over Rockdale City Suns.
Taewoo Jung and Fikret Berisha had Olympic in front by two at halftime, with a late goal from Rockdale’s Mohammad Rajani proving little more than consolation as the hosts drop back down into last place behind Olympic courtesy of their inferior goal difference.
Rockdale will hope to pick themselves up when they take on Marconi in Round 19, while Sydney Olympic face a challenge in their clash with a Sydney FC side stinging from a heavy defeat this weekend.
-By Max Grieve