A Panny Nikas strike at the death has secured all three points for Sydney United 58 in a tense 1-0 result against Manly United FC at Sydney United Sports Centre on Saturday.
The home side put their disappointing loss to APIA Leichhardt Tigers behind them, as they controlled proceedings for 90 minutes against last season’s grand final winners.
For Manly United FC, that loss extinguishes their slim finals chances and puts their Championship defense to bed. The visitors know their core group will take the lessons from this season and channel it into a more successful 2019.
On a chilly night at Sydney United Sports Centre, the action heated up fast as Sydney United 58 FC took the first chance. From a well-directed corner Yianni Perkatis rose highest to flash his header over the bar.
Next it was Manly United’s chance to create, when the ball fell perfectly for Dylan Macallister. The experienced forward took his chance first time but the shot bounced wide of the left post as the visitors sought a quick start.
By the 15th minute, Manly United had settled into the contest. A pair of chances that ended up behind the goals – firstly a corner that was arrowed by Domenic Ferguson then the best sequence of passing in the first half ended with Joseph Fox blazing over.
Much of the remainder of the half followed the same pattern. Manly United built up their play well, usually through Nikola Taneski but they lacked the end product. The forward himself curved wide in the 29th minute.
To end the half Mitchell Rooke put himself in promising positions, linked well with his attackers to force Sydney United 58 FC keeper Thomas Manos into retrieving the ball but no movement on the scoreboard as the half ended 0-0.
Coming out of the sheds after the break, Sydney United looked to find the net. First Christopher Payne flicked the crossbar with an effort with the follow up saved in the 47th minute.
The home side looked much more comfortable on the ball as they whipped the ball across the box to prise an opening which fell to Glen Trifiro who swept over with the goal gaping.
Next it was the combination between substitute Patrick Antelmi that carved open the Manly defense as he teed up a header for Nikas, the usually reliable striker nodded wide as the groans rumbled across the stadium.
Down the other end, Brendan Cholakian drove into acres of space for Manly, cutting past his defender before the striker arrowed his effort agonisingly wide of the post.
Nikas continued to be the central figure for Sydney United 58. He had a pair of chances in the 79th and 83rd minute that were denied well by Manly custodian, Dylan Mitchell as a single goal would seal the contest.
Taneski had the visitors best two chances of the second half. He transitioned quickly from Nikas’ shot, weaved past his defender but bounced it wide. Four minutes later, Taneski again found space but couldn’t find the net.
Cometh the hour, cometh the man. A free-kick with 60 seconds left on the clock was assigned to one man – Panny Nikas. The goal machine stepped up and struck the free-kick so sweetly that left Mitchell a bystander as Sydney
United 58 took all three points.
For Sydney United 58 coach Miro Vlastelica, that result was a reward for the side’s work and brings them closer to their goal, finishing 2nd or 3rd after the regular season.
“We work every game. The boys showed a lot of character to come back from last week’s result. We set ourselves a target, to finish second or third and we’re close to that,” he said.
“It was a quality strike from Panni, although he could have buried a few others there. Also we handed young Luke [Vlastelica] a debut which is good but overall, we’ll take the three points.”
Manly United FC coach Paul Dee was disappointed at the result, with his side’s effort not questioned but remained philosophical as the side take these lessons into next season.
“I thought the first half we were very positive, executed the game-plan well but you miss a few one-on-ones then give away a free-kick to a class player like Panny Nikas and that happens,” he said.
“It’s a real disheartening result for us. We’ve had a challenging season but the core group is looking forward to next year because this has hurt us enough to want to be much better next season.”
Sydney United 58 FC 1 (Nikas ‘89)
Manly United FC 0
Saturday 4 August 2018
Sydney United Sports Centre, Edensor Park
Referee: K Patterson
Assistant Referees: L. Greenshields & J. Adabjou
Fourth Official: H. Jomaa
Sydney United 58 FC: 2. GONZALEZ Cristian, 3. ROBERTS Jordan (15. MAIA ‘82), 6. PAYNE Christopher (9. ANTELMI ‘65), 8. SIM Matthew (4. L. VLASTELICA ‘93), 11. PERKATIS Yianni, 12. COLE Shannon, 14. STAVROULAKIS Nicholas, 18. TRIFIRO Glen, 21. MANOS Thomas, 22. FRAGOGIANNIS Yianni, 23. NIKAS Panagiotis
Substitutes not used: 1. HALL John 15. MAIA Tariq
Yellow cards: nil
Red cards: nil
Manly United FC: 1. MITCHELL Dylan, 2. PAULL Kieran, 3. LOBB Jamie, 4. OUGHTRED Travis, 6. FERGUSON Domenic, 9. MACALLISTER Dylan (5. WILSON ‘79), 10. CHOLAKIAN Brendan, 11. TANESKI Nikola, 12. EGGER Leigh, 14. ROOKE Mitchell (7. CHENG ‘79), 21. FOX Joseph (23. ALESSI ‘93)
Substitutes not used: 17. STENSNESS Gianni, 20. CATLIN Shaun
Yellow cards: nil
Red cards: nil
By National Premier Leagues NSW reporter Justin Davies