APIA Leichhardt Tigers are determined to make amends for the disappointment of their shock finals week one loss to Sydney United 58, according to APIA defender Themba Muata-Marlow ahead of their preliminary final rematch on Saturday.
United 58, forced to play with ten-men for more than 75 minutes after the controversial send-off of Chris Payne, held out a ferocious APIA attack at Lambert Park before edging the home side 5-3 in a penalty shootout.
It was a frustrating result for APIA who dominated the game but had very little to show for it against a Red’s team seemingly able to withstand everything thrown at them.
While APIA’s fortunes have drastically turned since that much, centre back Muata-Marlow admits the preliminary semi-final result against United 58 still rankles his side.
“To be frank the result was just really disappointing,” he said.
“We took 30 shots and they took one and scored. It was a bizarre match and just one of those nights where we just couldn’t do what we set out to.
“In the two games since that match we have shown what we are capable of, especially our big win last week against Rockdale and the incredible FFA Cup win against Melbourne Victory.
“Everyone in the squad is on a high but when we look back to that first finals game against Sydney United we know we could’ve done better.”
It has been a brutal schedule in recent weeks for APIA as they balance finals football and the FFA Cup with a squad short of depth.
Three games in seven days last week, including the historic win against Victory, has taken its toll on the team Muata-Marlow revealed.
However, the former Newcastle Jets player insists the brilliant atmosphere and confidence in the squad is inspiring them to play some of their best football of the season.
“It’s been a really tough schedule for us lately and I would be lying if I didn’t admit my legs were a bit heavy from the increased workload,” Muata-Marlow said.
“Despite this the feeling around the club is really great at the moment and everyone is playing some really good football.
“I think we showed on Saturday that we haven’t lost our ability to play at a high intensity and we will bring that same drive to this week’s game.
“We’ve had the whole week off to get ready for this game so there will be no excuses if we’re not at our best.”
While APIA gave up the title of league best defence this year, instead becoming it’s most potent attack, Muata-Marlow is confident the Tigers’ backline has what it takes to keep out everything United 58 throw at them.
“There is great chemistry in the team and especially for me with the other defenders,” he said.
“We have really good balance across the back four and while statistically we haven’t reached the same heights as last season I still think we can get the better of whoever we play.
“Sydney United 58 had a tough week last week losing 4-0 so they will be desperate to keep their season alive.
“It is going to be a difficult match but everyone is coming into this game on a high and determined to secure a return to the grand final for the second straight year.”