Rockdale City Suns have helped get their season back on track with a hard-fought 1-0 win against Southern Sydney rivals Sutherland Sharks at Seymour Shaw on Saturday night.
It was the perfect start to the second half of the season for the Suns as they claimed an early goal and then clung on to secure all three competition points.in a match which got off to a fast start but quickly cooled.
Young winger Bai Antoniou struck in the fifth minute for Rockdale with a fiercely hit shot from the edge of the penalty area after a mazy run through the heart of the Sharks defence.
It would prove to be the match winner as Sutherland struggled to create any cutting chances of their own in the remaining 85 minutes of action.
The match began at a ferocious pace with Sutherland on the back foot early as the Suns forced a succession of corners after giving their opponents no early breathing space.
It didn’t take long for the visitors to capitalise as Antoniou picked up the ball in midfield and drove the ball through the Sharks defence before blasting his shot into the back of the net from outside the penalty area on the five minute mark.
Lachlan Everett tried his luck from distance with his effort forcing Suns shot stopper Ante Covic scrambling to his right but the effort slipped wide of the woodwork.
Alec Urosevski came close to doubling the visitors lead in the 16th minute when his shot went clear across the goalmouth with no team mate able to touch it home. The Suns were certainly on the front foot and presented Sutherland many questions as they pressed to increase their lead.
Ryan Norval was sharply down to his left to deny another former Shark in Jordan Figon shortly after as Rockdale seemed intent on finishing this game off early.
Mid-way through the half the Sharks had only their second real effort on goal. Keisuke Hayashi did well to chase the ball down on the by-line and pull it back for Adrian Vranic who could only hit the ball straight to civic after failing to connect cleanly with his shot.
Rockdale were at it again soon after when Aleks Canak stole the ball from Joshua Da Silva and blasted over from the edge of the box as again Sutherland were caught square at the back. Defending too deeply they allowed plenty of space between the defence and midfield and any half-chances were being gobbled up by Rockdale who were only too happy to accept them.
Figon then broke to set-up Urosevski and it took another moment of sharpness from Norval to beat down the effort.
A fine free-kick eventually found its way to Leroy Jennings who took it on the volley and wasn’t too far wide of the mark as Sutherland finally found a moment of breathing space.
The Suns took to the sheds with a 1-0 lead at the break but would’ve been at a loss to work out how they weren’t in front by more after dominating the opening 45 minutes.
Figon swerved a dipping shot wide in the opening seconds from the restart after good work from Urosevski sent Michael Neill away who cut inside and opened up the opportunity for the striker.
Everett, growing into the game, came close again for the Sharks not long after and tested Covic when Sutherland forced their way through. The keeper needed to be at his sharpest to push the ball over the bar for a corner.
Harry Sutherland replaced Hristijan Tanoski in the 69th minute and bizarrely found himself in the book within 30-seconds of taking the field. His was the first caution in a fiercely competitive but honest derby.
There was still time for the Sharks to get back into the match but when they did find a way through they met the barrier that was Suns defender Brayden Sorge.
The right back was inspiring at the back alongside skipper Daniel Petkovski, Nick Petrillo and the gloveman Covic.
Figon scuffed an effort in the 77th minute when surging into the area that would surely have put the result to bed, Rockdale were still able to exploit small openings in the Sharks back line.
Tratt had a direct free-kick well stopped by Covic on the line as the home side were being reduced to dead ball situations and long range efforts as the Suns dropped deeper to pack the final third and hit on the counter. It was all for the Sharks to do as Rockdale had the lead in the dying stages.
Probably the best chance for Sutherland came in the final minute of regulation time when a Hayashi corner eventually bounced up for Vranic but his point blank header was straight at Covic and the half-chance disappeared along with their hopes.
Rockdale coach Paul Reid was pleased with the win but felt it should’ve been a more comprehensive result for his side.
“I couldn’t be prouder of the boys because we copped a lot of stick after our loss to Sydney FC, and rightly so. We were poor last week and we spoke about the need to be more consistent and this will go a long way to getting that belief back into the players,” Reid said.
“A clean sheet is always nice but the way we performed and created chances was also pleasing. However, we still need to work on our finishing in the final third but at the end of the day we got the points and that is what we came for.
“There are still 10-games to go and while we remain a long way off where we want to be, it’s a good way to start the second round.”
Sharks boss Grant Lee rued a poor performance from his side after the match.
“We probably could have lost by more tonight,” Lee said.
“But everything they had, the opportunities, shots etc. was through our own creation.
“It was all through counter attacks caused by our own mistakes and through poor passing and not being switched on which is what is most disappointing. We gave it away when we were in good possession with no pressure on us or by trying to play through and then it’s a poor touch or a poor pass that has let us down.
“Rockdale have quality players and when you’re caught out in your third of the pitch you are under pressure.I can’t remember an opportunity they carved out for themselves from open play in the first-half. When you look at that and the balance of play and the few opportunities we had you have to say it was very disappointing from that aspect.
“We then had to push up to get back into the game and again got ourselves into trouble with counters but that became the nature of the match then as we had to go so hard for it. If we had not been a goal down and chasing the game would they have had those opportunities to counter attack? Maybe, maybe not but over the course of the game we played a very good squad in Rockdale and they will hurt you if you let them play.”
Sutherland Sharks 0
Rockdale City Suns 1 (Antoniou 5’)
Seymour Shaw Park, Miranda
Saturday, 26th May 2018
Referee: Ben Abraham
Asst. Refs: Sarah Ho & Janush Adabjou
Fourth Official: Sebastian Andrews
Sutherland Sharks: 1.Ryan Norval, 2.Jacob Tratt, 6.Lachlan Everett, 9.Adrian Vranic, 10.Joshua Da Silva, 11.Hristijan Tanoski (26.Harry Sutherland 69’), 13.Robert Watson, 15.Nick Littler, 16.Ryoga Suyama (32.James Temelkovski 74’), 17.Leroy Jennings, 20.Keisuke Hayashi
Substitutes not used: 21.Nikolas Loe, 25.Blake Curry, 28.Noah Chia
Yellow Cards: Sutherland 69’
Rockdale City Suns: 1.Ante Covic, 2.Daniel Petkovski, 6.Blake Riccuito (10.Harris Gaitatzis 54’), 7.Alec Urosevski (17.Toufic Alameddine 83’), 8.Alex Canak, 9.Bai Antoniou, 14.Brayden Sorge, 15.Nicholas Petrillo, 19.Patrick Savor, 21.Michael Neill, 23.Jordan Figon (4.Trent McClenahan 88’)
Substitues not used: 11.Jonathan Grozdanovski, 25.Jake Soutter
Player Ratings have now been hidden due to the second half of the season commencing.
-By National Premier Leagues NSW reporter Micky Brock