Sydney FC triumphed over Sydney United 58 in a thrilling conclusion to the PlayStation4 NPL NSW Men’s under 18’s competition, winning 3-2 after extra time in Sunday’s grand final at Leichhardt Oval.
Sydney United 58 took a shock lead in the 2nd minute but both sides went into the break level after Alex Masciovecchio equalised a few minutes after the half hour.
The home side were reduced to ten men midway through the second half, but rallied to take a 2-1 lead seconds into the first period of extra time before being pegged back a little under ten minutes later.
With penalties looming, William Todd rose to head in the winner in the 104th minute, sealing a hard-fought and well-deserved win to claim the 2017 under 18’s Championship.
There was little opportunity for either team to settle into a rhythm, as Sydney United 58 drove forward, won a corner, and scored from the following play: the ball was cleared and worked to Joshua De Rossi near the top of the box, who curled his shot over and inside the far post to give his side a lead after just two minutes. It was a goal worthy of opening the scoring in any match, let alone a grand final, and De Rossi streaked away in celebration in front of an approving main stand, clearly delighted with a fine effort.
Unsurprisingly rattled by De Rossi’s strike, the home side – Sydney FC at the neutral Leichhardt Oval – very nearly found themselves two goals down inside ten minutes when a corner was flicked against the crossbar, but were able to clear the danger and begin to regroup after the early setback.
Sydney FC grew into the game as the half wore on but struggled to break through the Sydney United 58 backline, anchored by the formidable centreback pairing of Christian Zebec and Jack Gatallari. Jacob Chapman charged out of his area as he tried to beat Ben Koop to a long ball from the midfield, but the goalkeeper mistimed his run and was left to rely on a defender to block Koop’s long-range attempt and preserve his side’s lead.
Neither goalkeeper was kept particularly busy through a first half in which Sydney FC were, for the most part, in relative control; stretching the Sydney United 58 defence well to open up space between the lines. It came as little surprise when they equalised just after the half hour: Chapman was again drawn out his goal by a ball which dropped at the top of the area for Phillip Cancar to touch past the goalkeeper and on for Masciovecchio to score into an empty net.
The half played out with Sydney FC comfortable in possession, and apparently satisfied to go into the break with the scores level. Just as the first half petered out, so the second half started, and the hour passed by with little incident. It wouldn’t be until the 61st minute that either goalkeeper was seriously tested again, as Marco Tilio skipped down the right flank before cutting inside to stab a shot at Chapman, who pushed the ball away for a corner before denying a header from Cancar at the set piece.
The tone of the match changed dramatically a little under ten minutes later, when Rocco Chisari lunged into a tackle in the midfield and was shown a straight red card. Sydney United 58 should have taken immediate advantage of their numerical superiority when the resulting free kick was launched into the box and fell for Hamish Lamberton on the penalty spot, but he became tangled up with a teammate and the chance went wasted.
In spite of the red card, Sydney FC refused to give up their hold on the match, and looked the likelier of the two sides to snatch a winner in the closing stages, with Masciovecchio going close late on after squeezing though on the left and poking a shot at Chapman to save, leaving the Sydney FC player holding his head in his hands as the whistle blew for full time.
The match would be decided with two ten-minute halves of extra time, but Sydney FC barely needed 60 seconds to take the lead for the first time in the match in the 91st minute. A poor clearance dropped for Benjamin Koop at the edge of the six-yard box, who swept his shot back across the stranded Chapman to send the Sydney FC bench into raptures.
Liam Ivancic swiped at a loose ball on the penalty spot but was denied by Kubecka at close range, before Paolo Laxamana raced up the other end in a lightning counter only to see his shot saved by the ever-present Chapman. Yet for all that Sydney FC looked to be heading into the second period of extra time with the lead, Sydney United 58 had other ideas, and Christian Zebec climbed highest in the box to nod a long ball on past Kubecka to snatch a timely equaliser for the visitors.
A quick break came and went, and Sydney FC pushed forward once again. William Todd rose to flick a header on towards goal in the 104th minute, and this time Chapman could do nothing: the Sydney FC captain charged towards the corner flag and was mobbed by his teammates in celebration. There was no final reply from their opponents in the final few minutes – only an acknowledgement, in the post-match presentation after the final whistle, that the best side on the day – and throughout the season – had thoroughly deserved their win.
Sydney FC 3 (Masciovecchio 33′, Koop 91′, Todd 104′)
Sydney United 58 FC 2 (De Rossi 2′, Zebec 101′)
Sunday 10 September 2017, at Leichhardt Oval
Referee: Sam Kelly
Assistant referees: Oliver Lawton and Ivica Covic
Fourth official: Andreas Lyndon
Sydney FC: 76. KUBECKA Bailey, 88. CANCAR Phillip, 90. CHISARI Rocco, 84. FAY Thomas, 62. HOLLMAN Jake (43. LAXAMANA Paolo 84′), 64. KOOP Benjamin, 80. MASCIOVECCHIO Alex (78. ROGERS Maximilian 90′), 89. TALBOT Callum, 68. TILIO Marco, 95. TODD William, 61. VASILIOU Jacob (87. MATTISON Mitchell 77′)
Subs not used: 66. TOGIAVALU Bailey, 67. TSAKOS Evan
Yellow Cards: N/A
Red Cards: Chisari 69′
Sydney United 58 FC: 1. CHAPMAN Jacob, 6. BENNISON Todd (14. SEKULIC Daniel 79′), 7. CHO Jeonghui (16. JOHNSON Joshua 84′), 11. DEROSSI Joshua, 34. IVANCIC Liam, 10. LAI Nicolas, 9. LAMBERTON Hamish, 5. MUTTON Cole, 28. PAPOUTSIS James (2. GASPAROVIC Adam 64′), 4. PINTUR Nicholas, 3. ZEBEC Christian (12. TOBIN Aidan 105′)
Subs not used: 27. AMADURI Nikolas
Yellow Cards: Lai 53′, Zebec 73′, Sekulic 90′, Ivancic 97′
Red Cards: N/A
-By Football NSW reporter Max Grieve