The NSW NPL Men’s 20s competition has come to an end ahead of the finals series,with just one change to the top five at the conclusion of Round 22.
Hakoah Sydney City East slipped out of the finals places after a loss to APIA Leichhardt in this week’s Match of the Round, while Sydney United 58’s 4-0 win over Sydney Olympic ensured they jumped up to fourth ahead of fifth-placed Wollongong.
Elsewhere, Blacktown City and Sutherland Sharks played out a 1-1 draw at Lily Homes Stadium, while Sydney FC rebounded from defeat in Round 21 to smash Rockdale 5-1 at Ilinden Sports Centre.
Match of the Round: APIA Leichhardt Tigers FC 2-0 Hakoah Sydney City FC, Sunday 1pm at Lambert Park
Hakoah Sydney City East fell agonisingly short of the top five on the final day of the regular season after a 2-0 defeat to APIA Leichhardt Tigers at Lambert Park.
Sydney United 58 were into a 3-0 lead over Sydney Olympic by kickoff in Leichhardt, leaving Hakoah needing a win to keep their place in the top five. They were pushed back by the hosts from the first whistle and were ultimately undone by two late goals, the first an own goal from Jordan Lewis and the second a wonder strike by Luca Kmet.
Jordan Koton took the initiative to launch the first attack of real danger for the visitors, bursting through on the right flank before drawing a sharp save from Blake Tuxford in the APIA goal.
A ball in from the left was touched on towards goal by Luca Kmet but was cleared to safety before Hakoah broke down the other end to put Tuxford under pressure with a clearance; the keeper skewing the ball straight to Harry Jones who hit a snapshot wide of the post from distance.
Kmet had another half-chance when he tried to loop a volley back across the goalkeeper at the back post, but he could only whack an inelegant shot over the bar.
Gino Cerasoli came desperately close to opening the scoring with a header across goal before Jack Armson had a solid shot blocked away by the Hakoah keeper – the visitors might’ve need a win, but APIA were the only side the looked like scoring as the halftime whistle sounded.
Still, the score remained 0-0 and Hakoah came out of the sheds charged up with their season on the line, with Joshua Orchard heading against the crossbar from a corner shortly after the restart.
Nicholas Azzone almost broke the deadlock after getting up to stab a shot at goal only for the goalkeeper to bat the ball away, before Kmet had another chance after clever hold-up play from Matthew Taverniti, but his effort was dealt with easily.
Hakoah looked to barely be hanging on as the match approached the final ten minutes and surely enough APIA opened the scoring to almost certainly end their opponents’ challenge for a place in the finals. Luca Kmet crossed from the left and a deflection off Jordan Lewis sent the ball spinning into the net to give the Tigers a late lead.
Hakoah pushed forward in numbers, now needing two goals in ten minutes, but were undone when Luca Kmet broke upfield before sending the ball flying past a stranded goalkeeper to put APIA up by two. There was to be no late heroics from the visitors, meaning both sides end their seasons here – APIA in eighth, and Hakoah missing out on the finals on goal difference to Wollongong.
APIA’s Matthew Michael was smiling after a solid win on the final day of the season, one capped off by a spectacular goal by Luca Kmet. “He’s a fantastic player,” said Michael. “His creativity, he gives us an edge. But they all work well together, there’s a lot of good players in that team and it’s great to see them playing at their full potential.
“We’re here to win, and it doesn’t matter if it’s the last game or the first game. That’s the mentality we’ve got and we did the job – there’s always something to play for.”
“We knew the other result,” said Hakoah’s David Shaddock. “We knew we had to win the game, which is why we went for it and ended up conceding that second goal.
“The season was up and down. We had a bad start, we came good in the middle and then we faded out near the end. Still, we’ve blooded a lot of young kids – we had a 16-year old come on today – so we can look back on stuff like that and be proud.”
APIA Leichhardt Tigers FC 2 (Lewis OG 77’, Kmet 84’)
Hakoah Sydney City East FC 0
Sunday August 12, 2018
Lambert Park, Leichhardt
APIA Leichhardt Tigers FC: 5. ADATTINI Stephan, 32. ARMSON Jack, 26. AZZONE Nicholas, 28. CERASOLI Gino, 13. D’APUZZO David, 30. KMET Luca, 12. MCCARRON Benjamin, 35. REGAN Zander, 39. TAVERNITI Matthew, 22. TUXFORD Blake, 25. MELLINO Nathan
Substitutes: 31. KAMARA Kalilou, 40. KAMARA Mustafa, 7. PRISUDA Zeke, 24. LITSAS Bill, 34. FOTOPOULOUS Harris
Yellow cards: Kmet 38’
Red cards: N/A
Hakoah Sydney City East FC: 40. FIGUEIRA Michael. 17. JONES Harry, 15. KATSIONIS Steven, 22. KNIGHT Mitchell, 18. KOTON Jordan, 35. MAHACHI Dairai, 27. MAKRIDOPOLUS Jordan, 16. ORCHARD Joshua, 12. ROBERTS Nathan, 24. TURRALL Peter, 33. LEWIS Jordan
Substitutes: 23. JOVANOVSKI Jake, 31. KOLT Satchel, 28. USTIMENKO David, 29. HANCOCK Nathan
Yellow cards: Lewis 74’
Red cards: N/A
Sydney Olympic FC 0-4 Sydney United 58 FC, 12pm at Belmore Sports Ground
Sydney United 58 secured their place in the finals series on the last day of the regular season, with a 4-0 win over Sydney Olympic at Belmore Sports Ground helping them leapfrog Hakoah and Wollongong into fourth.
The visitors raced to a 3-0 lead at the break, by which time Hakoah were kicking off against APIA across town. A fourth goal in the second half was icing on the cake, with Hakoah having slipped to a 2-0 defeat at Lambert Park to drop out of the five.
Sydney United 58 can look ahead to their first finals match next Saturday afternoon when they take on Wollongong at Lambert Park, while Sydney Olympic’s season comes to a disappointing end with their fourth consecutive defeat.
Manly United FC 0-0 Bonnyrigg White Eagles, 1pm at Cromer Park
Manly United and Bonnyrigg White Eagles played out a 0-0 draw at Cromer Park on the final day of the season for both sides; neither having qualified for the finals.
The scoreless draw did little for either side’s position on the last day, as Manly finish ninth – and ultimately five points from fifth place – while Bonnyrigg finish tenth, well above Rockdale and Olympic at the bottom of the ladder but relegated to the NPL 2 by the Club Championship table nonetheless.
Rockdale City Suns FC 1-5 Sydney FC, 1pm at Ilinden Sports Centre
Sydney FC bounced back from defeat last weekend to smash Rockdale 5-1 at Ilinden Sports Centre on Sunday afternoon, with Giancarlo Italiano’s men back in dangerous form ahead of their first finals match against Sutherland Sharks next week.
Evan Tsakos registered a hat trick, while Hamish Lamberton and Ryan Teague rounded out the scoring for the competition’s most prolific side. Alexander Malfara scored the only goal of the game for his team, keeping Rockdale in the hunt at the break before their opponents blew them away with three in the second half.
Sydney FC could only finish as high as second after their 4-0 defeat to Blacktown City last week and duly secured their position to set up their clash with Sutherland next Saturday, while Rockdale’s season ended in familiar disappointment; the side from Ilinden Sports Centre rooted to the bottom of the ladder after a difficult year.
Blacktown City FC 1-1 Sutherland Sharks FC, 1pm at Lily Homes Stadium
Blacktown City celebrated their Premiership win at in front of a home crowd but were held to a 1-1 draw by Sutherland Sharks in the last match of the season before both sides begin their respective finals campaigns.
Lewis Fraser had the Premiers ahead at halftime but Sutherland fought back with a goal from Kuot Maliet to hold Blacktown to a draw and stop their three-match winning streak in its tracks.
Blacktown have a week’s rest after sealing their first place finish last weekend, while Sutherland continue their tricky run into the finals when they take on Sydney FC at Lily Homes Stadium.
Marconi Stallions FC 2-1 Wollongong Wolves FC, 1pm at Marconi Stadium
Marconi edged a 2-1 win over Wollongong in the last round of the regular season, with results elsewhere combining to shift the Wolves down into fifth ahead of the finals.
Martin Fernandez and Kye Soares scored for the hosts, while Taylor McDonald’s goal wasn’t enough to inspire Wollongong to snatch a point late in the game.
Only goal difference kept the visitors in the finals places ahead of Hakoah Sydney City East, and Wollongong will need to pick themselves up in order to rebound against a resurgent Sydney United 58 next week at Lambert Park.
Marconi, meanwhile, end their season on a relative high, having finished two points outside of the five in seventh place.
-By Max Grieve