Ten man Sydney FC almost pulled off an incredible comeback from 3-0 down in a thrilling match against Rockdale Ilinden.
The result ended in an epic 4-3 victory for the ‘visitors’, in the final game of Round 10 of the National Premier Leagues NSW Men’s competition, at their shared Ilinden Sports Centre ground.
The eagerly anticipated fixture was settled by a four-goal haul from former Sky Blues A-League player Alec Ursoevski cancelling out three strikes from Clayton Taylor, Zac Sapsford and a late, late Hayden Matthews effort for Sydney FC.
It was a blistering start as the young guns fell behind with Rockdale opening scoring after just 19 seconds to a Urosevski strike from the edge of the box, after working his way through the Sydney FC defence.
Skipper Daniel Petkovski, another former Sky Blue, skied one over the bar from a corner shortly after when looking to double the lead as Sydney FC were left reeling under the pressure in the opening five minutes.
Rockdale compressed their formation when Sydney FC were in possession to restrict the normally effective route between the lines through quick passing and pace in a canny move by Ilinden coach Steve Zoric that posed the young Sky Blues many questions to solve.
An early injury to ex-Sydney FC Youth league player Daniel Araujo saw the midfielder replaced by Tomoki Wada after just 21 minutes.
As Rockdale adapted to the change, Sydney FC were starting to apply pressure as they looked for an equaliser, but Ilinden continued to hold them out.
A defensive mix-up in the 31st minute saw David Bradasevic pass the ball to Sydney FC, but the chance came quickly and the feeble effort was straight back at the Rockdale gloveman giving the visitors a lucky escape in the closest the young sky blues came to levelling the score.
Urosevski netted his second of the match in the 34th minute after a breakaway move saw the ball played through the middle for the pacey striker to run onto and net in emphatic fashion on the break.
It was a sucker punch to Sydney FC as the tables were turned and they got caught in transition.
Jaiden Kucharski should have reduced the deficit immediately when played through but the foot of Bradasevic knocked the effort away for a corner.
A mad scramble ensued but no advantage was gained and the score remained static.
Rockdale took their lead to three before the break when Urosevski completed his hat-trick in the 42nd minute from a ball played in by another former Sky Blue Will Mutch on the right at the second attempt.
Clayton Taylor, having swapped his number 13 shirt for number 22 at the break, was adjudged to have been fouled in the area in the 52nd minute and confidently rolled in the penalty to reduce the deficit with just their second on-target attempt of the match.
Jake Girdwood-Reich received a red card for his second caution in the 57th minute to make a hard task even tougher for the young guns as they looked to grab something from the encounter.
Urosevski came close to netting his and Rockdale’s fourth not long after, but flashed his shot across the face utilising their man advantage immediately.
Sapsford added a second to further reduce the deficit for ten-man Sydney FC in the 63rd minute to apply further pressure on their opponents when surging forward as Rockdale pushed on.
Rockdale, so commanding in the opening period, were increasingly forced to track back and consolidate since the send-off as Sydney FC made light of the reduction in personnel.
Sapsford went agonisingly wide of the upright with Bradasevic sprawling to his right.
Substitute Wada had an effort deflected out for a corner in reply before Bradsevic was called into action again to deny Kucharski almost point blank.
It was Urosevski’s night when he added his fourth through a sharp finish when nipping in front to side-foot home with eight minutes remaining to quell Rockdale nerves.
Hayden Matthews added a late, late consolation for Sydney FC but it was too little too late as Rockdale leapfrogged them on the ladder leaving Sydney FC coach, Jim van Weeren, to comment: “Rockdale played a good game and we need to be a little smarter in this type of match.
“They closed us down in the opening period and squeezed us between the lines and caught us in transition three times for three goals.
“We changed things after the break and even when we went down to ten men we played some good football but we just need to smarten up in tough fixtures but that will come.
“We’ve lost tonight but I couldn’t ask anything more of the lads from that performance.”
Rockdale coach Steve Zoric was a relieved man at the final whistle.
“The first-half game played worked perfectly,” he said.
“But they came at us in the second-half and made life difficult for us at times.
“The penalty game them a sniff and after they went down to ten men and really lifted their game but we allowed ourselves to fall into their trap and we need to awake to that.
“We went toe to toe with them when we needed to keep our shape and stick to the plan but a great win at the end and keeps us climbing the table so I cannot be too critical with the outcome.”
Sydney FC 3 (Clayton Taylor 53’, Zac Sapsford 63’, Hayden Matthews 90+4)
Rockdale Ilinden 4 (Alec Urosevski 1’,34’,42’,82’)
Ilinden Sports Centre, Rockdale
Sunday 8th April 2022
Fourth Official: Craig Fisher
Assistants: Scott Edeling and Joon Park
Fourth Official: Jackson Mackie
Sydney FC: 30. Adam Pavlesic, 3. Arron Gurd, 4. Nathan Grimaldi (37. Hayden Matthews 46’), 7. Aiden Simmons (9. Ben Gibson 73’), 10. Jaiden Kucharski, 12. Jake Girdwood-Reich, 13. Clayton Taylor, 14. Zac Sapsford, 18. Oscar Priestman, 19. Joseph Calusic (26. Aleksandar Duricic 80’), 28. Louis Agosti (16. Matthew Scarcella 46’)
Substitutes Not Used: 20. Max Vartuli, 33. Zane Schreiber
Yellow Cards: Aiden Simmons 3’, 12. Jake Girdwood-Reich 36’+57’
Red Cards: Jake Girdwood-Reich 47’
Rockdale Ilinden: 1. David Bradasevic, 2. Daniel Petkovski, 4. Mitchell Stamatellis, 5. Will Mutch, 6. Daniel Araujo (10. Tomoki Wada 21’), 7. Alec Urosevski (25. Alex Masciovecchio 87’), 8. Nikola Kuleski, 9. Bai Antoniou (11. Peter Kekeris), 14. Brayden Sorge, 23. Jaden Casella, 88. Chris McStay
Substitutes Not Used: 16. Mo Ahmed, 17. Vincete Fedele, 31. Matthew Murram
Yellow Cards: Jaden Casella 52’, Daniel Petkovski 58’
Red Cards: Nil
3 – Alec Urosevski (RI)
2 – Oscar Priestman (SFC)
1 – Brayden Sorge (RI)
By National Premier Leagues NSW Men’s Reporter Micky Brock