All photo credits Football NSW / Jeremy Ng
APIA Leichhardt and Sydney FC shared the spoils in a 1-1 draw in a thrilling Round 17 game in the National Premier Leagues NSW Men’s competition at Lambert Park on Saturday evening.
A goal to either side in the first half provided for an entertaining encounter.
It was dubbed a blockbuster and, in the first half at least, the encounter certainly lived up to expectations.
Diego Celis opened the scoring for APIA Leichhardt before Adrian Segecic equalised before the break for Sydney FC in what was a really an impressive first half of football.
The first chance of the encounter arrived in the 5th minute when a powerful drive from the right by Jason Romero for the home side was beautifully turned around the corner by Adam Pavlesic.
A few minutes later Adrian Ucchino for APIA, once again down the right side, was only inches away from finding the back of the net with his attempt.
In the 14th minute Sydney FC had their first opportunity when a free kick by Jaiden Kucharski was well saved by Ivan Necevski, but then on transition APIA went down the other side where Jason Romero from close range fired just over.
The home side did take the lead in the 18thminute on the break.
A long ball forward was wonderfully met by Celis and he threaded it into the bottom corner of the net with aplomb.
In the 23rd minute APIA went close again when a delightful cross by Ucchino flashed across the entire face of goal and almost reached Themba Muata-Marlow at the far post.
In the 25th minute Kucharski replied for Sydney FC when he sprinted towards goal and when one-on-one with the goalkeeper, it was Necevski in the end who made a beautiful save low down to his left and turned the ball away for a corner.
Two minutes later Sydney FC came close again, but Necevski stood tall once again with a marvellous save to block Segecic’s powerful drive. It was indeed some night for the veteran 42 year old shot stopper.
It was end-to-end action at Lambert Park as the home side went up the other end in the 36thminute when Jack Armson fired from just outside the box and his shot was only a whisker over the crossbar in the end.
Sydney FC meritoriously equalised in the 39th when Kucharski, with some determined work against Muata-Marlow, was able to get the ball across the box to Segecic.
Segecic found the back of the net from relatively close range, as the travelling band of young supporters for the visitors, the mini Cove, celebrated.
Two minutes prior to the break APIA must have wondered how they didn’t regain the lead when Armson pushed the ball to Romero on the edge of the box and the latter’s shot finished ever so close but just wide of the intended target.
The half-time whistle was a welcome reprieve for all and sundry and definitely a chance to catch some breath.
The first chance in the second stanza of play arrived in the 64th minute when Sean Symons tried his luck from distance only to be met with a confident save from Pavlesic.
In the 68th minute an APIA corner reached Muata-Marlow at the far post but his clinical header was majestically saved by the Sydney FC custodian.
APIA Leichhardt have made a habit of this set piece play this season and it’s still surprising how other teams have not done their homework and closely guarded Muata-Marlow at the back post.
A few minutes later Romero had a shot from an acute angle and luckily for Sydney FC a slight deflection ensured that the sphere finished just wide of the mark.
In the 80th minute Sydney FC had their first real chance of the second half and it was substitute Zane Schreiber that fired from distance but Necevski made another good save.
Armson, slightly off balance, had APIA’s final chance of the encounter but the second half in the end didn’t produce the flowing action of the first 45 minutes of play.
After the game APIA Leichhardt coach Danial Cummins was somewhat disappointed not to have secured all three points.
“We knew it was big game and it’s the same as last week where we really should have put them away,” he said.
“We need to convert those chances in these games and to be fair to them Ivan [Necevski] pulled off a few good saves because they are a good side on the counter.
“They didn’t trouble us in the second half but we had trouble breaking them down.
“We feel though it is two points lost and we’ll see where we end up at the end of the season.
“I’ve never seen the league this tight and I have been in and around it for 25 years, but I did think that tonight was some of the best football we’ve played so that’s a real positive.”
His counterpart at Sydney FC Jim Van Weeren was happy with the draw and perhaps a little relieved too.
“They had a lot a great chances in the first half and for us to go into the break at 1-1, we’ll take that as a positive,” he said.
“We wanted to come out in the second half and stem the flow a bit. They had a lot of chances but we had a few chances in the second half as well. For the boys to see through the result and get a draw is a positive.”
APIA Leichhardt 1 (Celis 18’)
Sydney FC 1 (Segecic 40’)
Saturday 25th June 2022
Lambert Park Leichhardt
Referee: Sam Kelly
Assistant Referees: Patrick Teleki and Joon Park
Fourth Official: Logan Jones
APIA Leichhardt: 1. Ivan Necevski, 5. Nick Azzone, 8. Diego Celis, 9. Jason Romero, 14. Jack Armson, 15. Themba Muata-Marlow (4. Josh Symons 86’), 16. Sean Symons, 18. Adrian Ucchino, 21. Michael Kouta, 23. Walter Scott, 38. Yianni Nicolaou.
Substitutes Not Used: 22. Luke Turnbull, 3. Paul Galimi, 10. Franco Parisi, 19. Fabian Monge, 20. Nathanael Blair
Yellow Cards: 14’ Kouta, 91’ Scott
Red Cards: Nil
Sydney FC: 30. Adam Pavlesic, 3. Aaron Gurd, 10. Jaiden Kucharski, 11. Adrian Segecic, 12. Jake Girdwood-Reich, 13. Clayton Taylor, 15. Luka Smyth (28. Louis Agosti 46’), 16. Matthew Scarsella (33. Zane Schreiber 63’), 18. Oscar Priestman (14. Mow Ayouk 87’), 27. Dejan Bakrdanikoski (4. Nathan Grimaldi 46’), 37. Hayden Matthews.
Substitutes Not Used: 1. Gus Hoesfloot, 21. Dylan Rose.
Yellow Cards: 20’ Priestman, 44’ Gurd
Red Cards: Nil
By National Premier Leagues NSW Men’s reporter Joe Russo