Young Sky Blues Go Top Of NPL After Seven Goal Thriller

Sydney FC managed a sensational 4-3 victory over APIA Leichhardt at Rockdale Ilinden Sports Centre in the much-anticipated top of the table clash to assert themselves as the league leaders after six rounds of the NPL NSW Men’s competition. 

The unbeaten Sydney FC side squared up against league leaders APIA Leichhardt Tigers in a seven-goal thriller that saw seven different goal scorers.

Sydney FC’s Adrian Segecic, Patrick Wood, Jaiden Kucharski and Clayton Taylor all made their way on the scoresheet, cancelling out goals to APIA Leichhardt’s Jason Romero, Sean Symons and Jack Armson, in a delightful display of counter-attacking football for the young sky blues.

The visitors started stronger and applied all the early pressure, but the young guns of Sydney FC were able to weather the storm through a mix of good fortune and a scrambling defence.

For all their endeavours it was Sydney FC who took the lead through Segecic with a thumping strike giving Luke Turnbull no chance in the APIA net in the 11th minute.

A lung-busting run down the left and into the box by Jason Romero ended in a gol-kick for Sydney FC with the winger protesting it should have been a corner, his words falling on deaf ears.

The Sky Blues countered with a quick break and a sharp run into the area from last week’s hat-trick hero, Wood, to double the lead with a clinical strike across Turnbull in the 23rd minute.

For all of the possession APIA were enjoying, Sydney FC picked their moments and struck decisively on the counter.

Jayden Trenkoski gave away a free-kick on the right-hand edge of the area in the 32nd minute however Romero’s centre was almost turned in from Adrian Ucchino but for some frantic defending.

APIA were working themselves into some fine positions but were unable to unlock the resilient Sydney FC backline.

Themba Muata-Marlow came close twice through headers and Romero fluffed his lines when set up by substitute Sean Symons.

Ucchino did come closest to scoring for APIA in the 44th minute, only to see his effort come crashing back off the bar with Adam Pavlesic finally beaten.

It was Ucchino again after the break that tried his luck from 25-yards but the ball slipped narrowly over.

APIA needed to come out strongly to get back into the game and they did so five minutes in when awarded a penalty.

Romero safely tucked it away from the spot to reduce the deficit.

Pavlesic pulled off a flying save to deny another APIA free-kick moments later.

Sydney FC were restricting APIA Leichhardt to long-range efforts but came close to extending their lead in the 59th minute through Segecic, who was unlucky to see his shot come back off the bar, the ball not dipping enough to creep under.

Corey Holman played a perfect defence-splitting pass but Kucharski was unable to take it in his stride when racing through – the same happened when the number 10 slipped in substitute Zac Sapsford seconds later.

The game became a thrilling end to end affair with the young guns creating the better chances but squandering them in front of goal.

Kucharski finished off another fast move in the 66th minute to again extend the lead, but Sean Symons fired straight back with a little under half an hour to play in a pulsating encounter.

Cahill flashed another header agonisingly wide for the visitors who were doing their uppermost to restore parity, which finally came in the 78th minute through Jack Armson after great set-up play from Romero.

But it was another substitute in Clayton Taylor, who once again found the net for Sydney FC, to give them a 4-3 advantage in the 84th minute with a sweetly-struck shot as the game neared completion.

It was a goal-fest and treat for the fans but left Sydney FC coach, Jim van Weeren to state how pulsating the match really was.

“I think it shows some very positive signs our young lads are prepared to throw themselves wholeheartedly into defending,” he said.

“Against a squad like APIA it was fantastic to see and they had chances but so did we.

“Both could have potentially had another two goals each but most pleasing is to see the boys, after being ahead and allowing them to draw level, the spirit they showed to get the winner.

“Definitely relieved to get the points but certainly pleased for the way the boys handled the situation and kept fighting until the end which, for a bunch of 17-19 year old’s, tonight was just first class.”

APIA fought hard to get back to level pegging leaving their coach, Danial Cummins, to comment.

“We knew coming in they [Sydney FC] are fast and quick to counter in transition, they are a quality side,” he stated.

“Going forward they are a great side but we thought we could hit them during the transitional phase when they pushed numbers forward but full credit to them but you cannot win games if you’re conceding four goals.

“We changed the formation after 30-minutes and brought on a couple of boys who are still a little underdone in terms of match fitness etc. and I feel we just lacked a little bit of quality in the final third today.

“We played a lot of good football in the second-half, we moved the ball well and I’m really pleased the signs are there and it puts us in a good position.

“We’ve had a good start to the season but the next few games are critical for us and we asked at half-time what sort of team are we and we answered it tonight as a side that never gives up and will fight to the end.

“Very pleased with what I saw although we were a little off the pace in some areas tonight.”

Match Stats

Sydney FC 4 (Adrian Segecic 11’, Patrick Wood 23’, Kucharski 66’, Clayton Taylor 84’)

APIA Leichhardt Tigers 3 (Jason Romero 49’p, Sean Symons 67’, Jack Armson 78’)

Ilinden Sports Centre, Rockdale

Sunday 10th April 2022

Referee: Toby Plasto

Assistant Referees: Amir Hosnani and Alessandro Llana

Fourth Official: Jackson Mackie

Sydney FC: 30. Adam Pavlesic, 3. Aaron Gurd, 4. Nathan Grimaldi, 6. Corey Hollman, 7. Aidan Simmons (26. Aleksandar Duricic 80’), 10. Jaiden Kucharski, 11. Adrian Segecic, 12. Jake Girdwood-Reich (14. Zac Sapsford, 46’), 17. Jayden Trenkoski, 18. Oscar Priestman, 22. Patrick Wood (13. Clayton Taylor 56’)

Subs not used: 9. Ben Gibson, 20. Matt Vartuli, 26. Aleksandar Duricic, 28. Louis Agosti

Yellow Cards: Jaiden Kucharski 53’

Red Cards: Nil

APIA Leichhardt Tigers: 22. Luke Turnbull, 2. Gian Fiorese,  5. Nick Azzone (10. Franco Parisi 75’), 6. Simon Nicholas (16. Sean Symons 34’), 9. Jason Romero, 14. Jack Armson, 15. Thema Muata-Marlow, 18. Adrian Ucchino, 20. Nathaniel Blair (7. Matthew Cahill 46’), 23. Walter Scott 38. Yianni Nicolaou

Subs not used: 1. Sam Salcedo Rose, 3. Paul Galimi, 4. Josh Symons

Yellow Cards: Nil

Red Cards: Nil

Player Ratings

3 – Oscar Priestman (SFC)

2 –  Nathan Grimaldi (SFC)

1 – Adrian Ucchino (ALT)

By National Premier Leagues NSW Men’s Reporter Micky Brock