Gritty APIA overcome Manly in opener
APIA Leichhardt Tigers extracted sweet revenge for last year’s Grand Final defeat, opening their 2018 National Premier Leagues NSW Men’s campaign with a 2-1 come-from-behind victory over reigning Champions Manly United in front of a healthy crowd at Cromer Park.
The Tigers had been forced to work by a resolute Manly defensive unit, which included a Howard Fondyke spot kick denied by a flying Dylan Mitchell mid-way through the first period.
However second half strikes in the 64th and 77th minute from Jordan Murray and Zachary Mackenzie proved decisive for the visitors, cancelling out Nikola Taneski’s opener inside five minutes.
In a classy affair both sides enjoyed extended spells of dominance, however it was Billy McColl’s men who held on for the three points with relative comfort.
The hosts showed signs of breaking through within three minutes, as Jamie Lobb’s saw his free kick scrambled off the line by APIA fullback Nathan Millgate.
But it did not take long for last season’s Champions to draw first blood courtesy of the man who placed the final dagger in APIA hearts during last season’s decider.
The fifth minute saw Scott Balderson break through on the left flank, cutting the ball inside for that man Nikola Taneski to bundle home.
Unfortunately for Paul Dee, that would be the final contribution from Balderson, after a hamstring complaint saw him withdrawn on the ten minute mark for youngster Kye Conna.
In a frenetic opening, APIA were not without chances of their own.
Tasuku Sekiya beat his man to forge a clear sight on goal in the 10th minute, but blazed his effort wide.
It was in the 17th minute that the Tigers were granted a golden opportunity to restore parity.
Macallister’s awkward attempt to clear the ball saw him catch Joshua Symons, causing referee Craig Fisher to point to the spot.
However yet another grand final hero stood up for the hosts, as Mitchell got down well to his left to deny Howard Fondyke.
Following Mitchell’s heroics, the match began to settle.
Cholakian went close after 55 minutes, but his volley was well kept out by Ivan Necevski.
It was then in the 64th minute that the break through APIA were craving arrived.
Murray was in the right place at the right time to nod home a scuffed headed clearance.
Thirteen minutes later, the match had been turned on its head.
Sekiya made a trademark break down the right flank, before providing a pin-point delivery to the feet of Sean Symons, who could not miss.
Manly pushed hard for an equaliser in the closing stages.
A couple of opportunities were spurned by Sasa Macura, ensuring Manly’s title defence was resigned to a losing start.
APIA coach Billy McColl lauded his team’s output during his first competitive match in charge.
“I was very pleased with the boys, we’ve still got a lot of work to do but it was pleasing come away and start with a victory,” he said.
“We rectified a few things at half time, and we earned a just reward after 90 minutes.”
His opposing boss Paul Dee was left to lament what could have been upon his return to the Cromer Park hot seat.
“It was disappointing,” he said.
“I thought we had controlled it really well in the first half and deserved the lead, and then just a little bit of naive play from us in critical moments led to conceding two goals that we shouldn’t be conceding.”
Manly United FC 1 (Nikola Taneski 5’)
Apia Leichhardt Tigers FC 2 (Jordan Murray 64’, Sean Symons 77’)
Saturday March 10, 2018
Cromer Park, Dee Why
Referee: Craig Fisher
Assistant Referees: Arrol Beecham, Jack Bell
Fourth Official: Chris Hughes
Manly United: 1.Dylan Mitchell, 3. Jamie Lobb, 4. Travis Oughtred, 6. Dominic Ferguson, 8. Sasa Macura, 9. Dylan Macallister (21. Joseph Fox 69’) , 10. Brendan Cholakian, 11. Nicola Taneski, 12. Leigh Egger, 13. Scott Balderson (25. Kye Conna 9’), 23. Daniel Alessi (17. Gianni Stensness 87’)
Substitutes Not Used: 20. Shaun Catlin, 36. Lachlan McGrath
Yellow Cards: Dominic Ferguson 82’, Leigh Egger 88’
Red Cards: Nil
APIA Leichhardt Tigers FC: 1. Ivan Necevski, 2. Nathan Millgate, 4. Sean Symons, 7. Howard Fondyke (6. Zachary Mackenzie 69’), 8. Corey Biczo (9. George Howard 45’), 11. Jordan Murray (3. Paul Galimi 85’) 15. Themba Muata-Marlow, 16. Sean Symons, 18. Adrian Ucchino, 19. Brandon Lundy, 20. Tasuku Sekiya
Substitutes Not Used: 10. Franco Parisi, 22. Blake Tuxford
Yellow Cards: Sean Symons 66’, George Howard 79’, Themba Muata-Marlow 90’
Red Cards: Nil
– By Chris Curulli
Originally appeared on www.nplnsw.com.au