Phil Moss? Manly outfit returned to winning ways in spectacular fashion in the west of Sydney, delivering a display of relentless attacking football as they overran a woeful Berries outfit.
In a match that epitomized West Sydney’s season thus far, co-coaches Ramsin Shamon and Spiro Hantzis watched on helplessly as their side squandered a number of excellent goal-scoring opportunities inside the opening half-an-hour before being punished emphatically for their defensive naivety.
In a bright opening to the match, Manly goalkeeper Brad Swancott needed to be alert as he was forced to punch a way a dangerous free-kick whipped into the United penalty area after just one minute of play. The shot-stopper saw the ball late as it curled toward him through a crowd of bodies and instinctively palmed the ball away from in front of him.
Two minutes later and Berries attacker Dimitri Zakilas wasted an excellent chance to give his side the lead. Creative midfielder Sash Tirovski played a dangerous through ball in-behind the Manly defence and across the penalty area. The ball missed three players and the committed Swancott before being caught-up in the feet of Zakilas at the far post. The striker did superbly well to composed himself and take the ball away from the Manly ?keeper but from a narrow angle and with only one defender protecting an otherwise open net, he dragged his weak shot across the face of goal, with another United defender arriving late to produce a desperate clearance.
The Berries continued to press high up the pitch and dictate the tempo of the game from midfield. After 6? minutes Ryan Jones showed his strength by winning the ball in the opposition half. Holding the ball up just outside the box and remaining unchallenged by a panicking Manly defence, the midfielder shot low and hard with the outside of his foot, only to see Swancott make a sharp save to his left.
After 17? minutes however, Manly striker Robbie Cattanach showed why he is one of the top scorers in the Telechoice Premier League this season. A long throw taken by Manly on the left hand side was latched onto by the mobile Cattanach, who dashed into the penalty area, turned experienced centre-back Petratos inside-out, before dragging his shot just past Hamish McLean?s left ?hand post from a tight angle.
Cattanach was almost rewarded for his predatory instincts on 26? minutes, as he took a bouncing ball past two Berries defenders before slipping it delicately underneath the on-rushing McLean. The ball agonizingly hit the post, before returning to Cattanach whose follow up effort was desperately blocked by a West Sydney defender.
Despite the best efforts of Sash Tirovski and Ryan Jones ? working tirelessly in the Berries midfield ? Manly would take the lead on 34? minutes after a superb team move. Striker Craig Midgley received the ball on the edge of the box and with his back to goal, before slipping a pass through for Cattanach, who accelerated into the penalty area and squared the ball across the face of goal for the unmarked Bradley Groves to produce a cool side-footed finish.
The pace and intelligent movement of Midgley, Cattanach and Williams was unsettling the Berries defence and on the stroke of half-time Manly doubled their lead thanks to the brilliance of midfielder Joey Schirripa.
Collecting the ball on the left flank, Schirripa took advantage of some lazy Berries defending by darting inside and onto his right foot. From outside the box, the midfielder unleashed a thunderous shot which swerved away from Hamish McLean at the final moment and dislodged the top right-hand corner of the net. A ferocious strike worthy of any 2-0 lead but the lethargy of the West Sydney defence in not putting Schirripa under any pressure was certainly a factor in the goal.
Any suggestion of a Berries comeback was dashed only three minutes into the second-half. With the Berries defence back-pedaling, Robbie Cattanach played a delicate through ball for Craig Midgley, who dribbled around the goalkeeper before producing a superb finish, placing the ball beyond a lunging Berries defender and into the back of the net from a tight-angle for a comprehensive 3-0 lead.
Manly almost scored again six minutes later, with Robbie Cattanach rolling the ball into the post after some superb build up play. The ball rebounded to Midgley, who cleverly pulled the ball back and away from goal, creating space to shoot but seeing his effort blocked well by McLean from close-range.
Despite a couple of half-chances being missed by Tirovski and Tsironis, Manly dominated play during the second-half, with Cattanach, substitute Dusan Mihajlovic and Michael Williams, combining superbly up-front and tormenting a depleted West Sydney back-line.
On 78? minutes, an innocuous long ball toward the West Sydney penalty box was knocked down for Robbie Cattanach outside the box. The striker allowed the ball to bounce once before producing a superb half-volley which dipped into the left-hand side of the net with McLean statuesque, giving United an unassailable four-goal lead.
Just as the crowd was finishing admiring the fourth of four excellent Manly goals, the effervescent Williams continued his relentless work down the right-hand side, twice setting up Mihajlovic with accurate crosses into the box ? both opportunities spurned by the substitute in an encouraging performance after lengthy injury problems.
And it was Mihajlovic who would have the final chance of the match, as an intelligent attacking move by Manly ? started after substitute and debutant Caetano Lima won the ball in midfield ? resulted in a Roberto Hamad cross finding the towering Mihajlovic at the back post. The big striker however, only managed to smash his effort against the sprawled body of Hamish McLean, who saved his side the embarrassment of conceding five goals at home.
For Manly, there are promising signs ahead of the finals series, with the likes of Lima and Mihajlovic producing encouraging performances which suggest they might have a big impact on the championship race.
Contrastingly, West Sydney produced one of their poorest all-round performances of the season. Plagued by injuries and troubled by a lack of confidence, co-coaches Ramsin Shamon and Spiro Hantzis have a tough job to turn around the rapidly deteriorating fortunes of a proud club.
Club legend Spiro Hantzis, who has no doubt seen the toughest of times in a career spanning 16 years with the Berries ? then Canterbury-Marrickville Olympic ? is under no illusions as to the difficulty of the task at hand:
?The collapse we saw today seems to be happening every game. We start well and then we don?t take an early opportunity or two, the other team scores a goal and we fall in a heap.
?The effort was there, it seems to be there every week. We need to get a result and the guys are trying very hard but conceding a goal just on half-time and right after half-time is what killed us off. If we had gone in 1-0 down at half-time, we probably could have come away with a result.
?The only way you can get out of it [the winless streak] is by training well. If you train well during the week and confidence is up and we try things, then that is the only way that things will start to come off for us. But I?ve been in situations where I?ve gone through seasons without winning but all you?ve got to do is turn up game by game and be in the right frame of mind every week and things will turn.?
Ramsin Shamon pointed to injuries and a run of bad-luck as a main contributor to the Berries? winless streak but conceded that a lack of clinical finishing in the final-third is at the heat of their problems:
?We had a few key players out and we had a few pull out this morning. Our main stopper Jack Sobczyk came off at half-time, he was struggling and didn?t train all week and was only really passed fit this morning.?
?Obviously now, it?s a week to week proposition for us. We have five weeks to turn things around.
?The results aren?t going our way. Lady luck has got to turn for us soon but it?s not happening for us. We?re trying to take positives out of everything we do but if you don?t score, you lose.?
Phill Moss hailed a collective team effort as the driving force behind the impressive victory but singled two or three players for special praise:
?I think the Manly of old turned up today. It?s no secret that we?ve been in a rut for the last four of five weeks but I put the challenge to them today, to go out and enjoy our football and do the things that make us a good side and I think we did that today.
?Both ends of the field were much better for us today. It is always good to see two strikers get on the score-sheet and big Dusan showed some glimpses when he came on of why he is going to be a big player for us toward the back-end of the season.
?I thought Cattanach returned to some of his best form today and Mickie (Michael) Williams was outstanding. There was a whole host. But if you look at players who can turn the game in the blink of an eye, you?d have to point out Cattanach and Bradley Groves.?
WEST SYDNEY BERRIES 0
MANLY UNITED 4 (Bradley Groves 34?, Joey Schirripa 45?, Craig Midgley 48?, Robbie Cattanach 78?)
Venue: Sydney Olympic Park Athletic Centre
First Official: Peter Vrtkovski
Assistant Referees: Greg McLoughlin, Scott Ededling
Fourth Official: Visic Stevan
West Sydney Berries: 1. Hamish MCLEAN, 6. Jack SOBCZYK (13. Sargon GEORGES ), 3. Omar SAADI, 7. Scott THOMAS, 10. John TSIRONIS, 11. Aheleas KOTSOPOULOS (5. David ABEL), 15. Ryan JONES, 16. Kosta LAGOUDAKIS, 17. Sash TIROVSKI, 19. Dimitri ZAKILAS (14. Craig JACOB), 20. Angelo PETRATOS
Substitutes not used: 69. Johnny FRANGESKOU, 12. Neil PHILLIPOU
Yellow Cards: Nil
Red Cards: Nil
Manly United: 1. Brad SWANCOTT, 2. Adam ISRAEL, 3. Andrew MAILER, 4. Roberto HAMAD, 6. Bradley GROVES (14. Caetano LIMA), 8. Michael WILLIAMS, 9. Robbie CATTANACH, 11. Craig MIDGLEY (10. Dusan MIHAJLOVIC), 15. Cameron JONES (7. Ashley RYAN), 16. Joey SCHIRRIPA, 18. Beau BUSCH
Substitutes not used: 20. Rhyss KEANE, 12. Jamie GARSIDE
Yellow Cards: 2. Adam ISRAEL 55?
Red Cards: Nil
3 ? Robbie Cattanach (MU)
2 ? Michael Williams (MU)
1 ? Sash Tirovski (WSB)
-By Chris Paraskevas