Sydney United hit hurdle with battling Rams


Paul Carter?s Rams outfit produced a tireless performance on a cold night in Sydney’s  west and it was Shannon Hankin?s opportunistic equaliser in first-half stoppage time that earned lowly Macarthur another precious point, after Ben Vidaic had opened the scoring for the visitors with a well-placed header on 33? minutes.
Europe-bound Rams midfielder Michael Brown had a chance to open the scoring after just 3? minutes of play, when team-mate Steven Baveas won a free-kick just outside the United penalty area. Brown?s driven effort cleared both the wall and the bar comfortably but was the catalyst for a positive start to the match by Macarthur.
Only 5? minutes later and the home-side came within centimetres of taking the lead. Daniel McCann won a free-kick near the left touch-line, which was curled towards goal by Macarthur captain David Gardiner. The delivery appeared to be flicked on by a United head and flashed just wide of the right-hand post with goalkeeper Vedran Janjetovic stranded.
Some sharp attacking play by the lively Rams playmaker Glen Trifiro in the 23? minute resulted in a half-chance for Macarthur midfielder Matt Toogood. Trifiro pounced on a loose ball on the right-hand touch-line before driving a cross into the box, where it was only half-cleared by the head of United centre-back Saso Trajcevski.
As Toogood approached on the far-side of the penalty area, he decided to attempt a first-time shot at full-speed and from a narrow-angle. The ball hit the legs of visiting ?keeper Janjetovic ? who had dived the wrong way ? but the custodian managed to recover before it rolled over the goal-line.
A half-hearted long-range effort by former A-League midfielder Mark Robertson was the closest United came to threatening Macarthur goalkeeper Brodie Crane, before fellow ex A-League man Steven Old wasted the Rams? best goal-scoring opportunity.
Once again it was McCann?s incisive attacking play on the left-hand side which allowed him to cut inside and onto his right foot in the 29? minute, before floating a superb ball into the penalty area. The ball evaded the stretched figure of Sydney United captain Joe Vrkic, though Steven Old?s header finished wide.
Despite their tireless work-rate and dominance in midfield, Macarthur was punished for their wastefulness in-front of goal by a typically clinical Sydney United side. In what was virtually a carbon copy of Steven Old?s chance, a floated ball into the penalty area from United?s right-flank was dispatched clinically via a diving header by striker, and also ex A-League player, Ben Vidaic, handing a 1-0 lead to the visitors against the run of play.
The goal seemed to spark an initially lethargic United outfit into life, as they worked their way back into the game against a physically and psychologically tiring Macarthur side. With Mark Robertson dictating the tempo of the game out of the United midfield and Joe Vrkic a tower of strength and composure at the back, it appeared as though Petkovic?s title-contenders were cruising comfortably toward a half-time lead.
But the proposed script was ripped to shreds in spectacular fashion by hard-working Macarthur striker Shannon Hankin, whose fruitless endeavour up-front for the Rams seems to have epitomised a season of missed chances for Paul Carter?s side.
In a moment where Sydney United?s seemingly endless luck deserted them completely, the usually composed Vedran Janjetovic slipped whilst trying to clear out of his own penalty box.
The ball was chested down sharply by Hankin, who gratefully planted the ball into the back of an empty net.
The second-half began in the same fashion as the first, with Macarthur pressuring United on the ball and adopting a more direct approach. Within 60?? seconds of the re-start, the Sydney United back-line was caught square by a chipped Brown through-ball. The onrushing Toogood drove into the penalty area but sliced his effort away from Janjetovic?s goal.
Only 3? minutes later and the increasingly influential Brown almost gave Macarthur the lead with an intelligent attempt. The ball broke for the midfielder beyond half-way and spotting Janjetovic off his line, the Rams player attempted a long-range strike which sailed wide of the left-hand post with the goalkeeper back-pedaling.
In the 50? minute, the hassling Hankin fashioned for himself another goal-scoring opportunity out of sheer determination, when he won the ball off a casual Damon Collina. The opportunity amounted to nothing, though.
As United began to take advantage of a fading Macarthur outfit ? with the increasing influence of Robertson in the centre of the pitch evident ? Ben Vidaic almost gave his side the lead in the 70? minute. A Chris Boyle cross into the penalty box just missed the head of the lively Elsid Barkhousir before dropping at the feet of Vidaic at the back-post.
The powerful striker produced an acrobatic half-volley which swerved against the far-post, bouncing straight back into the arms of grateful Macarthur shot-stopper Brodie Crane.
The ever-present Toogood came similarly close to scoring an 83? minute winner for the home side. A Craig Cooley cross just flew over the head of Michael Brown in the penalty-area before falling for Cooley outside the box. The midfielder hit a half-volley into the ground which flashed just wide of the near-post to the agonising gasps of the crowd.
The final chance of the match came for Sydney United in the 85? minute, when a Petar Markovic cross from deep on the left-hand flank was headed unselfishly back across the face of goal for the onrushing Damon Collina, whose thumping header crashed against the crossbar from close-range.
Macarthur coach Paul Carter praised the performance of his players after the match, citing their work-rate as the driving force behind their recent resurgence:
?[The goal] was actually their first shot on goal and that?s probably why they are up the top and why we are where we are.
?I was obviously disappointed to go down a goal but at the same time, everything we were doing was tremendous and we really frustrated them.
?To be honest I think they were lucky. I know they hit the bar a couple of times, I realise that, but if you want dominance, someone who dictated the game, that was us.?
On Shannon Hankin?s goal:
?That just about sums Shannon up; that?s the sort of goal he gets. He?s just a hard-worker, good luck to him.
?People forget at the start of the second-half that he was winning the ball, creating chances.?
Sydney United coach Ivan Petkovic said a poor first-half performance hindered his side?s chances of winning the game ? despite an improved second-half:
?The first-half performance was not good enough but in the second-half, we created enough chances to win the game.
?We lead 1-0, but unfortunately they equalised off a mistake by our side which changed the complexion of the game.
?Our side though seems to enjoy playing against the best sides who are at the top. Our boys look confident against the big guns. Against the struggling sides, we seem to always find it difficult.
?Hopefully we can pick up enough points to come second, so we will try our best to achieve a Top-Three finish.?
Match Stats
Macarthur Rams 1 (Shannon Hankin 46?)
Sydney United 1 (Ben Vidaic 33?)
Venue: Campbelltown Sports Stadium
Referee: Kurt Ams
Assistant Referees: Greg Clarke and Nick Backo
Fourth Official: Nick Tragoustis
Macarthur Rams: 1. Brody CRANE; 5. Michael BROWN, 6. David GARDINER, 7. Matthew TOOGOOD, 9. Steven OLD, 12. Shannon HANKIN (27. James YOUNG 68?), 14. Daniel McCANN (2. Craig COOLEY 72?), 16. Steven BAVEAS (13. Kosta BARBAROUSES 83?), 17. Adam WITHER, 22. Glen TRIFIRO, 23. Josh FORD
Substitutes Not Used: 20. Jesse BUNT, 21. Renato JELN
Yellow Cards: Adam WITHER 34?
Red Cards: Nil
Sydney United: 1. Vedran JANJETOVIC; 5. Damon COLLINA, 6. Joe VRKIC, 4. Milan BOSNAR (3. Joe MORIC 72?), 21. Saso TRAJCEVSKI, 10. Mark ROBERTSON, 14. Peter MARKOVIC, 15. Chris BOYLE, 18. Andrija PETKOVIC 7. Todd BRODIE 62?), 16, Elsid BARKHOUSIR (9. Daniel REZO 83?), 11. Ben VIDAIC
Substitutes Not Used: 19. Mitchell THOMPSON, 50. Steve MINOVSKI
Yellow Cards: Mark ROBERTSON 61?
Red Cards: Nil
Player Ratings:
3 ? Mark Robertson (SU)
2 ? Shannon Hankin (MR)
1 ? Michael Brown (MR)
-By Chris Paraskevas