Sutherland Sharks victorious in TeleChoice Championship Series Grand Final


Played in very warm conditions at Penrith?s CUA Stadium, the Sharks withstood a strong Stallions first-half to secure their first grand-final win in the club?s history.
A first-half goal to Neil Jablonski was momentarily cancelled out by Nahuel Arrarte midway through the second-half, though unanswered goals to Brad Boardman, Michael Katz and Panni Nikas sealed the Sharks triumph.
A typical Grand-Final exchange opened proceedings with both sides feeling their way into the contest with a hold on possession the early instruction.
The Stallions’ Vuko Tomasevic hit the first effort goalwards, though his long-range effort failed to hit the target.
At the other end, a poor James Chronopoulos clearance gave Jim Bakis the chance to whip in a pin-point cross onto the head of Blake Powell; the defender beat the offside trap though failed to head his effort away from the awaiting arms of Chronopoulos.
On 7? minutes, Erick Anabalon tried his luck from distance with a fine effort, though Nathan Denham parried comfortably.
A minute later, the Sharks nearly found the opening goal though were denied by a tremendous diving Chronopoulos save. Bakis? free-kick from deep picked out Neil Jablonski at the far post. The midfielder?s header across goal found Ben Spruce who, in-turn, saw his glancing header expertly saved by the Stallions goalkeeper.
The Stallions response was immediate as Ousmane Toure latched onto an Alexander Canak header before his slalom effort saw him beat three Sharks defenders. Toure?s left-foot drive across goal appeared to have Denham beaten, though the ball skimmed the post to finish wide.
The Sharks? supporters were on their feet on 12? minutes as Sutherland found the back of the net. A fine volleyed effort by Blake Powell, following a whipped in effort from the left, finished underneath Chronopoulos? crossbar, though celebrations were brief as referee Peter Vrtovski picked out an infringement inside the Stallions? penalty-area.
On 15? minutes, a fine interchange of passes by the Stallions front-men provided Vamara Diarra with a look-in on goal, though some desperate Sharks defending saw the Stallions midfielder?s drilled effort deflect inches wide of the target.
The Stallions came to life from the 15? minute as the ?magical three? Ali Al-Hilfi, Toure and Diarra started to get on top with their confident ball movement across the middle of the park. An Al-Hilfi free-kick from a decentralised left position on the edge of the penalty-area had the Sharks players? hearts in their throats as the Iraqi import?s curling effort finished inches wide of the mark.
The same three players combined in a quick counter-attack involving Anabalon and Canak with some exceptional touches creating Toure a yard of space to unleash a goal bound effort; the Sharks defenders retreated quickly to thwart the danger.
Against the run of play the Sharks took the lead via the head of dynamic midfielder Neil Jablonski. A pin-point Bakis set-piece from the right-flank picked out Powell at the back post, who headed onto Jablonski?s head, for a powerful finish by the Sharks midfielder.
Marconi could have been back on level terms on 32? minutes when Toure?s fine movement in the attacking third picked out Anabalon on the edge of the penalty-area.
The striker turned cleverly to get his effort on goal, though his chipped effort aimed at the top left-hand corner drifted wide of the mark.
The Stallions maintained the pressure with the Sharks forced to defend deep in their own half, though the Souris-Robinson led Sharks stood tall protect the one-goal lead.
At the other end, Michael Katz got forward to cut-back a floated cross from the byline, though Powell?s header at the back post was ?easy pickings? for Chronopoulos.
Moments later, Jim Bakis squandered a golden chance to double the Sharks? lead. Powell?s cross from the left picked out an unmarked Bakis at the far post though, after controlling the ball and picking his spot, a weak effort on goal was diverted away from danger by the Stallions? defence.
After the break, the Stallions set about finding an equaliser, and a goalmouth scramble following an Al-Hilfi set-piece nearly did pay dividends as only some desperate defending by the Sharks preserved their lead.
Sutherland?s Chris Price went close at the other end for the Sharks when his curling effort from the edge of the penalty-area, from a stand-still position, finished wide of goal.
An open passage of play ensued as both sides threw caution to the wind on the counter-attack. The Stallions looked dangerous on the right-flank via the feet, and running, of right-back Chris Nunes. The speedster beat his markers with ease on 52? minutes before his cut-back effort failed to pick out a teammate.
The Stallions Matt Gordon did his best to get forward on the hour with a mix of skill and speed to weave his way past two defenders, before his powerful long-range strike finished well-wide of the target.
Stallions boss Lee Sterrey replaced Gordon moments later with Tim McGowan, as coach Lee Sterrey opted for the youthful exuberance of a strong-performing McGowan in the finals series, to get the Stallions back into the match.
Marconi did find their equaliser on 71? minutes as Toure?s cross from the right corner flag was miscued by Alexander Canak in the penalty-area. The ball fell into the path of Arrarte who volleyed sensationally across the face of goal with the ball finishing inside the right-hand post.
The Stallions delight turned into grief only 4? minutes later as Brad Boardman used his strength to retain possession of the ball inside the penalty-area. The burly striker?s first effort was thwarted by a defender, though the follow-up left shot-stopper Chronopoulos with no chance as Boardman buried his effort into the back of the net.
The Stallions? responded immediately with Anabalon?s delightful through ball sending McGowan clear on goal. Goalkeeper Denham cleverly closed the angle, and from an acute position, the shot-stopper diverted the ball behind for a corner.
The Sharks killed off any hopes of a Stallions revival when Michael Katz converted with aplomb from an acute angle to make it 3-1. Jim Bakis? defence splitting pass on the right presented Katz with a clear look-in on goal, and the defender finished neatly, beating Chronopoulos at his near post.
Panni Nikas added further salt to the wounds of the Stallions in the 3? minute of injury-time as Brad Boardman showed his fine ability on the ball with a silky turn and run across the byline. Boardman played a square ball into the path of Nikas who converted from close-range for the 4-1 result.
Following the match, both managers were proud of their side?s efforts in 2009, though Sharks boss Robbie Stanton carried some extra satisfaction with the final victory:
?It?s fantastic, the boys have been great this season with their efforts, and this really proves the big effort everyone at the club has put in,? Stanton commented.
?I was certain Marconi would try to catch us out with a few changes to their formation from recent matches ? where they have been really impressive. And today they proved their versatility with another strong showing.
?Marconi played some wonderful football, and we were up against it in the first-half. I think we managed to absorb a lot of the pressure well, and this allowed us to remain in the match and then get the goal.
?The score is huge, though by no means is it a reflection on the match, it was much closer than what the result suggests,? concluded Stanton.
Stallions boss Lee Sterrey remained happy with his side?s season:
?The boys have played with a lot of heart, and we lost against a great side today. Sutherland has a wonderful group that has been together for a while now, and they have been very consistent this season,? said Sterrey.
?We setout to get Marconi back challenging for titles, and we achieved that by reaching a grand-final. We?ve had the tough task of integrating a number of players from many different countries, where even language was a barrier. Though, we have stuck in there as a family, and as a family we have won matches and lost matches this season. Today we lost together, though we?ll be looking to continue working and return next season to keep fighting together,? ended Sterrey.
Victorious captain George Souris was ecstatic following the final whistle:
?It is fantastic, we?re really happy with what we have managed to achieve,? said Souris.
?Today was far from our best performance this season, though we managed to grind out the result. Our ability to suffer, to scramble in defence and keep pressing upfront allowed us to achieve something really special.?
Souris? achievement carried a special dedication:
?I lost my dad a few years ago now, and I know that he is with me, with us, enjoying this win today.?
The victory has convinced the 40-year-old Sharks skipper to put his hand up for another season with the Seymour Shaw side:
?I will be back for another season, I am up for at least another one. I have kept fit this season and am still feeling well out there, so I will be back for next season,? concluded Souris.
Marconi Stallions captain Nahuel Arrarte remained gallant in defeat and could only take his hat off to the Sharks:
?They have dominated us this season, and we can only take our hats off to them.
?We?ve had a great season and we are happy with our achievements. Today, yes, we did play some good football, we even dominated the first-half, though we didn?t score the goals. They found the back of the net and rightfully deserved the win,? ended Arrarte.
Match Stats
Sutherland Sharks 4 (Neil Jablonski 27?, Brad Boardman 75?, Michael Katz 86?, Panni Nikas 90?+3?)
Marconi Stallions 1 (Nahuel Arrarte 71?)
Sunday, 13th of September, 2009
CUA Stadium, Penrith
Referee: Peter Vrtovski
Assistant Referees: Sarah Ho and Murray Wilson
Fourth Official: Gerard Parsons
Crowd: 3,000 Approx.
Sutherland Sharks: 1.Nathan Denham; 2.George Souris (C), 3.Blake Powell (8.Nathan Ralph 81?), 4.Michael Robinson, 6.Chris Price, 7.Jim Bakis, 9.Brad Boardman, 11.Ben Spruce, 12.Neil Jablonski, 15.Michael Katz, 23.Panni Nikas
Substitutes Not Used: 10.Matthew Hall, 13.Andrew Smith, 17.Jordan Nikolovski, 22.Yianni Fragogiannis
Coach: Robbie Stanton
Yellow Cards:
Red Cards: Nil
Marconi Stallions: 22.James Chronopoulos; 2.Wade Oostendorp (14.Daniel Ott 87?), 6.Vuko Tomasevic, 7.Ousmane Toure, 8.Alex Canak, 9.Erick Anabalon, 10.Ali Abbas Al-Hilfi, 11.Matthew Gordon (15.Tim McGowan 61?), 17. Vamara Diarra (4.Umut Tokdogan 78?), 23.Chris Nunes, 26. Nahuel Arrarte (C)
Substitutes Not Used: 20. Cem Akili, 5.Adel El Jamal
Coach: Lee Sterrey
Yellow Cards: Chris Nunes 58?
Red Cards:
-By Joseph Carlucci
TeleChoice Championship Series Grand Final Stats
Sutherland Sharks 4-1 Marconi Stallions
Shots on goal (on target):
Sutherland Sharks ? 16 (8)
Marconi Stallions ? 12 (4)
Fouls Won:
Sutherland Sharks ? 12
Marconi Stallions ? 13
Sutherland Sharks ? 3
Marconi Stallions ? 9
Sutherland Sharks ? 1
Marconi Stallions ? 0
Player Ratings
Sutherland Sharks:

Sutherland Sharks:
1.Nathan Denham (GK) – Didn?t have much to do between the sticks, and was unlucky to concede a goal ? 6.5
2.George Souris –  Led by example in the centre of defence, proving he still has what it takes to play at this level? 8
3.Blake Powell ? Played out of his skin for the Sharks continuously looking dangerous out on the left hand flank causing headaches for the Marconi defence – 9
4. Michael Robinson – Played a great role by the side of Souris to keep the Stallions at bay ? 7
6. Chris Price Played out of position in a central midfield position however did what he had to do next to Neil Jablonski? 6.5
7. Jim Bakis ? Continually was dangerous on the right hand flank for the Sharks, pushing forward as well as dropping back to defend- 8
9.Brad Boardman Played his usual tough style of game, holding the ball up well for his oncoming attackers. Grabbed a goal for himself as well as setting up Panni Nikas for the final kick of the game ? 8.5
11. Ben Spruce ? A standard performance moving forward well and defending to the best of his ability ? 7
12. Neil Jablonski ? Great game in the middle of the park, picking up the scraps as well as pushing forward getting himself the opening goal? 8
15. Michael Katz ? After a quiet first half he came to life n the second half? 7.5
23. Panni Nikas ? Played well behind Brad Boardman, as well as winning the ball well to move forward? 8.5
8. Nathan Ralph-  Came on and performed well but did not have much to do in a great Sutherland team performance ? 6.5
Marconi Stallions:
22. James Chronopoulos (GK) Kept out a lot of goals but at the end Sutherland were too good putting four past him? 7
2. Wade Oostendorp ? A substandard game by his standards, continuously had troubles with marking Blake Powell-  6
6. Vuko Tomasevic ? Very quiet game, but provided good balls forward? 6.5
7. Ousmane Toure ? Began the game on fire however his performance fell away in the second half? 7.5
8. Alex Canak ? The same as Toure, began well but was not at his best? 7
9. Erick Anabalon ? Definitely a poor performance, not getting in the best positions for his side to attack ? 6
10. Ali Abbas Al-Hilfi ? Attacked well playing all over the park in a floating role? 8
11. Matt Gordon ?  Quiet game to his standards, rarely threatening the Sutherland defence. Had one shot that was very poor before being replaced – 6.5
17. Vamara Diarra ? Started off well in a defensive midfield position, fought well winning plenty of ball but got tired and fell away in the back end of his game-  7
23. Chris Nunes ? Played well in his return, great attacking raids? 7
26. Nahuel Arrarte (C) – Great captains performance by Arrarte in a defeated team – 8
4. Umut Tokdogan ? Came on late in the game and did not make a definitive impact? 6
14. Daniel Ott – Also came on late but could not do much against a strong Sutherland outfit ? 6
15. Tim McGowan ? Made a impact when coming on out wide for Gordon ? 7
-By Chris Georgakopoulos