Sharks bite Stallions at Seymour Shaw


Played at a fast pace from the outset, the Sharks out ran a Stallions side that kick-started the evening with some high pressing up the field and forcing the home side to defend.
Sharks coach Robbie Stanton didn?t see the performance as his side?s best of the season, though against a side that poses a major threat for the title, the showing was more than promising ? and the win well deserved.
Blake Powell returned to the playing field after five weeks to open the scoring early, before Chris Price doubled the lead shortly after. Despite the Stallions pulling a goal back via Keith Shevlin before the break, Hussein Salameh put the match beyond Marconi?s reach with a well-taken header midway through the second-half.
The night belonged to Sharks goalkeeper Nathan Denham who didn?t miss a beat in between the sticks for Sutherland. The shot-stopper, who must certainly be close to securing a contract at an A-League club, commanded his penalty-area with much skill, saving two penalties in the process.
In the early exchanges, it was the Stallions that called the shots, pegging the Sharks back in their half.
Daniel Severino had an early chance handed to him via a set-piece from distance in the opening minute. The attacking midfielder?s sweet left-peg packed a real punch though was too central, much to the relief of Nathan Denham in the Sharks goal.
Severino was at it again 1? minute later, releasing Nathan Elasi inside the penalty-area. The right winger took a first touch before attempting to slot past Denham, the shot-stopper was quick to drop to his left and palm the ball behind for a corner.
The visitors had the momentum in the opening exchanges, pressuring the Sharks defenders into some uncharacteristic errors at the back. Severino and Keith Shevlin combined to release the latter, though the chance amounted to nothing with the Sharks getting men behind the ball.
The Sharks found the opening goal on their first forward foray via Powell. The left-sided midfielder stole the ball from the feet of Christopher Nunes, who dwelled on the ball a little too long, before going one-on-one with James Chronopoulos and curling the ball into the top right-hand corner.
The go-ahead goal opened the floodgates for the home side as Panni Nikas called the shots out of midfield. The playmaker created a neat opening for the second Sharks strike of the night, releasing Chris Price on goal to slot home with a fine finish much to the delight of the vocal Sharks supporters.
Marconi attempted to regain the upper hand in midfield as Joey Gibbs rode the challenge of three Sharks defenders before going to ground on the edge of the penalty-area ? the chance went begging.
Back up the other end, Nikas continued his show of fine feet and trickery, casually releasing Matt Gordon on goal. The Sutherland substitute was only denied by some stout Stallions defending.
The Sharks suffered a major blow moments earlier when captain George Souris was forced to leave the field with an apparent knee injury. Initial reports suggest Souris could have injured his medial ligament ? what would be a huge blow for the club?s 2012 ambitions.
Despite the medical staff?s best efforts to get the captain back on the pitch, coach Robbie Stanton was forced to replace his leader with Gordon with Nick Stavroulakis picking up the captaining duties.
On 25? minutes, Stallions? stand-in captain Shane Webb showed his class and composure with a neat one-two on the right-flank to release Elasi, though the winger failed to read the final pass with the ball finishing over the goal line.
Elasi was involved again 1? minute later as he won his side a free-kick on the edge of the penalty-area ? a perfect position for Severino to unleash one of his wicked set-pieces, though the Sharks wall did its job to perfection.
In the 27? minute, the Stallions were given a chance to re-open the contest via the penalty-spot after the referee adjudged Stavroulakis to handle inside the penalty-area much to the dismay of the home team players. Severino stepped up for the spot-kick though was denied twice by Denham ? the initial spot-kick followed up by a headed attempt ? before Shevlin pounced to slot home with a low-driven effort.
The goal for the visitors sprung the Stallions into action as Webb had Denham beaten with a long-range effort, the midfielder?s shot however failed to dip enough and finished over the crossbar.
Sutherland?s attempts to restore some order in the middle of the park gained immediate ascendency as Stavroulakis majestically held the ball up and pulled the strings with neat ball movement across the middle.
In the front-third, Nikas again showed his brilliance to win his side a free-kick after Umut Tokdogan grounded the playmaker on the edge of the penalty-area. The resulting set piece was left to Matt Bailey. The Sharks number 10 managed to get the ball past the Stallions wall, though Chronopoulos was up to the challenge to save down to his right.
Marconi?s reply arrived in the 36? minute, again via Elasi. The winger was switched to the left ? changing positions with Severino ? and was played into some space inside the penalty-area. His diagonal effort across goal has Denham beaten, though the ball only just trickled past the shot-stopper?s left-hand post.
Sutherland should have added a third goal in the 38? minute. A fine Sharks counterattack released Hussein Salameh down the right-flank ? the right-sided midfielder picked his time well to cut the ball square to Nikas who failed to get real purchase on his first-time shot, forcing Chronopoulos into a routine save.
The Sharks hit on the counterattack again 2? minutes from the end of the half, once more via the feet of Salameh. The Sharks number 9 played Bailey into space with a square ball into the penalty-area, though the attacking midfielder failed to get any real power behind his shot as Chronopoulos came to the Stallions rescue.
Following the re-start, the Stallions ball movement in the front-third, in search of an equaliser, had the Sharks chasing possession. Despite losing Souris in the first-half, Hayden Morton and Paul Cotte kept a tidy backline to deny the visitors any clear sight on goal.
In the 52? minute, the Sharks created another huge chance to extend their lead. Nikas was again the orchestrator with a fine through ball into the path of Bailey, though the attacking midfielder hit his shot on the turn wide from a central position.
Sharks? goalkeeper Nathan Denham was forced into a fine acrobatic save to deny Elasi on 58? minutes. The Stallions winger?s shot on the turn had goal written all over it, though Denham showed his experience to deny an equaliser.
Sutherland finally found their third goal in the 63? minute in what was a perfectly executed set-piece delivery from a corner. The execution was sensational as Nikas? pinpoint delivery from the right met the head of Salameh who sent his glancing header inside Chronopolous right-hand post.
In an unlucky evening for Stavroulakis ? who played tremendously well in the heart of the Sharks midfield, was adjudged to handball inside the penalty-area, handing the Stallions their second spot-kick for the evening.
Despite the chance to re-open the contest, the Stallions were again denied by Denham who pulled off a wonderful save down to his left to deny substitute Jamie McMaster.
In the 73? minute, Gibbs carved out an opening with a headed attempt on goal. The Stallions player got good purchase on the header though the Sharks defenders were on hand to thwart any danger.
Marconi kept the Sharks in their own half immediately after Gibbs? attempt, though the final pass was consistently swallowed up by the Morton and Cotte tandem.
Sutherland continued to show their ability to administer the result in the closing stages with some intelligent ball movement out of defence, and the side very nearly grabbed a fourth goal 6? minutes from the end. A poorly executed headed attempt by Chronopoulos fell into the path of Bailey who tried an audacious chip, only to be denied by a last ditch Stallions clearance.
At the other end, Marconi substitute Alan De La Cuadra tried his luck from distance in the 89? minute. The powerful left-foot drive had Denham scrambling, though the ball failed to hit the target.
Following the referee?s final whistle, it was all smiles out of the Sutherland Sharks dressing sheds, though coach Robbie Stanton remained with his feet on the ground, not wanting to get too carried away with the win:
?Marconi Stallions are a great side, a side that will definitely be challenging for the finals this season ? they are one of the top three sides I see in the competition this season,? expressed Stanton.
?We had a couple of good chances to perhaps add a few more goals and kill the match off earlier, though I was aware of the danger that Marconi could pose, and it really was a tough match for us this evening.
?In the end, the performance wasn?t our best of the season, though the result was really important, and that is something that I am very happy about this evening.?
The Sharks lost captain George Souris with what appears to be a medial ligament injury, something that Stanton will need to address over the coming week:
?I think he will be out for a little while, unfortunately. At the end of the day, that?s football and these things happen. George will always put his body on the line, and it obviously is a big disappointment, though we will need to move on quickly and we have had Hayden Morton and Paul Cotte add some further strength in defence.?
Looking ahead, Stanton does not want his side to get too carried away with tonight?s win:
?We?ve closed the gap with the win tonight, though I am not too worried about the ladder at the moment.
?You can only play as good as your opponent allows you to, and tonight was a really tough match, so we are really happy with the three points.
?These matches are important, and the fact that we have closed the gap on the top team is great, however I am focused more on our football and the way we perform on the park at the moment,? Stanton ended.
Out of the Marconi Stallions? change room, stand-in captain Shane Webb was disappointed that his side failed to take something from the match:
?I thought we played well tonight, that we did a lot of good things,? explained Webb.
?They are a side that is well organised and hold their shape really well.
?We lost our concentration for about 10?-15? minutes and they got their goals.
?Our plan was to press them high and I thought we did that well in the first-half, and then with their two goals in a moment where we lost our concentration, we pretty much lost our way.?
The Stallions did create chances to get back into the match, namely via the penalty-spot, though it didn?t appear to be their evening:
?We had the penalty chances true, though the second penalty was well saved by the goalkeeper. These things happen in football, and in the end our performance wasn?t bad. ?We did well and maybe with a goal via the penalty, we could have re-opened the contest.
Looking at the Stallions position on the ladder, Webb remains confident in his side?s ability:
?It is early days, in this League if you string together two wins you become the form team and many teams are knocking more fancied teams over at the moment.
?We?ll keep working hard and look to bounce back next week,? concluded Webb.
Match Stats
Sutherland Sharks 3 (Blake Powell 12?, Chris Price 14?, Hussein Salameh 63?)
Marconi Stallions 1 (Keith Shevlin 27?)
Saturday 12th May, 2012
Seymour Shaw Park, Miranda
Referee: Khodr Yaghi
Assistant Referees: Alex Long and Johann Mehl
Fourth Official: Michael Robertson
Sutherland Sharks: 1.Nathan Denham; 2.George Souris (C) (6.Matt Gordon 20?), 5.Paul Cotte, 8.Chris Price, 9.Hussein Salameh (11.Todd Halloran 75?), 10.Matt Bailey, 12.Hayden Morton, 14.Nick Stavroulakis, 18.Michael Stuart, 19.Blake Powell, 23.Panni Nikas
Substitutes Not Used: 16.Klim Gjorseski, 3.Tyson Rhodes, 22.Simon Jaegar
Yellow Cards: Matt Gordon 74?
Red Cards: Nil
Marconi Stallions: 22.James Chronopoulos; 2.Andrew Mailer, 3.Ali Haydar (15.Alan De La Cuadra 85?), 4.Umut Tokdogan, 6.Shane Webb (c), 7.Sean O?Connell, 8.Joey Gibbs, 9.Keith Shevlin, 11.Nathan Elasi, 16.Daniel Severino (18.Jamie McMaster 62?), 23.Christopher Nunes
Substitutes Not Used: 19.Damian Travis, 24.Robert Tribbia, 40.Andrew Mercuri
Yellow Cards: Umut Tokdogan 33?
Red Cards: Nil

Bench: J. Woods, Z. Elrich, W. Angel, V. RigoliPlayer Ratings:
3 ? Nathan Denham (SS)
2 ? Panni Nikas (SS)
1 ? Blake Powell (SS)
-By Joseph Carlucci