Round 3 of the PlayStation 4 NPL NSW Men’s U20 competition saw Blacktown Spartans and Manly United continue their perfect starts to the season, while Wollongong Wolves and Sutherland Sharks notched important wins away from home.
The match of the round was at Blacktown Football Park were the stage was set for an early season top of the table clash between Blacktown Spartans and Hakoah Sydney City East.
Match of the Round
Blacktown Spartans FC 2-1 Hakoah Sydney City East FC, Saturday 5.00pm at Blacktown Football Park
Blacktown Spartans edged Hakoah Sydney City East 2-1 in a nail-biting top of the table encounter at Blacktown Football Park on Saturday afternoon.
Blacktown’s Michael Konestabo eventually turned home an 81st minute winner following a goalmouth scramble to preserve Samuel Jacob’s side’s winning start to the campaign
The result that sees Blacktown level on points with Manly United at the top of the competition ladder.
The visiting Hakoah started brightly and took the lead when in-form frontman Richard Blanco tapped in unmarked at the back post for his fourth goal of the season.
But Blacktown restored parity shortly before the half-time interval through an Alex Mooy free-kick and eventually made what was a dominant performance count when Konestabo struck ten minutes from full-time, the midfielder’s second late winner in as many weeks.
It’s the third week in a row that Blacktown has clinched a late winner in dramatic fashion after trailing but on this occasion it was more than just reward after restricting the visitors to little chances of significance.
Both sides had bolted out of the blocks with successive victories in the opening two rounds and there was an air of importance prior to kick off despite the season still being in its infancy.
Hakoah made an early breakthrough courtesy of Richard Blanco after midfielder Harry Jones tricked his way out of an impasse by the corner flag before sending a peach of a cross over to the forward who gleefully side footed home his fourth goal of the season.
It took a while for Blacktown to get going who created several half chances in the opening stanza but were betrayed by a lack of conviction in the final third.
And it looked as though the home side would enter the sheds frustrated by they found an equalizer shortly before half-time when the lively Konestabo was fouled outside the box, leaving Alex Mooy to step up and clip a well-struck effort over the wall and into the roof of the net.
Hakoah nearly shot themselves in the foot immediately after parity was restored when goalkeeper Cameron Kemp spilled Alex Abdullah’s effort into the path of Mooy, but the shot-stopper displayed superb reactions to recover and get in the way of Mooy’s effort.
When the second half resumed both sides adopted a more conservative approach which led to few chances of note.
Hakoah held their hosts at arm’s length for much of the half but almost took the lead when Blanco chipped Blacktown custodian Domenic Nascimben but unfortunately for the goalscorer his effort was denied by the post.
Blacktown probed for long periods of the second half unable to find a killer ball but that all changed with the introduction of Sallu Kamara from the bench whose freshness and lightning pace gave a tiring Hakoah rear-guard nightmares.
And it was the substitute who played a hand in a winner, skipping past several challenges on the edge of the box before his cross pinballed off a mass of bodies and was eventually turned home by Konestabo.
Kamara nearly added an emphatic third in stoppage time after a menacing run but his shot cannoned off the foot of the post.
With Hakoah unable to muster a reply, Blacktown saw the game off with a degree of comfort for a hard-fought three points.
Spartans boss Samuel Jacob praised the character of his side after the match but wasn’t getting carried away with his team’s perfect start to the season.
“We’ve shown we have real fighting spirit and I’m proud of the character we showed again today.
“This competition is all about the small differences. It wasn’t perfect today and it won’t be perfect by the end of the season but we’ll be working hard throughout the year to bring these players through”.
Hakoah Sydney City East manager Les Paikin said he was frustrated to concede the late winner but was pleased overall with his sides third hit-out of the season.
“Our performance probably wasn’t up to our normal standard but we still had a few chances and were unlucky to have hit the post.
“It was frustrating to concede late on but we’re still in a healthy position after three rounds and we’re happy with the start the boys have made to the season”.
Blacktown Spartans 2 (A. Mooy 43, M. Konestabo 82’)
Hakoah Sydney City East 1 (R. Blanco 23’)
Sunday 26th March, 2016
Blacktown Football Park, Rooty Hill
Blacktown Spartans: 18 A. Abdullah, 19 B. Bezzina, 21 L. Catania, 22 S. Dukic, 24 A. Epifanino, 34 M. Filipovic, 32 G. Gray, 36 C. Hanna, 26 L. Hinton, 27 J. Irwin, 29 M. Konestabo, 40 N. Kotevski, 30 C. Loucos, 31 A. Mooy, 41 D. Nascimben, 33 D. Sestan
Yellow Cards: 19 B. Bezzina, 24 A. Epifanino, 31 A. Mooy
Red Cards: Nil
Hakoah Sydney City East: 24 R. Blanco, 40 R. Blumberg, 25 L. Burke, 23 A. De Jong, 26 J. Dimopoulos, 27 J. Hayhurst, 29 H. Jones, 28 A. Karabatsos, 30 C. Kemp, 31 K. Lopes, 32 E. Manos, 34 B. Paikin, 38 D. Poulsen, 35 L. Rovers, 39 N. Sullivan, 36 L. Thomas, 37 G. Vagerakas
Yellow Cards: 40 R. Blumberg
Red Cards: Nil
Manly United 3-0 Parramatta, 5.00pm at Cromer Park
Manly United continued their superb start to the season after dispatching Parramatta 3-0 at Cromer Park.
Dylan Whitlock netted his second of the campaign whilst goals to Aidan Hancock and Alex Partridge sealed a comfortable day at the office for Andrew Christiansen’s side.
The result sees Manly retain top spot on the ladder after three rounds, with the side set to travel to lowly Bonnyrigg next weekend.
It doesn’t get any easier for Mark Zecchin’s Parramatta who host Blacktown City at Melita Stadium on Saturday searching for their first points of the season.
Blacktown City 4-0 Sydney Olympic FC, 1.00pm at Lily’s Football Centre
Blacktown City delivered an emphatic response to last week’s 1-0 defeat at Sutherland by hammering Sydney Olympic 4-0 at Lily’s Football Centre.
Isaac Dandan netted a brace for the hosts who raced to a three-nil lead at half-time. Last season’s top scorer Jonathan Grozdanovski netted his first of the campaign whilst Nikita Andricopoulos added a fourth.
Olympic have now conceded eight goals in their opening two matches and Harry Paras’ side face another tough away trip next weekend where they take on high-flying Sutherland in Saturday’s early kick-off.
Blacktown meanwhile are pitted against a winless Parramatta side at Melita Stadium later the same day.
Rockdale City Suns 1-4 Wollongong Wolves, 3.00pm at Ilinden Sports Centre
Wollongong Wolves notched their first win of the season in some style, dismantling Rockdale City Suns 4-1 at Illinden.
Looking to avoid a repeat of last round’s 4-0 whitewash against Hakoah Sydney City East, Marko Bosnar’s first-half penalty got the home side off to the perfect start but Wollongong piled on the misery for Rockdale with Stefan Dimoski, Justin Ivanovic, Jack Lombo, and Darcy Madden all opening their accounts for the season in the four-goal rout.
The result lifts Alfredo Esteves’ Wolves into the top six, who are in action at WIN Stadium against an in-form Blacktown Spartans next Sunday.
Sydney United 58 0-1 Sutherland Sharks, 3.00pm at Sydney United Sports Centre
Sutherland Sharks left Sydney United Sports Centre with three crucial points after defender Robert Watson’s strike saw off Sydney United 58.
It was another gritty showing from Allan Edmonson’s side who have now lodged consecutive 1-0 victories to announce their premiership credentials.
Sydney United meanwhile are now without a win in their opening three games and Davor Bajsic’s men will travel to Rockdale City Suns on Sunday afternoon desperate for a win to kick-start their campaign.
Postponed: APIA Leichhardt Tigers FC v Bonnyrigg White Eagles FC
This match is due to be played at 7.30pm on Wednesday the 25th of May due to APIA Leichhardt’s recent tour in Italy and involvement in the Viareggio Tournament.
-By Jacob Windon