Stewart stunners secure Waratah Cup final berth for APIA

Jul 26: Match action in the FNSW Men's Waratah Cup semi final between APIA Leichhardt and Mt Druitt Town Rangers at Lambert Park (Photos: Damian Briggs/Speedmedia)

Ex-Mount Druitt Town Rangers star Jack Stewart did the damage against his former side as APIA Leichhardt earned their place in the Waratah Cup final with a 2-1 win on Wednesday night at Lambert Park. 

Two sensational goals from tricky winger Stewart had APIA in a commanding position after 35 minutes, but Mount Druitt’s Kotaro Katsuta pulled a goal back just before half time.

The Rangers threw everything at APIA in the second half, but it wasn’t to be as the home side maintained their lead.

The visitors made a promising start to the match, with Will Harvey getting a dangerous shot off inside 60 seconds that rolled just past the left post.

However, on APIA’s first foray forward a few seconds later, they went one better and opened the scoring.

Stewart received Jack Armson’s layoff on the edge of the box and drove a well-struck effort that nestled in the bottom left corner.

The early goal settled the match down with a lack of chances falling for either team over the next 20 minutes.

In the 26th minute, a fast break from Mount Druitt saw Solomon-Johnn Monohan-Vaiika play the ball down the left for Rhett De Silva who clipped it over from outside the box.

Nine minutes later, the home side doubled their lead.

Armson sent the ball into the right channel for Stewart who shifted inside onto his left foot and fired another superb strike, this time into the top right corner.

Stewart nearly bagged his hat-trick just two minutes after his second, but Rangers goalkeeper Dylan Niski got down to his right and parried the ball to safety.

It looked as if it was going to be a routine outing for the NPL NSW Men’s league leaders, but Mount Druitt halved the deficit three minutes before halftime.

Harvey slipping the ball in behind from the right, finding Katsuta who, one-on-one with APIA goalkeeper Anthony Bouzanis, placed a smart finish into the bottom left corner.

Katsuta’s late goal breathed new life into the match and left both teams with it all to play for heading into the second half.

It was a quieter start to the second half as Mount Druitt came out with renewed fight in pursuit of an equaliser.

Despite this, just before the hour mark, APIA’s Stewart was at it again as his shot from the right edge of the box cannoned back off the crossbar.

The Rangers took the ball down the end as Katsuta lined up centrally outside the area but it bounced past the right post.

Mount Druitt carried on their pressure on the APIA goal, getting into good areas, but it wasn’t falling for Stewart Montgomery’s men.

A massive chance went begging for the Rangers in the 87th minute, when an in-swinging left-sided delivery found Olayinka Sunmola at point-blank range.

However, the young forward couldn’t sort his feet out as the ball rolled agonisingly past the left post.

The game heated up in the final minutes with referee Craig Fisher kept busy, brandishing several yellow cards for a run of fouls.

Deep in stoppage time, Stewart could have sealed the match for the hosts driving into the left of the box and flashing the ball across the face of goal.

Yianni Nicolaou then did the same from a similar position on the other side of the box.

In the end, it didn’t matter as APIA Leichhardt held on to take their place in the Waratah Cup final.

The side will take on Sydney United 58 in the big dance.


APIA Leichhardt FC 2 (Jack Stewart 2’ 35’)

Mount Druitt Town Rangers FC 1 (Kataro Katsuta 42’)

Wednesday 26 July, 2023

Lambert Park, Leichhardt 

Referee: Craig Fisher

APIA Leichhardt FC: 12. Anthony Bouzanis (GK), 6. Anthony Sparacino, 7. Jack Stewart, 14. Jack Armson, 16. Sean Symons (15. Themba Muata-Marlow 78’), 18. Adrian Ucchino (C), 19. Fabian Monge, 21. Michael Kouta, 23. Dakota Askew, 38. Yianni Nicolaou, 98. Franco Farinella

Substitutes Not Used: 1. Ivan Necevski (GK), 3. Paul Galimi, 8. Florent Indalecio, 9. Jason Romero

Yellow Cards: Michael Kouta 16’, Jack Armson 86’, Themba Muata-Marlo 89’, Adrian Ucchino 90+1’

Red Cards: Nil

Mount Druitt Town Rangers FC: 90. Dylan Niski (GK), 2. Solomon-Johnn Monahan-Vaiika (42. Bailey Jacobs 78’), 5. Jacob Esposito, 8. Henry Davies, 10. Kotaro Katsuta, 11. Jackson Bandiera, 12. Will Harvey (43. Abdelelah Faisal 69’), 15. Anthony Gallo (4. Cooper Coskerie 46’), 21. Tarek Elrich (C), 22. Rhett De Silva (6. Jared Macerola 46’), 27. Olayinka Sunmola

Substitutes Not Used: 25. Vasos Kartambis (GK)

Yellow Cards: Tarek Elrich 53’, Abdelelah Faisal 83’, Jared Macerola 90’

Red Cards: Nil

Report by Timothy Gibson, on Twitter @Timg123_