Last gasp equaliser rescues Blacktown City
Shayne D'Cunha rescued a point for 2016 Premiers Blacktown City FC with a last-minute equaliser against a spirited Hakoah Sydney City East FC side in the opening round of the 2017 PlayStation 4 National Premier Leagues NSW Men's competition.
The home side went ahead just after the hour with a well-taken goal from new striker Aleksandar Lekoski, and might have held out for an unexpected win against a highly-fancied Blacktown City team if not for a 90th minute header from D'Cunha.
Blacktown had the better of the possession throughout the match, and Hakoah required a few heroics from goalkeeper and former Sydney FC custodian Anthony Bouzanis to keep the visitors at bay until the final moments of the game.
Though the visitors were first to settle on the ball, it was Hakoah Sydney City East that had the best of the early opportunities.
Anthony Frangie ran at his defender on the right wing and clipped a neat cross over to Aleksandar Lekoski, who headed his shot back across a sprawling City goal keeper, but the ball spun agonisingly wide of the far post.
Frangie was proving to be a dangerous presence down the right for Hakoah Sydney City East and cut inside his marker just a few minutes later to find himself with an opportunity to shoot. However, he could only drag his shot wide of the near post.
The visitors grew increasingly comfortable in possession, with Hakoah Sydney City East struggling to take the ball out of their own half as the first period wore on, but Blacktown City had difficulty converting their dominance into goal-scoring opportunities.
Mitchell Mallia had the best of his side's early chances, volleying over the bar before coming inside on the right wing and pulling a low shot wide of Anthony Bouzanis in the Hakoah Sydney City East goal.
Blacktown City continued to pile on the pressure as the first half drew to a close, and Matthew Lewis made a driving run into the box before going to ground, but referee Roberto Mattei waved away shouts for a penalty and both sides went into the break level at 0-0.
The visitors began the second half with confidence, and moved the ball around quickly as they looked to break the deadlock. Giorgio Speranza collected a pass on the left and drove a strong shot towards goal which Bouzanis was able to deal with comfortably, pushing the ball over the bar for a corner.
Hakoah Sydney City East were chasing shadows in the opening exchanges of the second half and had barely had a touch of the ball when they opened the scoring just after the hour mark. A quick throw-in was played to Aleksandar Lekoski, who controlled the ball inside the area and hit a low, dipping shot inside Tristan Prendergast's near post to give the home side an unexpected 1-0 lead.
The Blacktown City attack kicked into overdrive in search of an equaliser, and very nearly had one when Danny Choi whipped a free-kick onto Joey Gibbs' head, but Bouzanis made a spectacular save to tip the ball over crossbar, and keep his side in the lead.
Choi continued to threaten for the visitors and exchanged a quick one two on the edge of the area before lashing a spinning volley at goal; the ball cutting just outside of the near post. Hakoah Sydney City East dug in as the pressure mounted in their box, and withstood a series of corners to give fans at Hensley Athletic Field hope of an unlikely opening day win.
It wasn't to be, and Shayne D'Cunha equalised with the last attack of the game; rising above his markers in the middle of the box to head past Bouzanis from another corner kick. Both sides pushed for a winner in the closing minutes, but neither seriously threatened and the match ended 1-1; a fair result given Hakoah Sydney City East's resolve in defence, and Blacktown City's relentless push for a goal to level the scores after going behind.
Hakoah Sydney City East player-coach Gavin Rae was "delighted" with his side's performance in the first game of the new season. "Our shape was good, and the effort was great – it's just a shame about the late goal.
"Obviously the late equaliser is disappointing, but it was a difficult game for us and we executed our game plan well to put in a good performance. We got our goal and I thought we were going to see it tout, but it was always going to be difficult against a good team like Blacktown.
"Going forward we need to be more clinical, and keep the ball better – Blacktown keep the ball very well. But overall, I'm pleased."
Blacktown City coach Mark Crittenden was pleased with D'Cunha's late equaliser, but disappointed that his side was unable to convert their dominance into goal.
"We fell asleep for ten-seconds and conceded a pretty poor goal, in terms of our defence, anyway. But we had enough chances, and their keeper pulled off two or three very good saves.
"Overall, I'm disappointed to drop two points – we had enough possession but they positioned themselves really well with a lot of boys behind the ball, and that made things difficult for us.
"Credit to them, they made things tough. It's a tough place to come to, but it could've been worse – we could've walked away with nothing. We go home, we move on, and get ready for Sutherland Sharks next week."
Hakoah Sydney City East travel to Lambert Park next Sunday to face APIA Leichhardt Tigers FC, while Blacktown City head home to Lilys Football Centre where they will host Sutherland Sharks in the Saturday game.
Hakoah Sydney City East FC 1 (Aleksandar Lekoski 64')
Blacktown City FC 1 (Shayne D'Cunha 90')
Sunday March 12, 2017
Hensley Athletic Field
Referee: Roberto Mattei
Hakoah Sydney City East FC: 1. Anthony Bouzanis (GK), 15. Dean Bereveskos, 6. Cameron Draper (2. Remy Wolanski 65'), 3. Robert Ezekiel (10. Andre De Jong 70'), 14. Anthony Frangie, 16. Oliver Green, 9. Neil Jablonski (C), 7. Aleksandar Lekoski (18. Harry Jones 79'), 19. Gavin Rae, 17. Gideon Sweet, 4. Bradley Walker
Substitutes Not Used: 45. Michael Figueira (GK), 8. Paul Orgad
Yellow Cards: Remy Wolanski 73', Dean Bereveskos 79'
Red Cards: Nil
Blacktown City FC: 1. Tristan Prendergast (GK), 8. Daniel Araujo, 19. Zachary Cairncross, 21. Bo Hyun Chun (12. James Andrew 54'), 15. Shayne D'Cunha, 10. Connor Evans, 9. Joey Gibbs, 6. Matthew Lewis (C), 14. Mitchell Mallia (11. Danny Choi 63'), 3. Giorgio Speranza, 4. Roberto Speranza (17. Lewis Beumie 84')
Substitutes Not Used: 20. Matthew Symes
Yellow Cards: Nil
Red Cards: Nil
3 – Anthony Bouzanis (HSCE)
2 – Anthony Frangie (HSCE)
1 – Matthew Lewis (BC)
-By Football NSW reporter Max Grieve