Demons too good for Tigers

by Corinthian (Pail Green):

NSW – PS4 National Premier League 1 – 2015 – Feature Game
Sunday 12 April, 2015 –  Lily Stadium (aka Gabbie Stadium), Seven Hills

Blacktown City Demons FC 3 (Matt Lewis pen 25′, Patrick Antelmi pen 45’+1, Joey Gibbs 56′)
APIA Leichhardt Tigers FC 1 (Blake Powell 82′)


This Sunday afternoon game at Lilys Football Centre was billed as a top-of-the-table clash, based on the two teams’ record thus far in the NSW top-flight this season.

Blacktown City, whose game the previous weekend against Bonnyrigg White Eagles was washed out,  had won their opening three matches, notching ten goals along the way, while visitors, APIA-Leichhardt Tigers had won three and drawn one, with no fewer than fourteen goals put away by their livewire attack.

Playing on a similarly synthetic surface at Lilys, to their own Lambert Park, they might have been expected to give the Demons some problems.

But the problems, when they arose, were of their own making, as they conceded two penalties before half-time, the first after only 25 minutes.

APIA were missing a couple of players, but looked on paper more than capable of dealing with a strong Blacktown side, only to struggle, especially down both flanks, with Blacktown’s Danny Choi in particular causing lots of trouble down the right for most of the game.

The APIA attack took forever to get going, but they were facing a very well-organised Blacktown defence, that looked in top shape and more than capable of dealing with anything APIA could dish out.

Those 14 goals in four matches looked good on paper, but despite the constant efforts of will-o-the-wisp midfielder, Franco Parisi as his team’s creative spark, they never really did much to cause Blacktown any headaches.

Instead it was the speed and trickery of Choi and the other Blacktown front runners that had APIA mostly on the back foot.

Stoppers Daniel Petkovksi and skipper Brett Studman were under plenty of pressure in the middle, as well, though they had little time for reflection, as they mopped up as much as they could during the early stages.

It was in the 24th that Blacktown earned their first penalty, after the slippery Mitch Mallia had skipped through some tackles and burst into the six-yard box to be confronted by two burly APIA defenders.   As he tried to wriggle free of their attentions, he came under the closest attention from Studman, whose efforts in gaining possession earned the displeasure of the referee, who pointed to the  spot, amid a few APIA protests.

Up stepped Matt Lewis to beat APIA’s  Andrew Bazi with a low shot to the keeper’s left.

After that it seemed Blacktown were well on top and pressing home their clear advantage.

On the occasions when APIA got into threatening positions they could not get a shot on target and Blacktown keeper, Nenad Vekic, was looking quite quite comfortable.

That was more than could be said for Andrew Bazi, who’d missed the previous week’s game through illness during the pre-match routine. His stand-in against Sydney Olympic, Ryan Norval, who’d earned rave reviews after making good saves in that match, was expected to start, but he too was put out of action during the warm-up, this time through injury.

Bazi stepped back in and could do nothing about either penalty.

The second was awarded as the seconds ticked away at the end of first-half stoppage-time.

The impressive Danny Choi had made his way into the penalty-area, on the right-hand side, after first getting past his man out wide and under challenge from Daniel Petkovksi found himself coming down as he tried to change direction. It was a clear-cut foul and this time there were no arguments as Petkovksi went into referee Stephen Lucas’s book for the mis-timed challenge..

Instead of Matt Lewis, the penalty-taking duty was handed to Patrick Antelmi, who chose the top left corner of the net to send his well-taken spot kick, Bazi guessing correctly this time, but unable to reach the well-struck shot.

It wasn’t looking good for APIA, though having overcome a slow start the previous week  to come from a goal down to lead 2-1 against Sydney Olympic, before drawing 2-2, they might have fancied their chances of clawing their way back, but another Blacktown goal after only another eleven minutes spoiled that optimistic outlook.

It was a goal that clearly disappointed APIA coach, Billy McColl, who was quick to. blame his keeper post-match for misjudging the flight of the ball, shot from early second-half substitute Joey Gibbs, who’d benefitted from another nice pass by the very effective Choi. Gibbs lifted the ball towards goal, but with no great element of power and it looked like being a simple take for the keeper.

But Bazi won’t be too pleased with the way the ball went through his hands, as he held them up in front of him to make a regulation catch.  His technique may have been found wanting on this occasion, to say the least. Bazi had made a couple of decent first-half saves, notably in the 18th minute from Choi, but this time his judgement was clearly awry.

In the 66th Blacktown could have gone further ahead, but after Sasa Macura had received  a nice pass  from Choi he elected to relay the ball to Gibbs when a shot was there for the taking.

APIA’s Nathan Elasi looked to have set up the visitors with a possible way back into the game in the 76th when his slide-rule pass found Corey Bizco, but while the shot was well on target Blacktown keeper, Nenad Vekic,scrambled the ball away for a corner, in desperate fashion.

Finally APIA got one on the board in the 82nd.

Parisi, who never gave up or lost his obvious belief in creating something worthwhile, slipped the ball through to Blake :Powell and the effective striker did well to tuck under Vekic to make it 3-1.

In the 88th Nicholas Olsen tried a shot from 30 yards that looked goal-bound, but diving full length to his right Vekic managed to push the ball wide for a corner.

While Blacktown might have scored more in the first-half with better finishing, from Mallia especially, APIA had fewer clear-cut chances.

Demons’ coach, Mark Crittenden,  had observed before the match that his team had been rebuilt during the off-season after he’d lost five players either to the A League or to overseas.

“We had to rebuild after we lost those players, including Travis Major, but we’re doing alright,” he’d said

More than alright, as opposition coach, Billy McColl conceded.

Asked if the 3-1 loss was a rude awakening, after leading the table and scoring 14 goals, he was upbeat,

“No, I wouldn’t say it was a rude awakening at all. I was happy with the performance against a good side, which Blacktown is.

“But when you give away two penalties like we did it’s very difficult. Then to give away the third goal, that was very poor by our keeper. There was no pace on the ball at all and he should have saved it.

“Actually my players told me the first penalty was not so convincing, but I can’t argue about the second one, the boy was too quick and he was obviously caught, as he went past.

“Yes Blacktown are a good side, but they’ll lose matches in the future and we’ll come back stronger We had Adam Griffiths out injured – he missed the previous game as well – and Adrian Ucchino had to miss the game too for a wedding, so we’ll have more players available for our next match.

“We did have some trouble dealing with their wide players today, but we’ll sort that out. We expected that they’d give us some problems in that area.

“We do have some depth so I’m not too concerned at this stage,” he concluded.

So Blacktown maintain their 100 per cent record and remain one of three unbeaten sides, Bonnyrigg White Eagles and Sydney Olympic being the others.   Both Olympic and Blacktown have  a game in hand on new leaders Sydney United who have already lost one game.

Match details
Crowd: about 300

BLACKTOWN CITY DEMONS FC: GK 1 Nenad Vekic; 19 Zac Cairncross (C), 7 Connor Evans, 17 Lewis Beumie, 3 Georgio Speranza; 6 Matt Lewis; 8 Sasa Macura, 10 Christos Tomaras (12 Daniel Araujo 68), 14 Mitch Mallia (9 Joey Gibbs 51), 11 Danny Choi (15 Sam Perre 88),  16 Patrick Antelmi
Subs not used: RGK 13 Tristan Prendergast

Coach: Mark Crittenden
Yellow cards: Christos Tomaras 31, Zac Cairncross 74; Red Cards: Nil

APIA LEICHHARDT TIGERS FC: GK 1 Andrew Bazi;  2 Nathan Millgate,  15 Brett Studman , 12 Daniel Petkovski, 3 Marc Warren (8 Corey Bizco 73); 23 Nicholas Olsen, 11 Nathan Elasi, 13 David D’Apuzzo (7 Stephen Kayes 80), 16 Sean Symons; 10 Franco Parisi , 9 Blake Powell

Subs not used: RGK 92 Ryan Norval , 5 Michael West,  6 Tyson Rhodes

Coach: Billy McColl
Yellow cards: Sean Symons 7,  Daniel Petkovski 45+1, Brett Studman 90+3; Red Cards: Nil

Referee: Stephen Lucas
Assistants: Lance Greenshields and Christian Layland
Fourth Official: Tristan Harris

Points and ratings
Match 7/10
Pitch: 10/10 (Synthetic)
Weather: Mild and mostly sunny

Players to note: Danny Choi (BC), Zac Cairncross (BC), Patrick Antelmi (BC), Franco Parisi (ALT), Brett Studman (ALT), Nicholas Olsen (ALT)