Suns shine at Rockdale in trial against Saints

By Paul Green:

NPL1 and NPL2 Pre-season friendly
6pm Sunday 10 February, 2019 – Rockdale Ilinden Sports Centre, Rockdale

Rockdale City Suns FC 2 (Pat Savor 29′, Alex Canak 36′)
St. George FC 1 (Kevin Lopez 22′)


Pre-season action continued all over Sydney last weekend and at a sun-drenched Ilinden Sports Centre on Sunday evening Rockdale City Suns from NPL1 took on St. George FC, last season’s Grand Final winners in NPL2, with the hosts running out 2-1 victors.

St. George FC took a 22nd minute lead through a fine header from Kevin Lopez at the far-post, off a free-kick, whipped in from wide on the left by Matias da Silva Santos.

Rockdale drew level in the 29th, thanks to an excellent first-time shot by Pat Savor after a swift counter-attack left Saints’ keeper Antony Costa and his fellow-defenders exposed.

Seven minutes later the Suns had the lead, another rapid transition from defence to attack by the hosts allowing Alex Canak to burst through and give his side the lead with a smart finish from a range of around 12 yards.

This was a Rockdale side keen to improve upon last season’s mid-table finish and absorb one or two new players coach Paul Reid has assembled for the new season and to compensate for the loss of one or two others.

The Macedonian-community-backed side had been sharpened by an Australia Day weekend of action in Queanbeyan, where they won the annual Maso Cup against teams drawn from Macedonian clubs along the Eastern seaboard. This year it was the turn of the ACT to host the even which is played in a different part of the country each summer.

The Rockdale team had also enjoyed a solid win over Newcastle side Weston Bears from the Northern NSW Premier League, ahead of this fixture between two clubs which share this stadium in the heart of St. George territory.

Indeed the local pub, closest to the railway station, is called the St. George Hotel.

St. George, who lost several key players during the off-season to neighbouring Sutherland Sharks, were trialling some new faces and, given the difference in NPL status between the two teams, they came through it well.

St. George coach, Wally Savor, took over in mid-season in 2018 from Terry Palapanis, who moved initially to Mounties Wanderers, but has since moved on to Sutherland Sharks and who lured a few players away from both the Mounties and the Saints for his first NPL1 campaign.

Palapanis and some of his new recruits were among the crowd to watch this match, maybe more interested in seeing what their new rivals Rockdale had to offer, than making any reacquaintance with his former St. George charges on this occasion.

Ironically it was another former Saint, though not one from last season, Pat Savor, son of ex-Socceroo star wingback, Wally Savor, on the opposition bench, who fired Rockdale level in this game, a contest which was conducted in a very good spirit.

A decent crowd was on hand too and it was pleasing to see their keen engagement with proceedings until the final whistle, nobody leaving the leafy stadium until it was all over.

Also pleasing for a friendly match was the home side’s professionalism in having the electronic scoreboard in service, as well as the good work of an excellent ground announcer, clearly providing spectators with the team line-ups and scorers throughout the match.

In addition the home clubs’ sponsors were given plenty of exposure. Hats off to the Suns for this.

Both sides made changes as the second-half progressed, but neither could find the net again, although both teams went close, especially over the concluding 15 minutes or so.

It appeared as if the superior fitness of the NPL1 side would allow Rockdale to go further in front, at least during the opening stages of the second period, but despite a number of their players looking in need of some trimming down, the Saints, aided perhaps by some fresh legs thrown into the fray by the canny Wally Savor, raised another effort and finished the game off strongly.

Lively Saints’ midfielder Tobias Norval surged through the heart of the Suns’ defence in the 76th, before sending a sizzling low shot just wide of the right-hand upright.

For the Suns, Panni Nikas smashed his 83rd minute shot against the left-hand post for Rockdale, as the goal lay at his mercy, while Hussein Akil steered a low, powerful shot inches wide for St. George in the 77th minute, the visitors continuing their late rally, after having a relatively quiet start to the second-half.

Antony Costa in the St. George goal was responsible for making a number of good saves and was sound throughout, seldom caught out and mostly perfectly-positioned to save anything remotely on target.

Rockdale’s next opponents in a friendly match will be Hakoah Sydney City East FC , also at Rockdale at 6pm next Sunday, while St. George take on Inter Lions the same day at Ron Routley Oval at 4:30pm.

Match details:

Attendance: 150 approx

Rockdale City Suns FC: GK 1 David Bradasevic (RGK 22 Max Rowston 46), 2 Daniel Petkovski (c), 5 Braydi J. Trajkovski, 3 Michael Neill, 11 Leigh Egger, 12 Toriss El Hafiane, 19 Patrick Savor, 10 Josh Da Silva, 8 Alex Canak, 9 Jonothan Grozdanovski, 16 Alec Malfara
Subs: 35 Noah Botic, Vinko Gajic, 17 Matt Lecce, 14 Branden Sorge, 23 Panni Nikas, 15 Nicholas Petrilio

Coach: Paul Reid

St. George FC: GK 21 Antony Costa, 12 Daniel Loe, 3 Ali Nasreddine, 49 Aleksander Lekoski, 45 Tobias Norval, 42 Kevin Lopez, 71 Hussein Akil (c), 7 Matias da Silva Santos, 14 Shaquille Ali, 6 M. Kokubo, 19, D. Koliopoulos
Subs: RGK 1 Bailey Kubecka, 37 Matias Paz, 15 Paolo Mitry, 31 S. Katsaros, 2 Abdul (triallist)

Coach: Wally Savor

Referee: Danny Horstead 8/10
Assistants: Nikolas Djakovic and Brodie Merchant

Weather: Sunny and mild, 24C

Pitch: Synthetic 10/10
Game: 7/10