The big guns brought plenty of firepower in the penultimate round of the PS4 National Premier Leagues NSW Men’s 1 home and away season.
APIA Leichhardt Tigers were the first to fire, beating third-placed Bonnyrigg White Eagles 3-0 at Bonnyrigg Sports Club and temporarily moving to top spot before Blacktown City responded in kind with a 4-0 hammering of cross-town rivals Blacktown Spartans.
After some rocky form in recent weeks, the two top sides will be hoping that their worst form is behind them with finals just around the corner.
Elsewhere, Sutherland Sharks came undone at home to fourth-placed Sydney Olympic, while at the other end of the table, Parramatta FC looked certain to be relegated after failing to pick up a point at home to the Rockdale City Suns.
ROUND 21 REVIEW
Bonnyrigg White Eagles FC 0-3 APIA Leichhardt Tigers FC, at Bonnyrigg Sports Club
APIA Leichhardt Tigers showed their ruthless streak when they travelled to Bonnyrigg on Saturday night.
The Tigers composure in front of goal was as ice cold as the temperature at Bonnyrigg Sports Club, while at the other end, the White Eagles conspired against themselves to spurn chance after chance.
Bonnyrigg went close from several set pieces in the opening minutes, as Tynan Diaz – playing his 100th game for the club – put in a number of good deliveries.
But while the White Eagles could not convert, a long clearance into the attacking half released Nathan Elasi who scored with his first shot on target.
Truth be told, he might have had a second before half-time when he skied a good chance with his head, while David Vrankovic missed a good chance of his own at the other end when he couldn’t connect with a dangerous cross across the face of goal.
The Tigers killed the game in the opening 10 minutes of the second half, with Adrian Ucchino and David D’Appuzzo scoring to give the visiting side a deserving 3-0 win.
Blacktown Spartans FC 0-4 Blacktown City FC, at Blacktown Football Park
There aren’t many better games to make a premiership statement than a local derby, and that’s exactly what Mark Crittenden’s side did at Blacktown Football Park against a flat Blacktown Spartans outfit.
With three points absolutely vital to City following on from last week’s drubbing at the hands of Sydney Olympic, the response was a thrilling one and was aided considerably by the long-awaited return of hitman Joey Gibbs.
Gibbs scored two late goals, adding to those already scored by Mitch Mallia and Patrick Antelmi to secure a potentially premiership winning victory.
A three-point lead heading into the final week means City will only need to draw its final game against at home against Sutherland Sharks FC to claim the premiership.
The loss ends the Spartans fading hopes of making the top five and play finals football.
Sutherland Sharks FC 0-2 Sydney Olympic FC, at Seymour Shaw
Sydney Olympic took big strides to a potential third-placed finish in the league with a win against Sutherland Sharks.
Dimitri Hatzimouratis and Harris Gaitatzis got the goals to seal a fourth-straight win for Grant Lee’s side.
Olympic controlled the majority of the game, outfighting a Sharks side light on in midfield.
The loss means the end of the Sharks’ finals hopes with just one game to play, meaning Steve O’Connors rein at the Seymour Shaw will end next week when the Sharks travel to Blacktown City.
Olympic, however, have bigger fish to fry as it looks to beat Sydney United 58 FC on the final day of the season, when it will hope three points will be enough to claim third spot and a potential second chance in the finals.
Parramatta FC 0-1 Rockdale City Suns FC, at Melita Stadium
A saved Matthew Clowes penalty might have seriously compromised Parramatta FC’s top-flight survival hopes.
Ivan Necevski was the hero – or the villain, depending on which side of the fence you sat on at Melita Stadium on Saturday – when he saved Clowes late penalty to ensure the Suns retained its 1-0 lead earned through a second-half strike from Hristijan Tanoski.
The win keeps the Suns in touch with fifth place ahead of the final round, but also provided crucial club championship points for themselves taking them significantly closer to top-flight survival.
Suns’ player-coach Paul Reid – who also has to keep the club’s FFA Cup round of 16 duties in mind – will now lead his team out against Bonnyrigg White Eagles in a must win game to close out the home-and-away season.
South Coast Wolves 2-0 Manly United, at WIN Stadium
South Coast Wolves retained its place in fifth with a hard-four 2-0 win over Manly United at WIN Stadium on Sunday.
First-half goals from Sam Matthews and Darcy Madden proved enough to earn a crucial win which keeps the Wolves in control of their own destiny while taking Manly’s control of its own destiny out of its hands.
WIN Stadium has been something of a fortress for the Wolves and it proved just that again, despite a late red card to James O’Rourke.
The dismissal prompted something of a revival from United, but it proved too little, too late as the visiting side failed to muster much in front of goal.
Sydney United 58 FC 2-0 Marconi Stallions, at Sydney United Sports Centre
Sydney United 58 FC might just be New South Wales’ cup specialists this season, but the Waratah Cup winners and FFA Cup round of 16 participants finally picked up a first league win after four straight losses.
That it came against bottom-placed Marconi Stallions won’t mean much to a United side that desperately needed the win to remain a chance of finals football heading into the final round.
A first-half effort from Matthew Billic and second-half volley from Stjepan Paric secured the three points ahead of a crucial final home-and-away show down with Sydney Olympic FC next week.
At the other end of the table, the result ensures the battle for top-flight survival between Marconi and Parramatta will continue next week.
The Stallions will take on a South Coast Wolves side desperate for three points to make finals.