The eagerly anticipated Round 15 National Premier Leagues NSW Men’s fixture saw APIA Leichhardt produce a solitary, but stunning Sean Symons strike to secure a 1-0 victory over Blacktown City at Blacktown City Sports Centre on Sunday afternoon.

Playing out wide on the right, a long ball punt from the back found Sean Symons with time and space on the wing to cut inside and plant a delightful curling shot beyond the despairing dive of young Alex Robinson between the City sticks to secure the only goal of the match in the 67th minute.

The win sees APIA Leichhardt secure an incredibly valuable three points as they battle for the top spot on the NPL NSW Men’s ladder and fight for the Premiership, while it was crucial points lost for Blacktown City in a hotly-contested finals race.

As expected the early exchanges were a tense and cagey affair as each attempted to draw a mistake from the other as they probed for an opening.

Diego Celis fired wide from distance for APIA after seven minutes that Robinson had covered before the striker was able to spin on the edge of the area that again the young ‘keeper held comfortably shortly after.

Charles Mendy replied, but his shot in a crowded penalty area from a Hiroaki Aoyama corner was bundled away along with the threat.

APIA were creating the better of the half-chances in the first quarter of the matc,h but still were reduced to shots outside the box against a resolute City defence.

The closest Blacktown came to scoring was when Adam Berry looped the ball over the APIA defence for Jake Trew who, sadly for the home crowd, couldn’t get his head to and the danger passed once more.

Mendy flashed a shot wide across the face for the home side and Dakota Askew saw his curling effort slide over the bar late on.

With neither Robinson nor APIA gloveman Ivan Necevski tested in the opening 45 minutes it was no surprise the teams went to the half-time break scoreless, despite both sides best endeavours.

Blacktown would have the distinct advantage on the resumption of having the slowly setting winter sun at their back and directly in the face of their opponents.

Jak O’Brien replaced Trew as Blacktown looked to change the point of attack and immediately won a succession of corners that were cleared or gathered by Necevski.

Celis saw his header from a corner after 55 minutes cleared from under the bar, the nearest either came to scoring in a game of limited opportunities.

Mario Shabow responded with a curling effort from outside the area that again slid narrowly over the bar, but a long ball out from the back found APIA’s second top scorer, Sean Symons, alone on the right.

Symons took a touch and cut inside to curl a left-footed shot into the top corner to open the scoring in sensational style and secure his tenth goal of the campaign.

With plenty of time left in the game, Blacktown needed to throw caution to the wind in order to garner anything from the match and, more importantly, in jockeying for position in the top five at the season’s end.

Themba Muata-Marlow believed he had put the result beyond doubt when heading goalward only for Robinson to gather and come away with the ball, the tall centre-back believing it was over the line but play was waived on and the result remained in the balance.

With Blacktown pushing forward it allowed APIA time and space in behind and Symons headed wide from another corner as yet another chance to close out the match went begging for the visitors.

Walter Scott fired straight at Robinson from a deft pass by Celis that split the City defence in the latter stages.

It always looked like a match that one goal would settle it as no side dominated play, with APIA Lecihhardt securing three points at the final whistle.

“Sean [Symons] is a cracking player and that was a class goal he scored today,” APIA coach Danial Cummings said.

“He’s had a great campaign so far and it’s games like today that polarise our season.

“We know our remaining fixtures will be tough but the boys worked hard today and to get something from a talented Blacktown City side is extra special.

“We knew it would be a tough match, it always is, especially here at their ground and we knew we had to be on today and thankfully we were.”

A very despondent Blacktown City coach, Mark Crittenden, commented.

“A massively lacklustre performance by us today and very disappointing.

“It was always going to be a tough game where one moment would possibly decide the outcome and it was a great finish from [Sean] Symons but we were under par for 90 minutes today.

“Overall it was a massively disappointing display from us today.”

Match Stats

Blacktown City 0

APIA Leichhardt 1 (Sean Symons 67’)

Blacktown City Sports Centre

Sunday, 12th June, 2022

Referee: Michael Weiner

Assistants: Matt Staples and Amir Hosnani

Fourth Official: Brodie Merchant

Blacktown City: 30. Alex Robinson, 3. Daniel Collins (22. Carlos De Oliveira 75’), 4. Lachlan Campbell (6. Matt Lewis 87’), 5. Grant Lynch, 9. Jake Trew (8. Jak O’Brien 46’), 10. Mario Shabow, 17. Dakota Askew, 19. Adam Berry, 21. Charles Mendy, 24. Jackson Bandiera, 32. Hiroaki Aoyama

Subs not used: 4. Caleb Jackson-Brown, 18. Nicholas O’Brien, 40. Dylan Niski

Yellow Cards: Adam Berry 75’, Grant Lynch 92’

Red Cards: Nil

APIA Leichhardt Tigers: 1. Ivan Necevski, 5. Nick Azzone, 8. Diego Celis, 9. Jason Romero, 14. Jack Armson, 15. Thema Muata-Marlow, 16. Sean Symons, 18. Adrian Ucchino, 21. Michael Kouta, 23. Walter Scott, 38. Yianni Nicolaou

Subs not used: 3. Paul Galimi, 4. Josh Symons, 6. Simon Nicholas, 10. Franco Parisi, 20. Nathaniel Blair, 22. Luke Turnbull

Yellow Cards: Nick Azzone 47’, Themba Muata-Marlow 63’

Red Cards: Nil

By National Premier Leagues NSW Men’s Reporter Micky Brock

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