Blacktown City have booked a clash with Sydney Olympic in a Preliminary Final showdown after securing a 2-0 victory over APIA Leichhardt in the Minor Semi-Final at Blacktown City Sports Centre on Sunday evening.
Goals to Mitchell Mallia and Jordan Smylie were enough for the hosts to take the victory, with APIA Leichhardt unable to make an impact in the match despite continued attacking pressure through the 90 minutes.
The win will see Blacktown City face up against Sydney Olympic next weekend as they fight for a place in the Grand Final against Manly United, while APIA Leichhardt’s 2022 season has officially come to a close.
Travis Major came close to an opener in the 16th minute as he curled a shot in from the left side of goal, but it went just wide of the target.
The hosts came close again in the 25th minute but as the ball fumbled around in front of goal they couldn’t let off a clean shot.
The opener finally came for Blacktown in the 27th minute as some quality combination play culminated in a shot from Mallia.
Major played Hirokai Aoyama on the edge of the 18-yard box, who then found the feet of Mario Shabow.
Shabow then passed to Mallia as he ran forward and the attacker was able to send his shot past the diving APIA defence.
APIA came close to restoring parity in the 32nd minute as a forward run from Themba Muata-Marlow found Jason Romero on the left flank. Romero took a shot from a tight angle but was just off target.
Muata-Marlow was among the action again in the 45th minute as he found a free kick from range in front of the goal and attempted a shot, but goalkeeper Dylan Niski was well prepared to block the shot
Mark Crittenden made a change just before the half-time break, bringing on Smylie for Mallia and the change paid off as they returned to the field after the break.
Tyren Burnie crossed a ball to Smylie who was positioned to the left of the goalmouth and pulled off an impressive acrobatic volley to take his side’s lead to two in the 49th minute.
Shabow came close to another just moments later as he let off a shot in the 51st minute, but his effort collided with the goalpost.
Jack Armson had a chance for APIA in the 53rd minute, receiving the ball from Romero at the edge of the 18-yard box and taking a shot that travelled past a diving Niski but rebounded off the bar.
Substitute Sean Symons fired a powerful strike from range in the 62nd minute, but it was slightly off target and flew wide of the goal.
Diego Celis skied an opportunity for the visitors as Romero’s forward run set him up perfectly in front of the goal in the 71st minute, leaving APIA without a goal heading into the final stage of the match.
Smylie hit the back of the net again in the 77th minute but was quickly called offside for the second time in a five minute window.
APIA continued to ask questions, but the sturdy Blacktown defence was proving too strong for the visitors.
APIA Leichhardt came agonisingly close in the first minute of injury time as Michael Kouta’s shot looked like it was going to reach the goal, but went just wide.
The composed home side managed to keep out APIA Leichhardt to keep a clean sheet and take the crucial victory in the Minor Semi-Final.
Blacktown City coach Mark Crittenden reflected on the learnings from last week’s late loss to Manly in preparation for the battle with APIA.
“The message was every second counts and every moment counts,” he explained.
“We did so well last week and I think we were very good last week and then in the space of 60 seconds we threw it away.
“At the end of the day, it was always gonna be a tough one, they’re a really good experienced team of footballers and we knew it’d be a tough battle, which it pretty much was, I think it was pretty much a battle the whole way through
“We had a couple of nice finishes, I thought our first goal was a nice one and obviously, Smiley’s finish was a cracker, so I think we just worked hard and got the results we wanted.
“It’s been a pretty big two weeks, but we’ll go to a really good footy team [Sydney Olympic] on a pretty average field.
“I guess we’ll probably chat through the week about maybe changing things up against them and see what happens.”
Blacktown City FC 2 (Mitchell Mallia 27’, Jordan Smylie 49’)
APIA Leichhardt FC 0
Sunday, 14th August, 2022
Blacktown City Sports Centre, Seven Hills
Referee: Craig Fisher
Assistant Referees: Maddy Allum & Matt Staples
Fourth Official: Ivica Covic
Blacktown City FC: 4. Lachlan Campbell, 5. Grant Lynch, 7. Travis Major, 10. Mario Shabow, 11. Mitchell Mallia (89. Jordan Smylie 45+2’), 12. Tyren Burnie (6. Matthew Lewis 88’), 16. Ben Berry, 19. Adam Berry, 24. Jackson Bandiera, 32. Hirokai Aoyama (8. Jak O’Brien 73’), 40. Dylan Niski
Substitutes Not Used: 17. Dakota Askew, 30. Alexander Robinson, 45. Danny Choi
Yellow Cards: Nil
Red Cards: Nil
APIA Leichhardt FC: 1. Ivan Necevski, 5. Nicholas Azzone (16. Sean Symons 45’), 6. Simon Nicholas (23. Walter Scott 56’), 8. Diego Celis (7. Matthew Cahill 73’), 9. Jason Romero, 14. Jack Armson, 15. Themba Muata-Marlow, 18. Adrian Ucchino, 19. Fabian Monge (10. Franco Parisi 79’), 21. Michael Kouta, 38. Yianni Nicolaou
Substitutes Not Used: 4. Joshua Symons, 22. Luke Turnbull
Yellow Cards: Nil
Red Cards: Nil