Sydney FC continued its recent run of good form knocking off another National Premier Leagues NSW Men’s powerhouse side in 2022 Champions Blacktown City with a dogged 1-0 victory at Valentine Sports Park on Friday evening.
In a fixture which saw two confident defensive sides on show, it was going to take something special to decide this one and that something special came from Sky Blues young gun Alen Harbas with a top class free-kick in the first half.
The hosts were the first side to give the opposition goalkeeper work, attacking down the right before moving the ball central, the eventual chance falling to Louis Agosti who was denied by Tristian Prendergast on six minutes.
Blacktown City had their best chance of the early stages after the quarter hour. Travis Major cut-back a ball to Mario Shabow from the byline with Shabow hitting his shot just wide of the right post.
The game needed something special for the deadlock to be broken and it came through the talk of the rising young guns thus far, Harbas.
The 19-year-old, playing against his former club, was brought down by a crude Daniel Collins challenge before brushing off the rubber pellets and taking the free kick which rocketed into the bottom left corner of the net.
All Prendergast could do was watch the ripple of the net flutter as Harbas celebrated his fifth NPL NSW Men’s goal with his teammates no doubt pushing his claims for an A-League appearance with Steve Corica’s senior squad.
That goal sparked the visitors into life with Major looking for an immediate response soon after denied by keeper Adam Pavlesic in a sharp reaction stop from close range in the 38th minute.
The second half continued as the first ended, Grant Lynch creating their first chance of the half within a minute for Blacktown City. Lynch finding the side netting from a Jak O’Brien cross.
Both sides best chances came around the hour mark. The Sky Blues through Jayden Trenkoski who interchanged passes with Clayton Taylor before Prendergast turned it around the post.
A response coming from Blacktown a few minutes later, Nicholas O’Brien putting the ball over the bar from just outside the penalty spot on the hour following a spectacular effort from Shabow.
The final half hour saw Blacktown City push hard for the equalizer as they continued to loop in cross inside Sydney FC’s box.
To Jimmy Van Weeren’s side’s credit, they handled the predictable balls with ease as his young defensive chargers led by Nathan Paull pulled out all stops in ensuring to not only keep the score-line as it was, but a clean sheet as well.
Lynch then turned provider for the next opportunity on 85 minutes. His ball across from the left was flicked on by Charles Mendy before Major failed to put much contact with the resulting shot much to the frustration of coach Mark Crittenden and the many City fans that were present at Football NSW headquarters.
City then had a further two chances in injury time that could have rescued last season’s NPL NSW Men’s Champions a point.
The first from a long throw which Mendy steered on target but Sydney FC shot stopper Pavlesic was equal to the task with a desperate diving save before Jak O’Brien missing the final chance of the night failing to steer his header on target.
Post-match and Sydney FC coach Jimmy Van Weeran was delighted with the victory as well as the way his young troops handled the match against seasoned veterans in City.
“I thought everyone who played a part showed what they can do when they apply themselves.
“They’re a top side, they create chances but I thought for players who are 16-17 years old, they showed some real maturity out there tonight.”
Asked about Harbas’ free kick Van Weeren added, “Look his got that in his locker, he’s a sweet striker of the ball and I’m happy that it came off.”
Blacktown City coach Mark Crittenden was frank in his assessment as City lost their third match of the season.
“Our first half wasn’t good enough, we let them dictate the tempo of the game.
“The Second half we changed it up and we had enough chances and possession to win the game but that mistake in the first half hurt us.”
Crittenden paid credit to his opposition as well.
“They scrambled really well and made some really good tackles when they needed too. Jimmy has them playing some real nice football and they work hard for each other which was highly evident tonight.”
Sydney FC 1 (Alen Harbas 34’)
Blacktown City FC 0
Friday 24 March, 2023
Valentine Sports Park, Glenwood
Referee: Sebastian Andrew
Assistant Referees: Joel Crawford and Patrick Teleki
Fourth Official: Harriet Gee
Sydney FC: 30. Adam Pavlesic, 4. Nathan Paull, 8. Kealey Adamson, 10. Alen Harbas (9. Luka Smyth 65’), 11. Clayton Taylor, 13. Hayden Matthews, 17. Mitchell Glasson (14. Ayouk Mow 86’), 18. Oscar Priestman, 21. Louis Agosti, 26. Zane Schreber, 34. Max Buratto (24. Jayden Trenkoski 56’)
Substitutes Not Used: 20. Max Vartuli, 6. Matthew Scarcella, 23. Sebastian Kiceec.
Yellow Cards: Schreber,
Red Cards: Nil
Blacktown City FC: 1. Tristan Prendergast, 3. Daniel Collins, 4. Lachlan Campbell, 5. Grant Lynch, 7. Travis Major, 8. Jak O’Brien (14. Caleb Jackson-Brown 67’), 10. Mario Shabow, 12. Tyren Burnie, 18. Nicholas O’Brien, 19. Adam Berry, 22. Carlos De Oliveira (21. Charles Mendy 55’)
Substitutes Not Used: 30. Jacob Fernandez, 6. Matthew Lewis, 16. Ben Berry, 17. Tatsuya Kato,
Yellow Cards: O’Brien, Major, Campbell, Collins
Red Cards: Nil
3 – Nathan Paull (SFC)
2 – Adam Pavlesic (SFC)
1 – Alen Harbas (SFC)