Blacktown City’s inconsistent 2023 National Premier Leagues NSW Men’s season continued as the 2022 Premiers were dealt a hammer blow with a smash and grab 1-0 win at the hands of Sydney United 58 with Patrick Antelmi the hero for the hosts on what was a blockbuster Easter Saturday clash.

It was a hard fought and hard won three points in an eagerly contested fixture but left the visitors wondering how they hadn’t managed to get anything from the match.

Travis Major hit the upright inside the opening minute as Blacktown City sprinted out of the blocks immediately, the ball looping gratefully into the arms of United 58 keeper Danijel Nizic.

Antelmi fired straight at Tristan Prendergast after receiving the ball from Taisei Kaneko minutes later before Adam Berry forced a smart save from Nizic, down sharply to his right, with Adrian Vlastelica forced to clear off the line from the rebound, again from Berry.

The visitors were pressing United 58 deep and producing the better of the chances in the opening quarter-hour, however the home side always looked dangerous on the counter looking to utilise the pace of Antelmi.

Grant Lynch then blasted over from the edge of the area when on the end of a City free-kick as the defender looked to etch his name on the scoresheet.

Carlos De Olivieria should have opened the scoring in the 18th minute when City broke from defence in a sweeping move before Jak O’Brien sent in a delightful cross for his Blacktown teammate to head wildly over the bar in what was the best move of the game.

United 58 could easily have found themselves three down in the first twenty minutes, however to their credit, they dug in and battled hard to keep it scoreless albeit with a little luck.

Berry came close to catching Nizic out at his near post when going for the top corner but the United 58 custodian was awake to the effort and managed to palm it comfortably away.

The visitors were by far the dominant force in the opening 45’ minutes with their high tempo play but were unable to break the deadlock as both teams headed to the sheds scoreless at the break.

United 58 had to come out firing in the second half and were immediately on the attack, almost catching Prendergast out with a swirling shot-cum-cross, with the gloveman managing to stop the ball from rolling over the line.

City responded with Lynch pulling yet another tremendous save out of Nizic, his fourth of the match, to keep his side in the contest, with the follow-up being blocked on the line once more from O’Brien.

United 58’s best chance then came as Taisei Kaneko broke through the middle and went to ground inside the area but still managed to beat Prendergast and a host of City defenders only to see the ball hit the inside of the post.

Major then played O’Brien through but the impenetrable wall that was Nizic once more made himself big to deny the breakaway and retain the parity on the day in a thrilling end-to-end encounter.

The deadlock was finally broken in the 72nd minute courtesy of a former Blacktown City player in Antelmi.

Matthew Bilic found himself inside the box and took a shot which Prendergast saved but parried into the path of Antelmi who smashed home the game’s opener much to the delight of the United 58 fans. It was the ace marksman’s sixth goal of the 2023 campaign.

Blacktown City then responded well but the Reds were buoyed by the strike and looked to kill off the match in the closing moments as the visitors pushed on in search of an equaliser but left gaps at the back for the opposition to exploit.

Nizic, starring in a Man-of the Match performance, stopped a point blank header from City substitute Charles Mendy in the 83rd minute to keep United 58 in the lead – this ended up being the save of the match.

It proved the final telling moment in a topsy-turvy match that led the home side to all three points leaving City coach, Mark Crittenden to comment.

“I cannot understand how we’ve come away with a loss,” he said.

“At the end of the day you have to take your chances and we didn’t take any of the many we created.

“Our first-half was superb but we came in at nil-all leaving us to scratch our heads.

“I’m not sure what the defence was thinking to allow them to score after a poor decision and positioning but it’s a game we should have won by three or four today.”

Miro Vlastelica was pleased with how his troops withheld all the pressure to come away with the much needed victory.

“We were definitely under the pump in the first-half, we struggled to keep the ball,” he said.

“Credit to Blacktown, they were on the front foot from the whistle and the conditions were not ideal for us and didn’t favour either side.

“We tinkered with the set-up after the break and tried to keep possession for longer periods and stopping their transition game.

“When we did that, we were then able to create our own chances and finally managed to take one.

“It was a real team effort today, everyone put in a shift against a strong Blacktown outfit but it was a really tough three points to earn so credit must go to all the players.”

Footnote: Special mention for Referee Craig Fisher who celebrated his Birthday by officiating the match.

Match Stats

Sydney United 58 1 (Patrick Antelmi 72’)

Blacktown City 0

Sydney United Sports Centre, Edensor Park

Saturday, 8th April 2023

Referee: Craig Fisher

Assistants: Brodie Clarkson and Rowan Fisher

Fourth Official: Nick Gela

Sydney United 58 : 1. Danijel Nizic, 2. Cristian Gonzalez (12. Hiyori Kawaguchi 77’), 3. Bailey Rule, 4. Adrian Vlastelica, 5. Ante Tomich, 7. Taisei Kaneko (15. Tariq Maia 61’), 8. Jason Madonis (17. Matthew Bilic 67’), 9. Patrick Antelmi, 14. Andrea Agamemnonos (11. Yianni Perkatis 67’), 21. Yianni Fragogiannis (6. Chris Payne 73’), 22. Leroy Jennings

Subs not used: 12. Hiyori Kawaguchi, 20. Luke Cukar

Yellow Cards: Jason Madonis 48’, Anthony Tomelich 66’

Red Cards:

Blacktown City: 1. Tristan Prendergast, 3. Daniel Collins, 4. Lachlan Campbell, 5. Grant Lynch (16. Ben Berry 90+4’), 7. Travis Major, 8. Jak O’Brien, 10. Mario Shabow, 12. Tyren Burnie, 18. Nicholas O’Brien (6. Matthew Lewis 86’), 19. Adam Berry, 22. Carlos De Oliveira (21. Charles Mendy 76’)

Subs not used: 30. Jacob Fernandez, 36. Darian Daghero, 46. Abbas Karnib

Yellow Cards: Carlos De Olivieria 69’

Red Cards:

Player Ratings:

3 – Danijel Nizic (SU58)

2 – Nicholas O’Brien (BC)

1 – Adrian Vlastelica (SU58)

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