APIA Leichhardt have defeated Blacktown City 4-2 with an impressive performance at Landen Stadium to go top of the National Premier Leagues NSW Men’s ladder knocking off Rockdale Ilinden who have a game in hand. 

The game began with a high level of intensity and tension, as both sides looked sharp in possession and structured out of it.

It was a game that had a dark cloud over it, as Graham Crawhall, fondly known as ‘GC’, had passed away earlier that week. Read more about the extraordinary impact Graham had on the footballing community and Blacktown City here.

Fifteen minutes in, Blacktown City were beginning to show their quality, progressing the ball forwards well and creating opportunities efficiently.

In the 18th minute, a good ball in from Tyren Burnie on the right after short, sharp play from Blacktown found the foot of Carlos De Oliveira who had space inside the box, but his first-time effort rolled wide of the post.

However, it was APIA Leichhardt who opened the scoring, converting against the run of play 24 minutes in.

Jack Armson won back the ball well high up the field and showed great strength to hold and shrug off Lachlan Campbell under heavy pressure.

Inside the box, Armson calmly squared the ball to Aedon Kyra, who made no mistake in converting into an empty net. It was Kyra’s first goal in APIA colours since return to the club following his time in the U.S. college system.

APIA began to look dangerous on attacking transitions, with Armson pulling the strings in midfield.

Upon picking up the ball in midfield, Armson played a perfectly weighted pass onto the onrushing Jack Stewart out wide.

The winger squared up his opponent, drawing him in before playing a clever square ball inside to Sean Symons on the penalty spot.

Symons’ shot first time with a strike that seemed destined for the back of the net, but his shot sailed over the crossbar.

Armson’s strong form continued, as a left-footed strike from outside the box forced a good save from Tristan Prendergast.

Despite APIA being the stronger of the two sides following their opener, Blacktown were presented with a golden chance to equalise 40 minutes in, as Campbell was fouled inside the area after a set piece.

Blacktown’s record goal scorer Travis Major stepped up to take the penalty, and converted calmly into the bottom left corner.

Major made it a brace for himself and gave his side the lead five minutes later.

Burnie intelligently intercepted an attempted disguised pass on the left, and drove forwards with enterprise across Jack Stewart.

The fullback then found Jak O’Brien in a wide right position, with the forward squaring the ball dangerously across the face of goal.

It found Major waiting at the back post, who converted powerfully into the back of the net. The Blacktown star celebrated by dedicating both his goals to Graham Crawhall.

On the stroke of halftime, Prendergast was forced into action, as he impressively saved a close-range freekick from Michael Kouta.

APIA did find the equaliser on the other side of the break, converting two minutes into the second half.

A positive pass from Fabian Monge found Kyra in the channel, and he ran onto the ball, passing his marker in the process.

Miraculously, he found himself in behind and on goal, where he squared the ball to Stewart, who finished calmly.

APIA went ahead for the second time in the match in the 59th minute, courtesy of a deflected Stewart strike.

APIA had a chance to make it four in the 67th minute, winning a penalty after a good piece of play, which saw a shot from Armson blocked by the arm of Ben Berry.

Stewart converted the penalty to score his second of the afternoon.

Blacktown had a chance to get back into the game, as a fantastic ball found O’Brien at the far post.

The forward squared the ball dangerously across goal, but it was just inches in front of Major.

APIA looked threatening on the other end, as Symons stole in behind but couldn’t convert with his right foot in a one on one.

The away side held possession in Blacktown’s box, but a powerful shot from Stewart was again parried by Prendergast.

The sides were trading chances as Mario Shabow unleashed a stunning effort from range which forced a superb save from Ivan Necevski.

In injury time, Franco Farinella received the ball in between the lines and from just outside the box unleashed a skidding low effort which went just past the right hand post.

APIA coach Franco Parisi was happy with his team’s performance despite conceding two goals, and had beautiful words for the late Graham Crawhall.

“We spoke before the game about a clean sheet but we did also speak about not resting on one or two goals today. Them getting two goals before halftime just emphasised that we really needed to get the third and the fourth. We’ve got (Sydney) Olympic next week, they’ve been very deadly and have proved they can score from anything, so we do obsess about clean sheets so next week will be a tough one.

“Credit to Blacktown, but a special, special mention to Graham (Crawhall) who passed away. He’s a legend of the game. The words before the game were beautiful, a moments silence is never enough but I’m glad we did it and I think he would’ve enjoyed that good football was played. Today was for him, even though we’re not Blacktown saying that, it still was for him.”

Match Stats

Blacktown City FC 2 (Major 41’, 45’)

APIA Leichhardt 4 (Kyra 24’, Stewart 47’, 68’, Collins (OG) 59’)

Friday 7 April, 2023

Blacktown City Sports Centre

Referee: Kurt Ams

Assistant Referees: Amber Morris and Arinath Gobinath

Fourth Official: Ayad Naji

Blacktown City FC: 1. Tristan Prendergast, 3. Daniel Collins, 4. Lachlan Campbell (16. Ben Berry 43’), 5. Grant Lynch, 7. Travis Major, 8. Jak O’Brien, 10. Mario Shabow, 12. Tyren Burnie, 18. Nicholas O’Brien (6. Matthew Lewis 60’), 19. Adam Berry, 22. Carlos De Oliveira (21. Charles Mendy 66’)

Substitutes Not Used: 30. Jacob Fernandez, 36. Darian Daghero, 43. Enrico Mazzotta

Yellow Cards: De Oliveira 52’, B. Berry 66’

Red Cards:

APIA Leichhardt: 1. Ivan Necevski, 7. Jack Stewart, 14. Jack Armson (98. Franco Farinella 83’), 15. Themba Muata-Marlow, 16. Sean Symons, 19. Fabian Monge, 21. Michael Kouta (6. Anthony Sparacino 88’), 23. Dakota Askew, 25. Aedon Kyra (30. Alex Denmead 83’), 38. Yianni Nicolaou

Substitutes Not Used: 3. Paul Galimi, 8. Diego Celis, 12. Anthony Bouzanis

Yellow Cards:

Red Cards:

Player Ratings

3 – Jack Stewart (APIA)

2 – Jack Armson (APIA)

1 – Travis Major (BC)

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