Blacktown City are the in form team of the National Premier Leagues NSW Men’s competition thanks to a prolific second half of the season following their come from behind 3-1 victory over staunch rivals Sydney United 58 at Landen Stadium on Sunday.
The win for Mark Crittenden’s men was their seven consecutive victory and they had to do it the hard way.
United 58’s charismatic talisman Glen Trifiro got the visitors off to a brilliant start with a well taken header in the first half before keeper Luke Cukar produced a clutch penalty save to thwart Travis Major minutes before half-time.
The second half was a different story as goals from Lachlan Campbell, a blistering strike from Carlos De Oliviera and a debut goal for Reuben Awaritefe secured all three points to the hosts.
Lachlan Campbell was presented with a pitch side award prior to kick-off for his 100th Blacktown City appearance since his debut in the Australia Cup against Terrigal United in 2019 and he was certainly up for this match as were United 58, guilty of a sluggish start last weekend, who were alert and out of the blocks quickly lest they succumb to early goals and be forced to chase the game once more.
‘Tricky’ Trifiro didn’t have to break stride to head home after 14’ minutes to give the visitors the lead after starting the move with Taisei Kaneko providing a sublime cross into the box.
Grant Lynch then saw his volley go across the face of the goals midway through the half as opportunities were at a premium before De Oliviera forced Cukar into a smart stop down to his left.
Charles Mendy should have had the equaliser from a right wing centre via Tyren Burnie however his header was wide of the mark before Mario Shabow fired past the upright, this time via a Major cross from the right, and United 58 remained a goal to the good.
Blacktown City were starting to find the openings but another moment of magic from Trifiro set up Chris Payne whose shot was well turned aside by gloveman Tristan Prendergast in reply.
The game was beginning to fulfil the pre-match hype as the clash of Round 25.
Major attempted to play the ball into the area that was adjudged to have been handled by Matthew Bilic in the 42nd minute.
City’s all-time leading goalscorer had his penalty saved as Cukar pushed his attempt wide and United 58 went into the break one-nil up.
Action and entertainment hit a new level as the second half kicked off.
Lynch took the ball in his stride after the break and centred from the left that evaded both Mendy and Major in a brisk start from the home team.
Moments later De Oliviera was only able to head into the ground and when Mendy attempted an overhead bicycle kick that went narrowly wide of the post, it only served to heighten the frustrations of Blacktown.
City were desperately knocking on the door in pressuring United 58 with Mendy firing across the face and Lynch, at the back stick, doing the same as the Reds net was seemingly living a charmed life.
The Reds were holding on and struggling to get out of their half with forays forward becoming increasingly sporadic.
Major fired in a rasping volley with no little venom that once again Cukar was able to get something on in another tremendous save for the young Reds ‘keeper who, given the opportunity, was having a sensational match.
Club Centurion Campbell showed great tenacity in getting his foot to the ball and netting the equaliser after 72’ minutes to allay the mounting frustrations of the City side when showing great determination to get his side level. In reality, it had been coming.
And the turnaround was then duly completed when De Oliviera fired home from the edge of the area with a stunning curling shot that evaded everyone to bulge the back of the net.
The lead should have been extended when substitute Awaritefe was clean through but again Cukar pushed it away for a corner but the young Blacktown striker was not to be denied and netted his first goal for the club with a majestic header.
And what an impact the young striker had when setting up Major who beat Cukar after a deflection that looped up onto the underside of the bar and back into play in stoppage time.
There was no time left for the Reds to come back and a scintillating game of football came to an end in favour of the home side.
United 58 coach Miro Vlastelica, was pragmatic after the match when commenting.
“It’s been the story of our season, the consistency thing,” he said.
“We had a good chance early on in the second-half to extend the lead but we didn’t take it and probably should have been two-nil up at the break but it wasn’t to be.
“Credit to Blacktown, we knew how they were going to come out at us after the break but it’s hard as every week we seem to have players out and finding a settled squad isn’t easy but it give some of the younger guys minutes on the pitch but it means we are always chopping and changing.
“Also credit to Luke (Cukar) for a quality display. We may have let in three goals but he wasn’t at fault for any of them. He got an opportunity and he’s taken it with both hands. He saved a penalty, kept them out numerous times and really stepped up today.
“We switched off for their goals, didn’t pick them up, particularly with little to no pressure inside our box.
“But we take the positives from the game. We are gearing up for the Cup and these games are a little like pre-season for us and with some of the fringe players getting minutes it will stand us in good stead.”
A jubilant City coach Mark Crittenden was glowing after the match and added.
“We were really confidant at half-time we would win the game,” he stated.
“They got themselves into our area twice in the first-half and credit (Glen) Trifiro who ghosted in the box and headed home brilliantly at the far post.
“That was massively disappointing for us as they weren’t in the game.
“We could have won by 4, 5 or 6 goals today with the chances we created but I thought their ‘keeper was outstanding today. He saved a penalty and kept his side in the game several times and regardless of whether the attempts were straight at him, he was in the position to stop them.
“We knew that if we got one goal we would get a second and/or third bug we just had to get the leveller and go on from there.
“After about the 20’ minute mark I thought we were very good and in reality the only side in the game but these two teams generally produce something special against each other and today was no different, very pleased with the win and three points.”
Blacktown City 3 (Lachlan Campbell 72’, Carlos De Oliviera 78’, Rueben Awaritefe 88’)
Sydney United 58 1 (Glen Trifiro 14’)
Landen Stadium, Blacktown
Saturday 23rd July, 2023
Referee: Adrian Arndt
Assistants: Patrick Teleki and Ayad Naji
Fourth: Rowan Fisher
Blacktown City: 1. Tristan Prendergast, 4. Lachlan Campbell, 5. Grant Lynch, 7. Travis Major, 10. Mario Shabow (14. Caleb Jackson-Brown 91’), 12. Tyren Burnie, 15. Ignacio Corral (16. Ben Berry 91’), 18. Nicholas O’Brien, 19. Adam Berry, 21. Charles Mendy (9. Reuben Awaritefe 63’), 22. Carlos De Oliviera (6. Matthew Lewis 83’)
Subs not used: 20. Cayden Henderson, 46. Abbas Karnib
Yellow Cards: Grant Lynch 74’, Lachlan Campbell 76’
Sydney United 58: 20. Luke Cukar, 2. Cristian Gonzalez (12. Hiyori Kawaguchi 81’), 3. Bailey Rule,4. Adrian Vlastelica, 5. Anthony Tomelic, 7. Taisie Kaneko (13. Alessandro Lacalandra 81’), 9. Patrick Antelmi, 11. Yianni Perkatis, 14. Andrea Agamemnonos (21. Yianni Fragogiannis 79’), 17. Matthew Bilic, 18. Glen Trifiro (10. Devante Clut 63’)
Subs not used: 19. Ante Vojvodic, 21. Yianni Fragogiannis, 50. Ryan Warner
Yellow Cards: Adrian Vlastelica 76’
3 – Grant Lynch (BC)
2 – Lachlan Campbell (BC)
1 – Luke Cukar (SU58)
By NPL NSW Men’s Reporter Micky Brock