Blacktown City have defeated league leaders APIA Leichhardt to extend their winning streak to eight matches with a strong performance at Lambert Park as their amazing second half run of the National Premier Leagues NSW Men’s competition continues to roll forward. 

The victory to City has once again reignited the 2023 NPL NSW Men’s Premiership race with Blacktown, Rockdale Ilinden and Marconi Stallions all chasing the current league leaders.

Blacktown City began the match strongly, dominating possession and reducing APIA’s attack to unproductive long passes.

The away side had the first chance of the match, with Tyren Burnie driving outside and then inwards before cleverly finding Jak O’Brien, who couldn’t find purchase as the ball rolled into his stride on a curled effort just inside the box.

After 15 minutes, APIA began to work their way into the match, starting to hold onto the ball with better effect, but meaningful entries into the final third from either side remained rare.

A good interception from Adrian Ucchino in the 22nd minute brought their first chance of the game; he found Armson in between the lines, who slid in Jack Stewart in behind on the right.

The winger cut the ball tantalisingly across goal, but after a scramble Blacktown looked to have dealt with the danger.

However, another smart, sharp read from Ucchino saw the club captain get in between the ball and Ben Berry’s attempted clearence and win a crucial penalty for his side.

From 12 yards, Jack Stewart made no mistake in emphatically blasting the ball into the back of the net to send APIA into ascendancy. It was the attacker’s tenth goal of the 2023 NPL NSW Men’s campaign since moving from the Mt Druitt Town Rangers this year.

APIA had a chance to double their advantage in the 28th minute, as Sean Symons secured a loose pass and drove forward, before latching onto his intercepted ball forwards.

From just outside the box, Symons curled a powerful effort towards goal, which forced a good save from Tristan Prendergast.

Off the resulting corner, a wonderful, bending cross from Jack Armson found the head of Themba Muata-Marlow, and the central defender’s header clattered awkwardly off the post.

However, Blacktown had to see through one more dangerous effort, as an electric effort from Ucchino from range flew just past the top right corner and the away side weathered the short, intense storm.

But APIA’s authority continued, as Blacktown struggled to progress forwards, whilst the league leaders were creating consistent chances.

A clever touch from Symons saw him beat two defenders and advance in on goal before releasing a thunderous strike which went wide of the far post.

Three minutes later, a good, sustained build-up – featuring fantastic work from Muata-Marlow to beat the press – saw Armson cleverly release Jason Romero in behind after strongly winning a second ball.

The striker powered an effort towards the back of the net in a one on one, but Prendergast read the danger and advanced well to block.

With the first half about to finish, a lightning Blacktown counter-attack saw them almost equalise.

Burnie drove forwards on the left before playing a minacious low cross into the feet of Jak O’Brien, who forced a strong reaction save from Ivan Necevski.

Blacktown began the second half with intent, creating two chances for O’Brien within the first four minutes, but neither forced Necevski into significant action.

They then struggled to foray into APIA’s penalty area, with the home side defending well whilst managing to remain threatening going forwards.

However, in the 59th minute Blacktown found an equaliser from a close-range set piece opportunity.

An inviting, precise inswinging cross from Adam Berry found the head of Ignacio Palacios Corral at the back post, and the central defender clinically converted his towering header into the back of the net.

After a hard-fought 10 minutes, Blacktown took the lead for the first time in the match.

Shabow produced some magic to create the crucial goal, retaining possession well before producing a peach of a cross into the back post.

Substitute Reuben Awaritefe took the alluring pass in stride, and rolled the ball calmly past Necevski after a technical first touch.

Blacktown were beginning to dominate after going ahead, as a mistake from APIA saw Travis Major slid in behind – the winger forced an active save from Necevski.

Off the resulting corner, Palacios Corral had a golden chance to solidify the three points for the visitors, but he couldn’t convert a free header from inside the box.

In the 82nd minute, APIA were inches away from equalising, with a powerful long-range effort from Stewart rebounding back off the crossbar.

With regular time about to end, the home side hit the woodwork once more, with Askew’s right-footed effort from a close-range effort rebounding off the post and out for a goalkick.

Blacktown City coach Mark Crittenden was thoroughly impressed with his side’s performance, and spoke of the importance of the result.

“I thought our first 24 minutes were great, I thought we were all over them,” he said.

“We lost our way for the rest of the half after we gave away the penalty, but at halftime we said if we get one we could win it.

“I thought we were playing some really good footy – we were really confident and at the end of the day we have full belief in what we do.

“We scored a couple of goals and we’ve given ourselves a sneaky chance to keep going and all we can do is keep winning.”

Meanwhile, APIA coach Franco Parisi was proud of his side’s performance despite the end scoreline.

“We saw a lot of good football from both teams tonight – there was some tactics, some individual brilliance and some possession so for football it was very good.

“For us we probably needed that second goal in the first half, but credit to Blacktown; they’ve been doing well for a bit of a run now so we needed to do better.

“It was disappointing the way we conceded the two goals because one was a set piece and one was a cross and they’re moments that we worked on.

“But they’re moments I thought we mainly did really well at throughout the game, to keep it organised and compact, so we’re very happy with the guys and feel we could have scored more but that’s football.”

Match Stats

APIA Leichhardt FC 1 (Stewart 23’)

Blacktown City FC 2 (Palacios Corral 60’, Awaritefe 68’)

Saturday 29 July, 2023

Lambert Park

Referee: Kurt Ams

APIA Leichhardt FC: 1. Ivan Necevski, 6. Anthony Sparacino, 7. Jack Stewart, 9. Jason Romero (98. Franco Farinella 77’), 14. Jack Armson, 15. Themba Muata-Marlow, 16. Sean Symons, 18. Adrian Ucchino (C), 19. Fabian Monge, 23. Dakota Askew, 38. Yianni Nicolaou

Substitutes Not Used: 3. Paul Galimi, 4. Joshua Symons, 8. Florent Indalecio, 11. Corey Biczo, 12. Anthony Bouzanis

Yellow Cards: Armson 50’, Monge 65’

Red Cards: N/A

Blacktown City FC: 1. Tristan Prendergast, 5. Grant Lynch, 7. Travis Major, 8. Jak O’Brien (6. Matthew Lewis 86’), 10. Mario Shabow (C) (14. Caleb Jackson-Brown 90’), 12. Tyren Burnie, 15. Ignacio Palacios Corral, 16. Ben Berry, 18. Nicholas O’Brien, 19. Adam Berry, 22. Carlos De Oliveira (9. Reuben Awaritefe 62’)

Substitutes Not Used: 20. Cayden Henderson, 46. Abbas Karnib

Yellow Cards: B. Berry 22’, J. O’Brien 32’, N. O’Brien 73’

Red Cards: N/A

Player ratings:

3 – Ignacio Palacios Corral (BC)

2 – Adrian Ucchino (APIA)

1 – Mario Shabow (BC)

By Jack George (@JackGeorge0004)

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