Manly United has surged into third position on the men’s NSW National Premier League ladder after beating APIA Leichhardt 2-1 on Friday night.
After the teams were locked 1-1 at half-time, a Jordan Devries header in injury time gave Manly all three points in a hotly-contested fixture at Cromer Park.
Luca Kmet – who an hour before kick-off was sitting a final University exam in the Cromer Park offices – opened the scoring for Manly in the 23rd minute after “great counter attack, beautiful link up play and a very nice finish by Luca,” according to striker Dejan Pandurevic.
Manly’s momentum was stalled after 30 minutes when in-form goal-keeper Sam Benton was taken off with a knee injury.
APIA responded better to the stoppage. A precision lofted through-ball found Blake Powell who coolly poked past United’s replacement ‘keeper Jacob Madden.
The teams traded chances until the 92nd minute when Devries headed home from a Seiya Kambayashi set piece.
“We have been working on our set pieces recently and it’s really rewarding to get a goal from one,” Pandurevic said.
the match was former Manly coach Paul Dee‘s first back at Cromer Park after taking the reins at Leichhardt. Ironically, in Dee’s last home game as Manly coach in 2020 it was Devries who scored the late winner.
Pandurevic said the result showed the character within the squad.
“We knew APIA was on a bit of a roll and that they would come out firing.
“We were able to absorb the early pressure through the great defensive of Jimmy [Oates] and Jesse [Piriz].
“We stuck to the game plan and moved the ball around really well which opened up the space for some great opportunities,” Pandurevic said.
United coach Adam Griffiths told Football NSW media “all in all, I felt that we deserved it”.
“It’s a positive win. I asked the boys to change their mentality and have a winning mentality where they push for the number one spot. To focus on what is ahead not behind.
“It was a good performance today to keep proving to people that we are a decent team,” Griffiths said.
Visiting coach Dee admitted it felt “strange” returning to Cromer Park. “But I have a lot of good memories here, there’s a lot of good people. The team’s playing well this season so I’m happy for them,” Dee said.
Rockdale-Ilenden’s 4-2 loss to top-of-the-table Blacktown City has seen them slide into fourth position while Sydney United 58 maintained second position after a 1-0 win over Marconi. Sydney Olympic rounds out the top-5.
This Sunday Manly travels to Rockdale-Ilenden Sports Centre to take on bottom-of-the-ladder Sydney FC but not before a momentous FFA Cup fixture against Sydney Olympic at Cromer Park on Wednesday night.
The winner will advance to the FFA Cup Round of 32 and a potential blockbuster with an A-League team.
Manly United FC: 2 (Kmet 23’, Devries 92’)
APIA Leichhardt: 1 (Powell 40’)
Friday, 11 June 2021
Cromer Park, Dee Why
Referee: Adrian Arndt
Assistant Referees: Hugh Fenton-White, Maddie Allum
Fourth official: Ivica Covic
Manly United FC: 19. Sam Benton (1. Jacob Madden 35’), 2. Kieren Paull, 15. Jesse Piriz, 4. Jimmy Oates, 16. Seiya Kambayashi, 24. Finn Ashton, 3. James Georgaklis, 31. Ben Gibson (7. Jack Fulton 61’), 12. Luca Kmet, 10. Richie Cardozo (13. Scott Balderson 90’), 14. Dejan Pandurevic (23. Jordan Devries 61’)
Substitutes not used: 20. Alen Aganovic, 18. Lucas Rainbird
Yellow cards: Oates 18’, Ashton 70’
Red cards: Nil
APIA Leichhardt: 1. Ivan Necevski, 2. William Mutch, 6. Harry Callahan (10. Franco Parisi 70’), 7. Tynan Diaz, 9. Blake Powell, 11. Mattieu Cordier, 18. Adrian Ucchino (27. Corey Gameiro 90’), 19. Peter Kekeris (8. Corey Biczo 71’), 20. Sam Mcillhatton, 21. Michael Kouta
Unused subs: 5. Nicholas Azzone, 22. Luke Turnbull, 23. Gian Fiorese, 26. Vincent Fedele
Yellow cards: Mutch 52’, Biczo 88’, Kouta 90’
Red cards: Nil
– By Football NSW reporter and commentator Chris Curulli (Twitter handle @ChrisCurulli)