FOR Rockdale City Suns, the journey is over while for Blacktown City, Sydney Olympic, the defeated Blacktown Spartans and the rested Bonnyrigg White Eagles, the show goes on.
It was a weekend of high drama in the first week of the semi finals, which left us with two mouth watering fixtures for next weekend: Blacktown Spartans v Sydney Olympic; and Bonnyrigg White Eagles v Blacktown City.
ELIMINATION SEMI FINAL
Sydney Olympic 2-1 Rockdale City Suns, at LAMBERT PARK
It is all over for Rockdale City Suns, but nobody could accuse them of going down without a fight.
Sydney Olympic started brightly and the pressure tolled midway through the first half, when Ryan Keir rose highest to head home a corner by Harris Gaitatzis. Rockdale City goalkeeper Tomislav Arcaba was partly to blame, as he strayed from his line but missed his punch.
Nevertheless, Keir's header was accurate. So was Troy Danaskos' finish in the 44' minute when some beautiful lead up work by Taiga Soeda saw a clash between Gaitatzis and Askin Oygur over a loose ball. It bounced kindly to Danaskos who took advantage of Arcaba's poor positioning to finish.
Rockdale switched to a back three for the second half and dominated proceedings, as Olympic sat off and tried to absorb the pressure. When Marko Jesic pulled one back for the Suns, they looked likely to take the game to extra time.
They would have, were it not for veteran goalkeeper Paul Henderson, who made a terrific one-on-one save from Jesic in stoppage time. It was a risk for Olympic to sit back in the second half, but one for which they were richly rewarded.
QUALIFYING SEMI FINAL
Blacktown Spartans 0-3 Blacktown City, at BLACKTOWN FOOTBALL PARK
Spartans always faced an uphill battle to recover from their mauling at the hands of Blacktown City last week, and so it proved as the visitors booked a date with Bonnyrigg White Eagles next weekend.
The winner of that match will head straight to the grand final, while Spartans play the dangerous Sydney Olympic in an elimination match.
Spartans looked far more solid in the opening exchanges of this one, and chances were few and far between in a tense opening period. But, that all changed when Mitchell Mallia opened the scoring in the 37' minute.
Travis Major was given the freedom of Blacktown Football Park and having made his way down the left, he centred to Mallia who made no mistake, beating Carlos Saliadarre. The Spartans keeper must be sick of the sight of Mallia, having conceded thrice to him last weekend.
It was a goal that broke Spartans, and just 10' minutes into the second half, the lead was doubled thanks to some role reversal.
Mallia this time broke free and he, in turn, fed Major, who finished with aplomb to double Blacktown City's lead.
Three minutes later, Blacktown City scored again and the game was over. Matthew Lewis scored a good goal last week but this was one was even better, as he controlled the ball before hitting a crisp volley that gave the keeper no chance.
Major and Zac Cairncross forced saves out of Saliadarre before the game was out, but Ben De Haan has much work to do to avoid Spartans being eliminated in straight sets when they face Olympic next weekend.
Finals Series Week 2
(Dates and Times TBC by FNSW by Monday 5pm)
Blacktown Spartans v Sydney Olympic
Bonnyrigg White Eagles v Blacktown City (winner progresses to the 2014 IGA NPL NSW Mens 1 Grand Final)
*Photo courtesy of Football New South Wales*
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