A dramatic injury time penalty has helped an under-strength Sydney FC side claim a shock 2-2 draw against APIA Leichhardt Tigers to put a halt to their Premiership hopes and stretch the Sky Blues unbeaten streak to three games at Lambert Park on Saturday.
It was a thrilling contest as APIA tried to keep their good form up ahead of the finals and Sydney FC, missing six players to Sydney FC’s traveling squad to China, were looking to make an upset.
Sydney FC took the lead thanks to a fantastic finish by Jaiden Kucharski after 28 minutes to go into the break 1-0 up.
APIA levelled after the restart with Chris Payne’s 19th goal of the season.
Ivan Necevski’s double penalty save burst momentum for APIA as Biczo nipped in to score the Tigers’ second with just over ten minutes to go.
The match ended in penalty drama with Benjamin Koop salvaging a draw for Sydney FC in the 94th minute after Cameron Peupion was brought down in the box.
The game started with an early chance for Chris Payne but he was unable to convert before Sydney FC opened the home side up.
Midfielder maestro Marco Tilio created the first chance, sending a beautiful long pass to the pacy Lamberton who was set for a drag race with Ivan Necevski but the keeper eventually came off best.
Sydney FC would take the lead in the 28th minute through Jaiden Kucharski. Calum Niewenhof initiated a quick passing incision of APIA’s backline as Koop flicked through to Kucharski who calmly finished past Necevski.
Biczo was APIA’s live-wire in the first half but he couldn’t reap any rewards with his four shots.
APIA dominated the second half and it was inevitable they’d equalise.
Sean Symons swung in a lovely ball to Chris Payne just after the break but his point blank volley went wide. He made up for his mistake in the 51st minute after weaving his way past Patrick Scibilio and finishing beautifully across goal for his 19th of the season.
The Sky Blues had the chance to regain the lead from the spot with around 20 minutes to go after a Galimi foul saw a penalty awarded. Marco Tilio stepped up but had his first shot to the left saved before his rebound went straight at Necevski and out for a corner.
It was almost costly as APIA took the lead seconds later after a quick free-kick from Parisi caught Sydney FC off guard and hit the post.
Corey Biczo was quickest to the rebound and pounced to send APIA in front in the 78th minute.
Sydney FC were gifted another penalty in stoppage time after Cameron Peupion sped past APIA’s defence and was brought down in the box.
Benjamin Koop stepped up and salvaged a point for Sydney FC from the spot. The goal put an end to APIA's Premiership hopes and handed former Sydney FC full-back Luke Wilkshire's Wollongong Wolves the title.
Mercurial midfielder Franco Parisi wasn’t spending any time on the draw, preferring to focus on next week and the finals.
“Tonight was 2-2 but we have a bigger picture than this match tonight so we’ll keep going.” said Parisi.
“I think we did enough to win the game but a penalty in the last two minutes is hard to come back from.”
Sydney FC head coach Jimmy Van Weeren was proud of the effort of his side which included a number of debutants to make up for lost players.
“We should have been 2-1 up if it weren’t for their keeper at the penalty,” said Van Weeren.
“But to come back and get a draw late shows some really good signs.”
“We had six of our normal starting NPL players away with the A-League squad in China. The new guys showed they can really match it with a top team in this league.”
“It was definitely a point gained for us”.
APIA Leichardt Tigers FC: 2 (Payne 51’, Corey Biczo 78’)
Sydney FC: 2 (Jaiden Kucharski 28’, Benjamin Koop 90+5’)
Saturday 27th July 2019
Lambert Park, Leichhardt
Referee: Simon Hooper
Assistant Referees: Lance Greenshields, Brad Wright
Fourth Official: Sam Kelly
APIA LEICHHARDT TIGERS FC: 1. Ivan Necevski (gk), 3. Paul Galimi, 4. Joshua Symons, (15. Themba Muata-Marlow, 90’), 6. Christopher Payne, (19. Dominion Nasrabadi 86’), 7. Tynan Diaz, 8. Corey Biczo (14. Lachlan Hughes 89’), 10. Franco Parisi, 12. Sam Mcillhatton, 16. Sean Symons, 18. Adrian Ucchino, 21. Michael Kouta
Substitutes not used: 17. Samuel Gulisano, 22. Luke Turnbull
Yellow Cards: 8. Corey Biczo 86’
Red Cards: Nil
SYDNEY FC: 3. Benjamin Van Meurs, 5. Patrick Scibilio, 9. Hamish Lamberton, (24. Jake Hollman 63’), 10, Marco Tilio, 14. Thomas Fay, 17. Callum Talbot, 18. Benjamin Koop (16. Paolo Bonanni, 90’) 33. Jayden Kucharski, (82. Cameron Peupion 69’), 34. Calum Nieuwenhof, 40. Levi Kaye (GK), 54. Anton Mlinaric,
Substitutes not used: 30. Matteo Scali, 32. Thomas Main,
Yellow Cards: 5. Patrick Scibilio (31’)
Red Card: Nil