21/04/2024

Sydney FC celebrate a 2-0 victory over APIA Leichhardt in the Australia Cup to advance to the quarter-finals. Photo Credit: Australia Cup/Twitter

A stormy afternoon in Sydney set the tone for a scintillating Round of 16 match between APIA Leichhardt and Sydney FC, with a wetter than usual pitch causing difficulties for the home side at Leichhardt Oval.

Sydney FC would dominate the opening half of play, and had multiple opportunities to take advantage of the NPL NSW Men’s Premiers, but were unable to find a way past Anthony Bouzanis.

APIA Leichhardt looked like they were going to hold on to half-time, until Michael Kouta copped a yellow card for a dangerous foul, which also saw APIA coach Franco Parisi receive a yellow card.

The ensuing free-kick for the Sky Blues was handled by the home side, ensuring both sides would head into the break scoreless.

Anthony Caceres described the A-League Men’s side first half performance as needing “more composure.”

“It was a very quick pitch, different to what we’re used to at the moment,” he said.

“I thought the first half we were a little imprecise, a bit untidy on the ball, we needed more composure and thankfully we found it.”

Those thoughts were echoed by Steve Corica.

“I was a little bit frustrated by the first half,” he said.

“I could see the picture we wanted to get to and we couldn’t find it. We were a little bit too slow playing out from the back and utilising the space.

“Anthony [Bouzanis] made some great saves.”

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The first-half heroics from Bouzanis kept going early in the second half, but it was not enough to stop Caceres, who dribbled his way with ease through APIA’s defence to slide the ball in the net for the opening goal.

“I saw the space and attacked it, looked for the tidy finish in the end, which paid off,” Caceres said.

“Those are the situations where I like to get in. Hopefully I can get in them more often now that I’m playing as a lone [number] 10, and it worked out well in the end.”

Patrick Wood doubled the lead for the visitors in the 66th minute after an assist from Joe Lolley through a massive gap in the APIA defensive line, and had three separate chances in the next three minutes to score a third, but were unable to do so.

The 2-0 victory marks another quarter-final appearance in the Australia Cup for Sydney FC, who have drawn a home game against Western United.

Sydney FC will have Max Burgess back for that game, who was suspended for both this game and the Round of 32 after his red card in the second leg of last season’s semi-final against Melbourne City.

APIA Leichhardt coach Franco Parisi noted that despite the weather, he was very happy with his side’s performance.

“The weather played its part in the sense of affecting a bit of the crowd, making the game quicker than we would have liked,” Parisi said. 

“But besides that, I was very happy with how we played football, how we closed down, how we pressed. We didn’t shift away from our game, the style of football we’ve been playing all season, we stuck to that.

“I thought in the first half there was not much in it.

“With the luck of VAR we would have had a penalty in the first half and again, that would have made the game very very interesting, but credit to Sydney.

“They played a good match, they knew what they needed to do to win. They found a couple of moments to score those goals and that was it.

For APIA Leichhardt, they turn attention to what will now be their final game of the season, the Waratah Cup final against Sydney United, which will take place on September 10 at Leichhardt Oval with a 3pm kick-off.

The match will take place after the inaugural Sapphire Cup final at 12pm, also at Leichhardt Oval, which will see APIA Leichhardt take on the Northern Tigers, a week after the end of the NPL NSW Women’s regular season.

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