Sydney United celebrate their victory in the 2023 Waratah Cup final at Leichhardt Oval. Photo Credit: Poletti/The Inner Sanctum

Following their women’s side victory in the Sapphire Cup, APIA Leichhardt men’s side was hoping for similar success in the Waratah Cup final against Sydney United.

It was a very physical style of game played by both sides, which created chaos all over the pitch which resulted in multiple yellow cards for both sides in the first half.

APIA would open the scoring through Rory Jordan, which put Franco Parisi’s side in control of the game, until Sean Symons came in for a brutal challenge, which saw him receive his marching orders after a second yellow card.

Sydney United would then find a way to capitalise on the player advantage in first half stoppage time to level the score at 1-1 through Leroy Jennings, putting Sydney United in the driver’s seat for the second half.

Parisi’s side would come out firing in the second half after shifting to a back three, and had chances to re-take the lead on several occasions.

Sydney United had plenty of their own chances at the other end, but were unable to take further advantage of being a player up.

APIA would continue to press and create pressure despite being down to 10, with Sydney United having seemingly no answer as the second half continued until the 80th minute.

United would begin to take over the game, creating multiple chances but unable to find a way past Ivan Necevski as the shots came in fast and furious for the remainder of regulation time.

With the game still locked at 1-1, extra time was needed, and it would test APIA’s ability to maintain their intensity with the player disadvantage.

It would take until the 109th minute, but Sydney United finally managed to break down APIA’s defence, taking a 2-1 lead through Patrick Antelmi.

Antelmi’s goal would be followed up moments later with Taisei Kaneko finding the net, sealing the 3-1 victory and sending the Waratah Cup to Edensor Park. 

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Sydney United captain Adrian Vlastelica was named player of the match, which he described as an honour to receive post-game.

Vlastelica described the feeling of seeing Antelmi’s goal go in as a bit of a relief.

“It was just relief. Great to get it done,” he said.

He described Kaneko’s goal the same way, but noted it was too early to start celebrating.

“I’m a defender, so I wanted to keep it as no more goals, but it was just good to get over the line and it was relief in the end.”

The 2023 Waratah Cup final player of the match, Sydney United captain Adrian Vlastelica. Photo Credit: Poletti/The Inner Sanctum

Sydney United goalkeeper Charles Samushonga talked about how hard it was to break down APIA in the second half.

“They made it hard. They changed their game plan and sat in a bit more,” he said.

“It allowed us to have the ball in certain areas of the pitch, but because they condensed the space it was hard to find the breakthrough.

“Full credit to the boys as they kept on going and going and going and managed to get the job done.”

Samushonga knew there was still work to be done when Antelmi scored to make it two for United, but the third goal from Kaneko allowed him to take it in.

“[It was] done. That’s the moment. You look at the clock, that’s the moment of relief.

“I think 2-1 is a difficult scoreline, you never know what’s going to happen, but credit to the boys.

“They kept going and we kept trying to go forward even though we were up and thankfully we got a third goal.”

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