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Rockdale Ilinden kicked off its 2024 National Premier Leagues Men’s NSW season on a positive following a 2-1 derby victory over St George City in what were quality conditions for football at Penshurst Park on Saturday.  

Ilinden struck in the first half thanks to Brendan Cholakian and then substitute and new recruit Yinka Sunmola put the visitors ahead by two in the second stanza of play, before Presley Ortiz got one back for St George City.

The opening salvo of the encounter arrived in the 7th minute when Jason Romero tried a diagonal shot that was well saved by Harrison Devenish-Meares.

A few minutes later from the other side, Ortiz attempted to find the keeper off guard and, with a spectacular looping attempt, forced the Rockdale custodian into a magnificent save.

St George City then came ever so close in the 20th minute when Kosta Petratos found Louis Khoury just outside the box who he flashed a thunderbolt straight onto the crossbar and rattled the woodwork.

Rockdale Ilinden however opened the scoring in the 34th minute when 2023 Player of the Year and Golden Boot winner Alec Urosevski forced his way through a myriad of defenders found Cholakian who, with a snooker-like thread on the artificial grass, beat all and sundry to find the back of the net.

Just prior to the break a beautiful in-swinging corner from Kosta Petratos almost ended up inside the goal at the far post in what would have been a spectacular equaliser that the home side probably deserved going into half-time.

In the second half, the first opportunity belonged to St George City in the 51st minute when Fumoto Kamada made a nice break before finding Romero, but the off-season buy fluffed his lines at the crucial moment and the visiting goalkeeper cleared under pressure.

Shortly afterwards Rockdale Ilinden replied in style when a rocket from outside the box by Cholakian forced Jack Kenny into a magnificent scrambling save.

St George City though were not to be outdone in the 60th minute when Solomon Monahan-Vaiika made a delightful run through midfield before finding Kosta Petratos wide on the left who fired the trigger but, unfortunately for the home side, his shot sailed narrowly over the crossbar.

Captain Tarik Ercan led from the front in the 67th minute with a great shot with intent from outside the box that brought out the best in Devenish-Meares who had a fantastic match.

A minute later St George City really should have equalised. Ortiz did all the hard lead-up work and found Romero who in turn quickly found Kamada but the Japanese import fired over from close range.

Rockdale replied almost immediately on the counter-attack but Hunter Elliott fired over with the keeper to beat in what was a truly incredible miss.

Rockdale did double their lead in the 75th minute with a goal that certainly wasn’t spectacular but was indeed effective. A first close range attempt was saved by Kenny but only as far as Sunmola who knocked it in.

St George struck one back in the 82nd minute when a nice ball found Ortiz on the left and he duly fired it home to breathe life once again into the contest.

In the 90th minute Rockdale had a double chance to cement the match, firstly a shot by Benjamin Wass and then another by Urosevski that both were cleared off the line by some desperate defence.

After the game Rockdale Ilinden’s coach Paul Dee was happy to have secured all three points in the opening round.

“It’s the first game and an away game against a very good opponent, so I am very happy with the three points,” he said.

“Of course we would love to go one better than last season as we have worked hard through pre-season and we are pleased at where we are currently at, but it’s a very long season with 30 rounds.

“Some of our play was good especially in the first half but on the flip side we lost control and a lot of possession in the second half, so we will need to work on that even though I am still glad we got the win.”

St George City coach Mirko Jurilj was clearly disappointed to have come away empty handed.

“Tonight we made errors that cost us the game,” he said.

“We will need to work on defence, transitional moments, and execution. We really could have put the game to bed with all of our chances but its’ very disappointing not to have done so.

“Our boys put in a great effort, and I certainly can’t fault the effort but Rockdale know how to win games of football. They are not a better football team than us, but they have clever players who know how to win games.”

Match Stats

ST GEORGE CITY: 1 (Ortiz 82’)

ROCKDALE ILINDEN FC: 2 (Cholakian 35’, Sunmola 75’)

Saturday 17th February 2024

Penshurst Park Penshurst

Referee: Adrian Arndt
Assistant Referees: Matthew Harris and Aaron Bloch

Fourth Official: Rowan Fisher

ST GEORGE CITY: 1. Jack Kenny, 2. Cameron Fong, 4. Solomon Monahan-Vaiika, 5. Fumoto Kamada (38. Kai Kamikura 95’), 6. Tarik Ercan (19. Jesse Photi 78’), 10. Jason Romero, 11. Kosta Petratos (9. Maki Petratos 73’), 25. Brodie Clarkson, 30. Presley Ortiz, 33. Louis Khoury, 99. Matthew Keremelevski.

Substitutes not used: 3. Joshua Hong, 13. Joseph Knowles, 28. Noah Ovens

Yellow Cards: Ercan 30’, Jurilj 31’, Khoury 81’, Ortiz 90’, Keremelevski 94’,

Red Cards: Nil

ROCKDALE ILINDEN FC: 1. Harrison Devenish-Meares, 3. Lachlan Griffiths (2. Daniel Collins 67’) 5. Giorgio Speranza, 6. Isaac Danzo, 7. Alec Urosevski, 8. Dean Pelekanos (23. Hunter Elliott 67’, 18. Benjamin Wass 90’), 9. Bai Antoniou (15. Yinka Sunmola 64’), 10. Brendan Cholakian, 11. Lachie Constable, 14. Brayden Sorge, 66. Mathieu Cordier.

Substitutes not used: 19. Jason Cakovski, 20. Ricardo Rizzo

Yellow Cards: Griffiths 32’, Antoniou 55’, Urosevski 75, Elliott 84’

Red Cards: Nil