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In what was one of the most intense local derbies for quite some time, Rockdale Ilinden defeated the Sutherland Sharks 1-0 thanks to a Bai Antoniou free-kick as the boys in red and black came out 1-0 victors albeit playing the majority of the match with ten-men in a spicy Saturday evening clash at Seymour Shaw.

Ilinden’s star captain Alec Urosevski, who was celebrating his 200th match for the club, saw his milestone match end in unfortunate circumstances after he was shown his second yellow of the match late in the first-half.

Rockdale coach Paul Dee was also shown his marching orders but it was Antoniou, an ex-Shark, who broke his former club’s heart with a well-taken free kick in the second half that gave his side the three precious points.


The visitors took a two goal advantage into this local ‘Leader Cup’ match from their Round 5 win at Ilinden Sports Centre to add a little extra spice to the proceedings, not that this match needed any with a number of early heavy challenges setting the tone and Louis Khoury finding himself in the book after just 13 minutes for the Sharks.

Antoniou did well to sneak in between two Sutherland defenders and pushed through down the left into the box where his cross-cum-shot had Sharks’ ‘keeper Stefan Giglio diving to his left, however the ball evaded everyone. Jonty Busch replied in kind but was wide of the mark when the ball eventually came to him from a corner that was scrambled away.

It was a combination of wayward distribution and staunch defence that prevented an opening goal midway through the half and any strike would have to be earned the hard way, Brendan Cholakian trying his luck from distance with a curling effort in the 25th minute that flew past the woodwork for the visitors.

Urosevski fired in a free-kick from 30-plus yards out that curled into the arms of a grateful Giglio inside a packed penalty area, any kind of fumble could have proved very costly.

Hamish Lamberton, lively throughout the half, had a number of half-chance attempts charged down in and around the Rockdale area but neither side truly threatened as the mid-term break arrived, but not before Urosevski talked his way into the book and then receiving his second yellow of the match for a high foot on former teammate Mitch Stamatellis.

Ilinden Coach Paul Dee also saw Red when questioning the decision leaving his Assistant, Nick Stavroulakis, to assume responsibilities.

With the visitors down to 10-men for the remainder of the match, the ascendency swung Sutherland’s way and it remained to be seen what tactics would be employed after the half-time interval.

With no changes for Rockdale on the resumption the onus fell to Sutherland to break down a resolute Ilinden defence and subbed on Jesse Photi, later to be replaced himself, and Ikko Arimoto for Lindsay and Clarkson, the latter picking up a knock in the opening period, respectively.

Rockdale had a vociferous appeal for handball inside the area denied after Jaden Casella strode into the area where it appeared Fumoto Kamada used an arm to bundle the ball out for a corner however, it was waived away and the resultant centre brought about a clash of heads that stopped the game as both injured parties received treatment. Thankfully both were able to continue.

Sutherland were later to have a penalty appeal of their own overturned when Louis Khoury went down inside the box under the attentions of Nikola Ujdur.

Indeed, it was Rockdale who pressed and pushed to enjoy the better of the of the opening second-half quarter hour, Antoniou and Cholakian alongside Casella causing the Sharks’ defence a great deal of nervousness and last ditch tackles.

Sutherland adopted a more pragmatic approach with a measured and probing build up style in looking for an opening that allowed Ilinden time to regroup on a number of occasions.

Busch felled Cholakian on the edge of the area in the 67th minute, receiving a caution, with the resulting free-kick hammered goalward by Antoniou and, via the slightest of deflections off the wall leaving Giglio wrong footed, sailed into the empty net at the far post. It was little more than Rockdale deserved.

Sutherland were then reduced to 10-men when Busch was sent off for his second bookable offence, in this instance for a foul against Jamie Percevski, in the 73rd minute to level the player numbers once more.

Substitute Jordan Roberts was sent away down the right late on but only managed to dink his effort over the bar from an acute angle but with the parity in numbers resumed to the opportunities were oddly becoming far and few between.

Substitute Will Mutch found himself in the box but the combination of Stamatellis and Nathan Grimaldi spoilt the half-chance but Rockdale should have put the game to bed late on in stoppage time when Mathieu Cordier broke into the box but a stunning save from Giglio denied the hard working defender from getting on the scoresheet.

It was a match that promised plenty pre-match and certainly delivered as Rockdale maintained their relentless pursuit of league leaders APIA with a hard fought three points leaving Rockdale Assistant Coach Nick Stavroulakis to comment at the final whistle.

“I think for us as a side at the moment the boys have bought into what we are trying to achieve as a team and group and whether we get the results with 11 or ten men, it’s important we stick to our game plan,” he said.

“That was probably the most enjoyable part of the minutes we spent with ten men on the pitch because the boys did not stop playing the way we wanted them to and have been working on all throughout the year.

“Credit to the boys as we really wanted this win. We created a fair few chances and could have had another two in the end showed the spirit this team has.

“None of us could be prouder of the effort shown tonight in a tough and physical battle and obviously it keeps up the pressure on APIA at the top and all we can do is win our games firstly and worry about where we finish at the end of the season as we can only control our own destiny and not that of the others.”

With emotions running high after the whistle, Sharks’ coach Damir Prodanovic sensibly led his side from the field and was unavailable for comment.

Match Stats

Sutherland Sharks 0

Rockdale Ilinden 1 (Bai Antoniou 67’)

Seymour Shaw Park, Miranda

Saturday 17th June, 2023

Referee: Danny Horstead

Assistants: Maggie Price and Matthew Harris

Fourth: Mitchell Renton

Sutherland Sharks: 1. Stefan Giglio, 2 Takahide Umebachi, 4. Mitch Stamatellis, 6. Brodie Clarkson (43. Ikko Arimoto 46’) 8. Alex Brown, 9. Hamish Lamberton (25. Oliver Randazzo 76’), 11. Fumoto Kamada, 14. Chris Lindsay (5. Jesse Photi 46’) (3. Jordan Roberts 71’), 15. Nathan Grimaldi, 33. Louis Khoury, 99. Jonty Busch

Subs not used: 8. Alex Brown, 22. Jacob Cremen-Cowan, 25. Oliver Randazzo

Yellow Cards: Louis Khoury 33’ (Jonty Busch 67’ + 73’)

Red Cards: Jonty Busch 73’

Rockdale Ilinden: 20. Ricardo Rizzo, 4. Nikola Ujder, 7. Alec Urosevski, 8. Isaac Danzo, 9. Bai Antoniou (39. Ben Wass 93’), 10. Brendan Cholakian (30. Trelawny Brown 94’), 11. Lochie Constable, 14. Brayden Sorge, 15. Jamie Percevski, 23. Jaden Casella (5. Will Mutch 78’), 66. Mathieu Cordier

Subs not used: 22. Dev Barron, 27. George Grillakis, 44. Nick Karavatakis

Yellow Cards:  Alec Urosevski (35’ + 38’)

Red Cards: Alec Urosevski 38’, Paul Dee (Coach) 38’