Sutherland Sharks down reigning Champions

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Goals to Matt Bailey and Todd Halloran handed Sutherland Sharks a 2-1 win over Blacktown City FC in the first match of the 2011 NSW Premier League season at Seymour Shaw Park on Saturday night in front of around 400 spectators.

Travis Major offered a lifeline for Blacktown when he equalised from the penalty spot but Halloran scored the winner 10 minutes from time with one of his first touches of the encounter.

Sutherland lined up with a 4-2-3-1 and instantly showed emphasis on keeping possession and using their flanks. The visitors, rather, opted for a more direct approach with a 4-1-4-1.

Luke Roodenburg had an early chance for Blacktown City with an optimistic curling shot from a promising counter attack, but his effort failed to trouble Nathan Denham.

It was the best opportunity in a start filled with uneventful set-pieces and bucketing rain. Sutherland attempted to control the match with a sustainable tempo but struggled to find a way past Blacktown’s relentless pressing and marking. Blacktown looked to make more of their possession in the final third with a direct and higher paced approach.

After half an hour of play Sutherland eventually reaped the rewards for their possession with Bailey’s volleyed strike into the bottom corner. A cross fell to Panni Nikas at the far post and though his shot was smothered by Justin Beiga, there was nothing the Blacktown ‘keeper could do to save the rebound shot.

The back-to-back efforts were the first shots on target in a frustrated match, played in constant on-off rain.

Sutherland looked to double their advantage just moments after the second half began and should have done so through Bailey. The midfielder made an untracked run from deep to get on the end of a ball across goal but hit his first-time shot wide.

Blacktown fought back with three efforts in succession -though they were possibly half-chances at best. But despite the surge of attack, Blacktown struggled to deal with the threat of Nicko Tsattalios down the left wing. A strike from outside the area from Sutherland, as a result of another corner brought upon by a Tsattalios run, forced a double save from Biega.

The chance re-invigorated Sutherland. Yianni Fragogianis was released and rounded the ‘keeper but couldn’t get his shot past a host of clustered bodies in the area. Fullback Mike Katz followed this up just minutes later with an audacious shot from out wide brushing the crossbar before going out.

Sutherland were made to pay for these missed opportunities in the 70th minute when Major converted from the penalty spot after Roodenburg was brought down.

But the hosts weren’t prepared to give up hope and re-took the lead through substitute Halloran. It was Katz’s run and clever one-two down the sideline that produced mayhem among the Blacktown defence, and Halloran took advantage of that as he leaped highest to get on the end of Katz’s cross from the by-line.

Moments later and Bailey had a chance to seal the match but hit his shot over from six yards out.

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