An early strike from Brendan Santalab secured all three points for Sydney United against the Northern Spirit at Pittwatter Park tonight. In a match that was played in atrociously wet and windy conditions, the visitors hung on for a well deserved 1-0 victory after playing the final 20 minutes with 10 men.
The home side seldom troubled United custodian Liam Reddy, who kept his sixth clean sheet of the season. However, when Reddy was called upon, his performance was clinical. The Olyroo hopeful kept the visitors in the game in the second half after producing great stops from Vuko Tomasevic, Brent Fisher and Matthew Osmanıs efforts.
Santalabıs fourth minute opener dealt a savage blow to the Spiritıs chances. In such slippery conditions, goals were always going to be hard to come by. And considering that United had conceded just four goals all season, the chances of Spirit finding an equaliser seemed slim.
The games solitary goal came from a clever exploitation of the conditions by Santalab. Goalkeeper Reddy lauched a goal kick into the Spiritıs half and Santalab used his superior speed to get behind the Spirit defence and round Paul Henderson to ultimately slot home the match winner.
Spirit striker Adam Kwasnik, enjoying his second start of the season, should have put his side on level terms fifteen minutes later after an error from United skipper Mark Rudan. Kwasnik found the ball at his feet only metres from the goal line with only Reddy to beat. Fortunately for the visitors, Kwasnik drove his shot straight at Reddy and the score remained 1-0.
The second half saw the grit and determination of the United shine through, as one would be hard pressed to remember a testing shot on goal from the visitors. The Spirit enjoyed the vast majority of possession and were constantly thwarted by a resolute United back line. Marko Filipovicıs puzzling dismissal in the 70th minute made an equaliser seem all the more possible for the home side, but United werenıt to be denied and justly moved to fourth on the table after an inspired performance in trying circumstances.
Grant Leeıs men have now gone an astonishing 450 minutes without conceding a goal and look a real probability for a top six spot.