Syd Utd v Kingz

Round 30 report by Chris Dunkerley
Sydney United v Football Kingz

A confident attack minded Football Kingz of New Zealand cruised past the equally confident Bravehearts 4 goals to 2 at Edensor Park, with Dennis Ibrahim's 20th min hat-trick making chance of a home win an uphill affair.

Sydney United's final game of the season had a mixed air about it. Why would 5,450 fans come out to the edge of suburbia on a sunny Sunday afternoon?

Looking to send off into oblivion the most amazingly inept NSL season that Soccer Australia can dream up? - perhaps! The only game in Sydney? Getting a look at the New Zealand team? The final games for several United players?

All possible - but the bloke in the red number 37 shirt - one Aljosa Asanovich, Croation International, 37 years old but with a very sweet left foot - was certainly a big draw card.

As stand-in United coach Tony Pezzano said it is a shame that we couldn't have seen Azanovic, Rufer, Genc, and Awaritefe going around today. Aytec Genc was the only one of the later three who made it, and contributed well in what may be his last game at 35 years old.

Wynton and Shane Rufer's Kingz flew east with the sword hanging them in over their coaching role, with the applications for "Football Manager" at the Kingz closing the next day.

They started with a 5-3-2 line up so at least they were intent on going for it in this game, and a higher place on the table than last year. Sydney United were equally willing to push forward and were after 7th position on the table according to Tony Pezzano.

The game started with an attack by United but the Kingz swung into action with an attack down the middle. A chipped through-ball made it to German goal ace Denis Ibrahim who knocked it past an exposed Brett Hughes in the United goal in the 4th minute.

A promising move by United in the 7th minute fell down but Ricki Van Steeden inexplicably handled the ball just inside the area. A yellow card to the former All-White and Asanovic stepped up for the spot kick. As Brett Hughes went right Asanovic slipped it low into the other corner to bring things back on an even keel.

In the 15th min Aaron Silva flicked a ball through to Ibrahim who had ghosted into space. The goal poacher chipped the advancing Hughes to put the Kingz ahead again.

United were not being spectators with Plesa hitting a shot over in the 17th minute.

Ngata pushed a ball down the right wing to Silva who took the ball to the corner post and crossed it. As it came over 'that man' Ibrahim deftly touched it on past Hughes and it nudged the left post and spun into the goal.

United were determined to make a game of it and a good chance fell to Tom Maric from a fine cross by Tom Pondeljak, but not only did Hughes parry it at the left post Maric was ruled off-side.

An excellent move in the 35th min which bypassed the Kingz defence was thwarted by Sean Douglas sweeping at the last line.

This was followed up by a precision corner from Asanovic which Genc met with a diving header but alas it went over.

The Kingz swept back and in the 39th min Hughes came out fast to take a through ball off Ibrahim's feet.

The ball didn't make it back into the Kingz half as it was sent straight back and with a whistle in the crowd all stopped except young Gerard Davis and his shot was pushed for a corner by Hughes.

In the 43rd min Richard Plesa sent a through ball to Genc on the right but Chris Marsh in the Kingz goal was able to cover.

As the minutes ticked by Pondeljak crossed a ball to the far post from the right side and Solomon Island representative striker Commins Menapi who was unmarked headed past Marsh to bring the margin back to 2-3.

After the break United may have been hoping to get a quick goal but it was Kingz substitute Jon Perry with his first touch in the 46th min who clipped the ball past Hughes, and Plesa on the line was unable to clear.

Seeking to strike back United won a corner on the right and Asanovic's kick lobbed over to Genc on the left. The experienced United skipper could not get over it and his shot went over the cross bar.

Referee Shields gave nine yellow cards in this game but it was not at all physical - expect for an altercation between Palapanis and Ibrahim which accounted for two of them.

In the 57th min Ibrahim got away again on the left but could not beat Hughes at the near post.

At this stage it was end to end stuff with neither side getting on top.

Harry Ngata got free and beating the off-side trap he could only hit wide in the 64th min.

Genc repaid Pondeljak's earlier cross with a similar one to him. Pondeljak's flying header was just over the crossbar.

The game was slightly delayed as three flares and a smoke bomb were lobbed from outside and over the eastern fence onto the grass behind the goal. The TV soundman did a sterling job tidying up (including lobbing one back over).

In the 77th min Davis slipped his marker, then laid off a ball for Silva but Hughes smothered the chance.

A goal to Silva was disallowed in the 82nd min for off-side, and this was followed by a good chance to the Kingz but the United defence held firm.

In a move which brought back memories of his career contributions Aytec Genc almost scored in the 88th min but his 20m shot from the right bent wide on the left.

After the game Genc said he would like to retire but stopped short of formalising this wish to the media.

Shane Rufer was both happy and cautious as he discussed the win and the position of the Kingz coaching staff and players. He said they could "hold their heads high and it was important that we finished higher up the table than last season". On his brother's Wynton's situation he was even more reticent.

Stand-in coach of United, Tony Pezzano, foreshadowed dramatic changes to come in team personnel next year. He praised the team, and admitted in answer to a question that Menapi had made great strides during the season.

The Kingz were well served by a rejuvenated Silva, Ibrahim, Douglas, and Davis, whilst for United Genc, Hughes, Pondeljak, and Menapi did more than the job asked of them.