A dramatic extra-time double from substitute Patrick Antelmi has helped Sydney United 58 eliminate their fierce rivals Marconi Stallions with a 2-0 win in the elimination semi-final at Sydney United Sports Centre on Saturday, August 17.
The home side got off to the best start with midfielder Tarik Maia firing straight at the Stallions' keeper eight minutes in for the first chance of the match.
Marconi's reply was from a free kick by Mitchell Mallia in the 16th minute which forced a big save from United 58's Thomas Manos.
Marconi pressed from the left channel midway through the first stanza of play with Marko Jesic attempting to break the deadlock but his shot missed the mark, thanks to some skillful intervention from the United 58 defence.
Another free kick from the Stallions drifted across the face of the goal in the 32nd minute and reached Zachary Cairncross at the far post who headed the ball into the side netting.
A couple of dangerous crosses in the space of a minute late in the first half caused some heartbeats to skip for Marconi but the home side certainly couldn't capitalise on the momentum and the first 45 minutes finished scoreless.
The first real chance of the second half fell to Sydney United 58 and it was a double barrel attempt when both Peter Simonoski and Liam Rose had their consecutive shots blocked by some desperate Marconi defence.
In the 63rd minute James Andrew cleverly found Brandon Vella in the box and his close-range attempt was delightfully turned away for a corner by a very alert Manos.
In the 73rd minute a clinical shot from Simonoski was well blocked by Marconi's Nathan Millgate, showing all of his experience there in defence.
The hosts were at it again shortly afterwards. A corner by Maia from the left was directly on target but was well punched away by Vekic.
Sydney United 58 came terribly close in the 88th minute when Patrick Antelmi let fly with a thunderbolt that flashed past the post.
A minute later a cross from the left found Matthew Sim in the box and he danced his way past two defenders but his final shot was wide of the intended target.
The game then finished 0-0 in regular time, despite a very late claim for a penalty by Marconi that was waived away by referee Ben Abraham.
In the first period of supplementary time in the 92nd minute Sydney United 58 broke the deadlock.
Some very neat work near the by-line from Sim saw him find Antelmi lurking with intent and he made no mistake, coolly finishing the play and adding to his brilliant finals' scoring record.
A few minutes later a long and dangerous cross from the Stallions found Brandon Vella at the far post but his close-range header was fumbled but still cleared.
Almost immediately afterwards Marconi rolled the dice again and came agonisingly close as Jesic hit the post with Manos well and truly beaten.
In the 112th minute Sydney United 58's Christian Gonzalez went down in the box and referee Ben Abraham ran straight to the spot.
Super-sub Antelmi again made no mistake with the penalty, even though Vekic dived correctly. United came away with a 2-0 victory, ending Marconi's gallant season.
After the game Sydney United 58's delighted coach Miro Vlastelica said: "Definitely a good win but I think the game should've been finished in normal time because we had some good chances.
"We need to get our recovery right and we'll go again. The opposition on Wednesday is in the same boat as us.
"Tonight for us was a complete team performance; we dug deep and we never stopped. It was that winning mentality that got us across the line."
The Marconi Stallions dressing room was fairly sombre but coach Peter Tsekenis was still very proud of his team.
"I thought it was a fairly average game to be honest and we were fairly flat today," he said. "There were a couple of moments that could've gone either way. There was a shout for a penalty just before fulltime and Mark Jesic hit the post later on and they're the moments that need to go your way if you're going to win.
"Everything didn't come off for us tonight.
"The boys did really well to reach this point because it's been a hard slog and I can't fault our boys."