The Foxtel National Youth League season concluded at the Australian Institute of Sport as the AIS and Sydney FC fought out a 0-0 draw in Round 18.
The result was a fair reflection of a match that failed to hit many heights with a first-half penalty miss from the hosts the closest wither side came to breaking the deadlock.
A gloriously sunny day attracted a decent crowd to the AIS for the final round of the competition as League Champions Sydney FC looked to end the campaign in style against an Institute group that was playing its last match together.
But the match was anything but a run of the mill end of season affair with some feisty challenges brightening up a contest that could easily have seen both squads going through the motions. Indeed, there were some hefty tackles on both sides of the ledger with Sydney FC's Peter Triantis laying down a marker with a succession of firm interventions whilst Brendan Gonano was cautioned for the hosts.
The AIS should have taken the lead in the 14th minute when they were awarded a penalty. Anthony Kalik worked his magic inside the area and flummoxed his marker, Themba Muata-Marlow, who resorted to an agricultural shove in the back of the Institute winger which left referee Luke Withell with no option but to award a spot-kick.
Kalik sent Sydney FC custodian Tristan Prendergast the wrong way from the resultant penalty but could only watch on in anguish as his well-struck effort cannoned back off the post with the Sky Blues subsequently awarded an indirect free-kick for an AIS encroachment.
At the other end Alec Urosevski tested out the reflexes of AIS’ goalkeeper Jordan Thurtell who did well to palm a vicious shot skywards before recovering the rebound, whilst Institute striker Marc Marino forced Prendergast into a routine stop after working space well on the edge of the box. But neither side could make an indent on the scoreboard as the half ended 0-0.
A succession of niggly fouls didn’t help the flow of a fractious encounter in the second half with the usual raft of substitutions on the hour mark further deteriorating the fixture as a spectacle for a crowd of over 200.
Central midfielder Liam Rose, who has been a stand-out all season long, looked the most likely for the AIS and he went close with twenty-five minutes remaining, forcing Prendergast into a save with a half-volley at full stretch following some neat inter-play between Alexander Gersbach and Marino in the build-up.
Marino continued to threaten as the match progressed, linking well with substitute Bai Antoniou to good effect and dragging the Sky Blues defence across the park with some well-timed runs and incisive movement. Sydney responded in kind with a fluent move that culminated in Anthony Tomelic breaking through, but his finish was tame and easily held by Thurtell.
With time running out both teams launched a final offensive to end the season on a positive note and a thunderous free-kick from AIS’ Marc Ochieng rattled the frame of the Sydney goal with Prendergast clutching thin air as the ball deceptively swerved on its way to the target before Antoniou fired wide after Gersbach roasted his marker.
And Antoniou could have won it in stoppage time after Marino played him in but Prendergast stood tall to tip his shot over the bar to safety.
Sydney FC 0
AIS: 1. Jordan THURTELL, 3. Brendan GONANO (23. Rocco PIZZATTA 62’), 5. Matthew SCHMIDT, 6. Matthew NTOUMENOPOULOS, 9. Todd NORRIS (24. Bai ANTONIOU 62’), 11. Marc MARINO, 12. Marc OCHIENG, 16. Jordan PUDLER, 17. Anthony KALIK (22. Liam ROSE 58’), 18. Alexander GERSBACH, 21. George TIMOTHEOU
Sydney FC: 20. Tristan PRENDERGAST, 2. Luke CLIFFORD, 5. Daniel PETROVSKI, 8. Max BURGESS, 9. Mitchell MALLIA, 11, Alec UROSEVSKI (14. Joshua MACDONALD 56’), 12. Peter TRIANTIS (6. Nicola KULESKI 60’), 15. Themba MUATA-MARLOW, 16. Christopher NAUMOFF (7. Nikola TANESKI 58’), 18. Anthony TOMELIC, 19. Joshua SYMONS
YELLOW CARDS: 3. Brendan GONANO (AIS), 5. Daniel PETROVSKI, 8. Max BURGESS, 19. Joshua SYMONS (Sydney FC)