Like the wounded beast, Blacktown City FC struck back with a vengeance at Lilys Football Centre on Sunday afternoon to progress to the Grand Final.
It was APIA Leichhardt Tigers FC on the back of a City special serve during the PS4 National Premier Leagues NSW Men’s 1 Preliminary Final, as Blacktown secured a stunning 6-1 win.
Patrick Antelmi stood out once again, grabbing a brace, as did substitute Mitch Mallia, with the other two goals coming through Matt Lewis and Sasa Macura.
Mark Crittenden’s men showed little ill-effects of last week’s shock loss to Bonnyrigg White Eagles in the Major Semi Final after leading 2-0.
Complacency was not going to be an issue this time.
Within just four minutes, City was 1-0 up, scoring through the brilliant Antelmi, who put the finishing touches on a brilliant move courtesy of a lovely cross from Danny Choi who inspired down the left hand flank all day.
The potent front four of Antelmi, Joey Gibbs, Choi and Travis Major caused headaches for the APIA defence all day but their industry up front was matched in midfield by Connor Evans whose hard-tackling and smart distribution from the midfield kept APIA pinned down in their defensive half.
It didn’t take long for the second goal to come, either.
Another brilliant pass from Antelmi out to the left wing found Choi, who raced at Brad Bartels and drew a foul inside the box.
Matt Lewis made the long trip up from the centre of defence to the penalty spot and showed no sign of nerves as he coolly dispatched his spot-kick into the bottom corner.
The APIA response was a strong one, as Corey Biczo and Nathan Elasi stepped up their efforts in the final third.
The latter almost forced an own goal out of Blacktown captain Zach Cairncross, just after a fine display of tricky feet almost allowed him to pull back the two-goal deficit instantly.
Elasi who singlehandedly looked to get his team back in the game tested soon after Blacktown keeper Nenad Vekic, but his shot was well saved by the City keeper.
The quality rearguard action was rewarded at the other end as Macura showed twinkle toes of his own after some lovely play with Antelmi to make his way through a crowded penalty area and hammer home a close-range shot.
It was a near flawless opening 35 minutes, which was only ruined by the sight of young Evans, tireless in midfield, down with a knee injury.
The problem would force him off at half-time, but not before Elasi scored a deserved goal as the Blacktown City defence was caught napping in the 43rd minute.
After seeing a two-goal lead slip last week, you might have forgiven City for heading into the break with a bit of trepidation, as the Tigers looked to build on the momentum in the second half.
Click here for the full match report.