Rockdale City’s hunt for the NPL 1 title is over after the Suns fell to Manly United in a dramatic penalty shootout on Saturday night.
The Suns looked to be heading out in normal time before an injury time equaliser to Alec Urosevski rescued Rockdale and sent the game to extra time.
The sides couldn’t be separated by the extra half hour with the game going to penalties where substitute Jonathon Grozdanovski saw his tame effort saved by Manly goalkeeper Dylan Mitchell.
Rockdale player-coach Paul Reid thought his team were the better side and was disappointed with the result.
“That's football. A few times in recent years penalties have gone our way,” he said.
“I’m really proud of our boys. We kept fighting and I can't fault the effort. We gave our all.”
The teams had played out a 2-2 draw in normal time at Cromer Park with Rockdale, who had been forced to lose home ground advantage with the Ilinden Sports Centre unavailable, taking the lead inside two minutes thanks to a fierce Urosevski free kick.
Rockdale almost doubled their lead shortly after when Trent McClenahan had a free header but put his effort over from six yards.
It proved costly, as Manly equalised moments later through former Rockdale striker Dylan Macallister who tapped in from close range.
And Manly took the lead with 25 minutes to play when Leigh Egger headed home past Ante Covic from a corner.
It looked like it wouldn’t be Rockdale’s day when Urosevski hit both posts with another free kick nine minutes from full-time but the Suns finally had their equaliser when Urosevski scored his second, prodding home a loose ball to send the game to extra time.
Grozdanovski had the best chance for the Suns in extra time but could only blaze his effort over the bar.
The match then went to penalties, with Manly winning 5-4 to advance to Sunday’s grand final at Leichhardt Oval against premiers APIA Leichhardt, Manly’s first decider since 1995.
It was double heartbreak for Rockdale, with the club’s under-18s side falling 2-0 to Sydney United 58 in their preliminary final earlier in the day.
Meanwhile, premiers Sutherland will meet APIA Leichhardt in the under-20s grand final after APIA scored two goals in the final 10 minutes to beat Sydney FC 2-1 in their preliminary final on Saturday.
The young Sharks advanced to the grand final after an extra time win over Sydney FC a fortnight ago.
2017 NPL 1 grand finals
1st grade – APIA Leichhardt vs Manly United. 4pm.
Under-20s – Sutherland vs APIA Leichhardt. 1pm.
Under-18s – Sydney FC vs Sydney United 58. 10am.
At Leichhardt Oval.