A 10-man Sydney Olympic started their National Premier League NSW Mens 1 campaign with a gritty 2-0 victory over an understrength Sydney United 58 at Sydney United Sports Centre on Sunday.
A steely defensive display led by captain Petar Markovic held the 2013 Premiership winnerd, with goals to William Angel and Harris Gaitatzis on either side of the break.
Missing a number of stars including Chris Triantis, Ibrahim Haydar, Ante Tomic, Diego Barcena and Robbie Mileski to injury and suspension, as well as the departures of Glen Trifiro (Central Coast Mariners) and Mirjan Pavlovic (India), Sydney United 58 struggled to create chances in a lacklustre performance.
Sydney Olympic themselves gave debuts to former A-League players Evan Kostopoulos and Dimitri Hatzimouratis with the latter imposing himself early in the game.
Sydney United 58 quickly got into their passing game from the opening whistle but it was a swift Sydney Olympic counter who almost caught the home team napping.
Hatzimouratis received the ball in the middle of the park before feeding William Angel on the right whose imposing shot was well blocked by a sliding Mitchell Speer.
Both teams tried to get a strangle hold of the game in the middle of the park with several physical clashes. Sydney Olympic left back Troy Danaskos was the first to enter the referees book, receiving a yellow card in the 10th minute. From the resulting free kick, Matthew Bilic saw his attempt deflected off the wall only for central defender Theo Kofinas’ follow up volley to sail just over the bar.
Mitchel Stamatellis tried to put his stamp of authority on the match just two minutes later, receiving the ball on the edge of the box before shooting just wide of the right hand upright.
It would be Sydney Olympic however who would start to dominate the half creating several chances.
Hatzimouratis had a penalty shout turned down in the 16th minute his cross seeming to be handled in the box.
Six minutes later Hamtzimouratis thought he had given his side the lead after getting on the end of a fantastic ball by Angel. The striker chipped the ball over an oncoming Mario Bozic and into the back of the net, only to be called back for being offside.
Olympic again forced Bozic off his line on 27 minutes when a great through ball by Troy Danaskos on the left found Angel on goal, only for his chip to go wide of the mark.
The Blues pressure paid off in the 31st minute when Danaskos and Angel combined again to give the away side the lead. Danaskos attacked well down the left before his curling cross found Angel looming at the back post, heading the ball back across the keeper to give Olympic a 1-0 lead.
The goal seemed to lift Sydney United 58 as they pushed forward with numbers only to have two chances go over the bar going into the break.
Sydney United 58 coach Mark Rudan turned to his bench at the half time break, bringing on exciting youngster Richard Darko on the right wing, replacing defensive midfielder Mitchell Speer.
The change settled the home side as they started playing their usual football, passing the ball around but still unable to crack the Olympic defence with captain Petar Markovic and Brendan Hooper holding the fort.
Olympic almost capitalised on a United mistake in the 56th minute.
United lost possession with Hatzimouratis picking the ball up and running at the defence before hooking his shot to the left of the goal.
Reds young gun Richard Darko showed a glimpse of his classy play in the 60th minute, getting around Danaskos easily in the box before cutting back for Luka Glavas with Hooper hot on his heels.
The missed chance became costly two minutes later when Sydney Olympic were awarded a penalty after Hooper was brought down by Ben Jurman from a corner. Attacker Harris Gaitatzis stepped up to easily slot the penalty into the bottom left hand corner to make the score 2-0
Olympic’s cheers turned to groans a minute later when Troy Danaskos received his marching orders after picking up his second yellow card.
The red card forced Olympic to turn to a counter attacking game and it nearly paid off immediately when a Gaitatzis cross was sent straight across the face of goal narrowly missing Angel.
The Reds pushed hard to get back into the match in the final 10 minutes but could not trouble Paul Henderson.
Matthew Bilic delivered a pin perfect cross in the 89th minute, but Luka Glavas could only glance his header out for a goal kick before Nikolas Dimitriades sent a shot well over the bar in the final minute of play.
Following the match Sydney United 58 head coach Mark Rudan said his side had no excuses for their poor performance.
"It was not where we want to be performance wise but it is very early," he said.
"We started a little bit later so I am not expecting players to start doing things that we need to do for a little bit of time because of the later season we had last year.
"You don’t have to be a rocket scientist to see the players we were missing but I am not using that as an excuse at all.
"The players we brought up have to work hard and develop – that’s what the club is about."
Sydney Olympic coach Grant Lee said he was happy with his side’s performance and particularly their defensive structure.
"I’m very happy with the performance, the boys have showed a lot of promise over the last couple of weeks in that they are gelling and coming together," Lee said.
"Games like this they set up their store in a certain way. We know the bigger teams are very physical and unless you match them physically you are not going to come away with the result.
"I think today we showed that especially and I am happy with that especially when we were down to 10 men.
"The signs were there in the pre-season. We played Bonnyrigg and went down to 10 men very early and got a deserved 1-1 draw. That showed us what we are capable of and the boys stood up again today."
Sydney Olympic will welcome former Greek international Sotirios Kyrgiakos for their match against the Blacktown Spartans next Sunday and Lee said he is hoping the defender will give the side a level of professionalism.
"He is a player that has played at the highest level in the world, hopefully he will bring that experience and knowledge and will work the boys around the place for us," Lee said.
"Especially with his talking and organising that is what I am looking to get out of him."
Sydney United 58 FC 0
Sydney Olympic 2 (Angel 31′, Gaitatzis 62′ pen)
Sunday 16th March
Sydney United Sports Centre, Edensor Park
Referee: Michael Weiner
Assistant Referees: Nick Backo and Lance Greenshields Fourth Official: Lachlan Daniel
Sydney United 58: 30.Marko Bozic, 19.Matthew BIlic, 11.Luka Glavas (c), 3.Ben Jurman, 17.Theo Kofinas, 16.Stjepan Paric, 12.Ivan Pavlak (2.Jackov Radas 69′), 4.Nathan Sherlock, 14.Mitchell Speer (7.Richard Darko 46′), 6.Mitchell Stamatellis,15. Blas Segara (21.Nikolas Dimitriadis 85′)
Substitutes not used: 41.Spiros Agathos
Yellow Cards: Darko 68′, Sherlock 74′, Radas 93′
Red Cards: Nil
Sydney Olympic: 1.Paul Henderson, 7.William Angel, 3.Troy Danaskos, 10.Harris Gaitatzis, 24.Amaury Gauthier (8. Christopher Godoy Bascur 82′), 9.Dimitri Hatzimouratis (39.Michael Gaitatzis 76′), 4.Brendan Hooper, 23.Evan Kostopoulos (5.Bradley Treloar 92′), 14.Petar Markovic (c), 2.Brayden Sorge, 18.Taiga Soeda
Substitutes not used: 15.Yiannia Spyrakis, 40.Liam Jacobs
Yellow Cards: Danaskos 10′, 64′, Kostopoulos 41′
Red Cards: Danaskos 64′
3- Petar Markovic (SO)
2- Dimitri Hatzimouratis (SO)
1- William Angel (SO)
– By Chris Georges