A MILD winter’s evening at Blacktown Football Park saw runaway leaders Blacktown Spartans tackle a resurgent Sydney Olympic, and a hotly debated penalty let the visitors leave with the only goal of the game and a valuable three points.
A tight opening tussle eventuated in Phil Makrys, the former Blues skipper, collecting a caution for the home side inside 5’ minutes for a niggly foul from behind as the Spartans attempted to dominate.
David Gullo made a sharp break down the left and centred for Corey Biczo whose header went narrowly wide of Paul Henderson’s right hand post as the Spartans gained the early ascendency.
A quick one-two soon after saw Gullo try to sneak the ball in beyond the Olympic ‘keeper at the near post. Henderson wide awake to it to push the ball away.
Luka Dukic was adjudged to have brought down Chris Godoy-Bascur in the box in the 17’ minute, gifting Olympic a penalty that Evan Kostopoulos converted to give the visitors the lead.
Just five minutes later, in tit-for-tat fashion, Gullo was hauled down in the box at the other end however Makrys, instead of levelling the scores, crashed his spot-kick against the bar.
Olympic’s goal scorer Kostpoulous had to be replaced in the 28’ minute by Christos Tomaras after injuring himself near the centre circle after a heavy collision.
It was a midfield battle worth the look. It was tough, uncompromising and nothing was given up easily with the Spartans pushing hard against an enthused Olympic counterpart.
Hatzimouratis was sent away from a long ball out of the back that ended with a lashed shot Saliadarre did well to push over the bar in one of Olympics’ increasingly rare forays forward.
Go Shirai played in Tomaras with 43’ minutes on the clock and his right-foot connected sweetly with the ball when he attempted to put it back across Spartans skipper Saliadarre, but the shot-stopper was down quickly to send the ball around the post for a corner that came to nought.
Spartans’ New signing Mitchell Long replaced Zachary Freeburn at the start of the second period to make his debut as Ben De Haan rang the changes.
Blacktown started brightly once more, Ray Miller warming the hands of Henderson with a curling shot from the edge of the box.
Spartans played out from the back with Greg Kondek finding Miller in space but his rushed shot sailed over the bar in the 55’ minute as the home side attacked with vigour.
Gullo was fouled on the edge of the box with Jacob Ott taking the free-kick that Henderson palmed over the bar.
Gullo needed to replaced by Elsid Barkhousir as a result of the foul, leaving the field with a shoulder injury and heading immediately for scans at the hospital.
With the Spartans pushing on for the equaliser it created space at the back for Olympic to exploit and for a spell it became real end to end football with the match sparking into life.
Olympic were very thorough in defence, holding their line and making life difficult for the Spartans to get in behind as they looked to soak up the pressure and hit on the break.
Long won the ball in a battle with Shirai in midfield and played the long pass forward to perfectly pick out Biczo, whose first time effort left Henderson stranded as the ball arced beyond the upright once more.
Henderson was quick to snuff out a Biczo cross with Miller free on his back stick waiting to side-foot the ball home as Blacktown found a final burst in the last 15′ minutes of the game, the question remaining whether could they grab a late equaliser late on like they had against the Sharks last weekend.
In a last throw of the dice De Haan threw on Tomislav Cirjak in place of Makrys to inject fresh pace up front with a little over 5’ minutes remaining in the hope of stealing something from the match.
It nearly backfired when Hatzimouratis fired into the side netting from a devastating centre from the right as the Spartans were caught upfield and square.
The Spartans hit the bar from a Biczo thunderbolt followed up with Long sending a header over the bar in stoppage time, the home side not giving up in pursuit in their mission to salvage a point, but in the end unable to do so.
A phlegmatic Ben De Haan stated afterwards: “Any other night and we win by seven to be honest, we’ve hit the bar a couple of times and created numerous chances but our finishing has let us down and that includes from the spot of course.
“We dominated them for most of the match and they’ve camped in their half for 45-minutes and fair play to them, we would probably have done the same in their position.
“When we miss that many chances we don’t deserve to win but it’s good to get a game like this one out of the way and to be honest their were points tonight when I thought our choices were appalling but we’ll look to next week and hopefully get back on the winning train again.”
A jubilant Olympic coach Grant Lee responded: “I’m of course very happy with the boys tonight, it was a very important result for us in the context of the table and everything else.
“It will hopefully set us up for the rest of the season and our commitment cannot be faulted.
“We do of course now look to midweek with our Waratah Cup game against Blacktown City on Wednesday night and hopefully carry that impetus forward and beyond.”
Blacktown Spartans 0
Sydney Olympic 1 (Evan Kostopoulos PEN 17′)
Saturday June 7th, 2014
Blacktown Football Park, Rooty Hill
Referee: Christopher Young
Assistant Referees: Craig Fisher and Andrej Giev
Fourth Official: Katie-Louise Patterson
Blacktown Spartans: 1.Carlos Saliadarre (C); 3.Nathan Millgate, 5.Luka Dukic, 6.Greg Kondek, 7.Phil Makrys (20.Tomislav Cirjak 84’), 8.Raymond Miller, 10.Emmanuel Giannaros, 11.David Gullo (9.Elsid Barkhousir 59), 13.Corey Biczo, 14.Jacob Ott, 18.Zachary Freeburn (15.Mitchell Long 46)
Substitutes Not Used: 28.Conor Evans, 40.James Stojcevski
Yellow Cards: Phil Makrys 5’, Greg Kondek 45+3′, Emmanuel Giannaros 74’
Red cards: Nil
Sydney Olympic: 1.Paul Henderson; 2.Brayden Sorge, 4.Brendan Hooper, 5. Brayden Treloar, 7.William Angel, 8.Chris Godoy-Bascur, 9.Dimitri Hatzimouratis (17.James Andrew 89), 14.Peter Markovic (C), 18.Taigo Soeda, 19.Go Shirai, 23.Evan Kostopoulos (33.Christos Tomaras 28)
Substitutes Not Used: 15.Yianni Spyrakis, 41.Nathan Polinsky, 25.Luka Falcone
Yellow Cards: Evan Kostopoulos 9’, Dimitri Hatzimouratis 23′, William Angel 90+3′
Red cards: Nil
– By Micky Brock, National Premier Leagues NSW Mens 1 Reporter, at Blacktown Football Park