APIA-Leichhardt Tigers were no match for the dominant Sydney Olympic as the home side blasted six goals past their defence and only conceded one at Belmore Sports Ground.
APIA were looking to create another upset after their impressive 5-4 win over Sutherland, while Olympic were out to get all three points after drawing 2-2 with the Stallions in round 16.
With a week off for the Waratah Cup finals, both teams looked well rested and ready to rumble as the IGA NPL mens 1 competition heads towards the end of the road.
The game was all in favour of the home side in the first quarter as APIA’s defence looked solid at the back, looking well alert to the many long balls sent through to find target man Evan Kostopoulos.
Olympic’s first chance came in the 11’ minute as Kostopoulos was sent through by a well timed ball, but Andrew Bazi was not going to allow his team to concede too early in the contest.
It was the Tigers keeper who almost gave away a gift in the 15’ minute as he came out of his box for a clearance, only for the ball to fall nicely at the feet of Yianni Spyrakis. The midfielder’s shot though went to the right of goal.
Just seconds after APIA’s Daniel Fogarty committed a foul on Harris Gaitatzis, an incredible shot came from the home side, only for the crowd’s early cheers to be silenced by Bazi’s world class save to his right.
Just before the half hour mark, Go Shirai put the home side in front. Ryan Kier put over another long ball to find Kostopoulos, but as the striker ran into Bazi, the lingering ball was placed gently into the bottom left hand corner by Shirai.
Three minutes later, the Tigers went straight for the equaliser, but Fogarty’s shot inside the box with his favoured right foot rolled straight into Henderson’s arms.
The Tigers continued to show a fighting spirit as Fogarty displayed his incredible pace once again in the 34’ minute, however the winger’s cross could not find Joey Gibbs or Blake Powell.
Just before half time, Taiga Soeda and Gaitatzis played a nice one two together in their attacking third and then came a powerful shot, which was mildly deflected sending the ball into the air.
APIA’s attempt to clear the ball off the line from another shot only got as far as Shirai who welcomed the invitation and smashed it high into the back of the net.
The home side went into the first half with a comfortable 2-0 advantage over the Tigers, but the contest was far from over.
The second half then rained goals as the Tigers appeared to have lost momentum on all areas of the pitch after Olympic’s third goal.
Just four minutes into the second half, it was Fogarty who outpaced his defender in the middle of the field to create a one on one chance with Henderson and as he saw an opening inside the box, he hit and hard and low and despite the keeper getting a glove to his shot, it was not enough to keep the ball from going into his goal.
At this stage, with APIA’s deficit was halved, it was really anyone’s game.
In the 51’ minute, only a couple minutes after APIA-Leichhardt looked to be back into the contest by putting some pressure on the home side, Kostopoulos however had other ideas.
After a poor clearance by APIA, he managed to find the back of the net for his first of the game giving Olympic a comfortable 3-1 lead.
Sydney Olympic then started to look more comfortable and did not look content with a two goal lead.
In the 61’ minute they put on a show a brilliant piece of attacking football as right back Brayden Sorge saw an opportunity to make a break down the right and rather than sending a high cross into the box, decides to pass it low and hard to his left.
After two dummies by the midfielders, it was Gaitatzis who took the shot, hitting it well, but Bazi standing strong was not ready to concede any more just yet.
Then came another goal in the 66’, APIA’s eighth goal conceded in two games, which really could be seen as another gift to Olympic.
A long ball was thrown to Kostopoulos in the middle of the penalty area and as the striker could not beat his defender who was stuck to him, he passed to Gaitatzis who finished with ease.
As the legs grew weary, Olympic increased their lead in the 77’, as Kostopoulos added his second.
A fantastic cross came in from the right to find Kostopoulous in the box and the attacker calmly brought the ball down, took his time, got around the defender and buried it in the bottom left corner.
Although Bazi looked to have stopped more goals pouring in, his afternoon was not finished and on fire Shirai completed his hat-trick in the 88’ minute.
It was all thanks to Soeda’s through ball in the middle, Shirai decided not to hit it first time, but take it to the left of the field and put it between the legs of the keeper.
APIA looked relieved to finally hear the full-time whistle as the home side celebrated a confident and comfortable win.
Olympic’s assistant coach Peter Zorbas commented at full time: “We just went back to basics and we told the boys we need to get back to where we were in the start of the season and we were lucky to have a week off and recharge the batteries and it all came into fruition today.”
“I think honestly as a team they worked as a collective and that just gave more space to score those goals so I think on a whole it was an entire team effort.”
Head coach Billy McColl was as usual still in great spirits and with a smile on his face as he said: “we just couldn’t deal with the conditions of the field.”
“We gave away school boy goals in defence…. we got punished as a result and credit to Olympic for punishing us.”
Sydney Olympic FC 6 (Go Shirai 28’, 39’, 88’, Evan Kostopoulos 51’, 77’, Harris Gaitatzis 66′)
APIA Leichhardt Tigers FC 1 (Daniel Fogarty 49’)
Sunday 13th July, 2014
Belmore Sports Ground, Belmore
Referee: Adam Susz
Assistant Referees: Andrej Giev and Kearney Robinson
Fourth Official: Matthew McOrist
Sydney Olympic FC: 1.Paul Henderson; 2.Brayden Sorge, 6.Ryan Keir, 7.William Angel (5.Bradley Treloar 73’), 10.Harris Gaitatzis, 14.Peter Markovic, 15.Yianni Spyrakis, 18.Taiga Soeda, 19.Go Shirai, 23.Evan Kostopoulos (9.Dimitri Hatzimouratis 81’), 45.Nikola Tsattalios (17.James Andrew 78’)
Substitutes not used: 12.Kresimir Kardum, 33.Christos Tomaras
Yellow Cards: Nil
Red Cards: Nil
APIA Leichhardt Tigers FC: 1.Andrew Bazi; 2.Travis Oughtred, 3.Jamie Lobb, 6.Marc Warren, 7.Stephen Kayes, 8.Bradley McDonald (15.Matthew Mayora 65’), 9.Blake Powell 11.Daniel Fogarty, 14.Paul Galimi, 16.Jordan Simpson, 19.Joseph Gibbs
Substitutes not used: 17.Matthew Castelnuovo, 40.Stefan Giglio, 20.Blade Richards, 18.Luke Clifford
Yellow Cards: Nil
Red Cards: Nil
– By Saman Ziaei, National Premier Leagues Mens 1 Reporter at Belmore Sports Ground