SYDNEY Olympic survived a second-half onslaught from Rockdale City Suns to emerge victorious and flag themselves as one of the competition’s dark horses.
They led 2-0 at the break thanks to goals from Ryan Keir and Troy Danaskos, but were content to sit on their lead in the second half, and in so doing, invited a mountain of Rockdale City Suns pressure in the second half.
It tolled when Marko Jesic pulled one back for the Suns and for a long time in the second half, it looked like they would find an equaliser from somewhere.
They would have, had Paul Henderson not made a late, great one-on-one save from Jesic to preserve the Olympic lead and send them through to the second week of the finals, and thus ending Rockdale City Suns’ season.
It was a rollicking match at Lambert Park, a real exhibition of the cut-and-thrust of knock-out football.
Sean Symons fired the first shot in anger, blazing over when the ball arrived to him at the back post.
It was a while before Rockdale threatened again as Olympic put their foot down. Troy Danaskos forced a save from Arcaba from distance and then only a few minutes later Keir gave Olympic the lead, heading in a Harris Gaitatzis corner. Arcaba will not look back on it with any fondness though, as he strayed from his line but missed his punch.
The impressive Keir set free Michael Gaitatzis but he shot over in the 22′ minute, before Rockdale blew a wonderful chance to equalise.
Nikola Taneski was played in one-on-one by a superb Paul Reid pass, but with only Paul Henderson to beat he somehow contrived to shoot straight at the Olympic goalkeeper. It was a costly, costly miss.
Arcaba was having some jitters aerially and a corner from Harris Gaitatzis crashed against the bar in the 28′, before Dmitri Hatzimouratis shot wide.
Just when it looked like Rockdale would head for the safety of the dressing room only a goal down, they conceded a soft goal that condemned them to defeat.
Taiga Soeda was the architect, spinning in midfield despite having his shirt tugged by Jesic. The Rockdale attacker tried in vain to commit a tactical foul, but Soeda squirmed free a second time and referee Stephen Lucas played a superb advantage.
Soeda slid a pass through to Harris Gaitatzis, who was stopped by a desperate challenge by Askin Oygur. Unfortunately, Arcaba had come screaming from his line and clattered into the pair of them, and Danaskos was first on the scene to curl a finish into the empty net, only a minute before the break.
Branko Culina had to act and he did, sending on Toufic Alameddine for left back Steven Hesketh. He moved to a back three, pushing Alameddine into a four man midfield and leaving Jesic, Taneski and Tahj Minniecon up front. It was bold, but he had to be.
Olympic looked to hit on the counter with the nimble Soeda and Go Shirai proving the impetus, but too often they were sucked into sitting deep and defending.
It was a risk that was ultimately rewarded but not without a scare or two.
Beautiful work by Shirai left Oygur floundering but Michael Gaitatzis lacked composure when it mattered, blazing over.
From there it was all Rockdale City. They got their goal when Taneski shot from the edge of the area; it was spilled by Henderson and scrambled home by the late arriving Jesic.
They attacked and attacked, banging on the door, in the knowledge their season depended on it.
Culina sent on Patrick Savor for the ineffective Minniecon and Olympic sat in wait, occasionally using Harris Gaitatzis as an outlet and sending on the fresh legs of William Angel.
Sean Symons gave Henderson a scare with a dipping shot from distance that he gathered at the second attempt, before the veteran keeper made the stop that won the game.
A shot from Taneski ricocheted to the feet of Jesic in the penalty area, but he was stretching to find a shot and as he did, Henderson slid out to make a strong one-on-one save.
It was all she wrote.
Sydney Olympic 2 (Ryan Keir 18′, Troy Danaskos 44′)
Rockdale City Suns 1 (Marko Jesic 65′)
Saturday August 23, 2014
Lambert Park, Leichhardt
Referee: Stephen Lucas
Assistant Referees: Scott Edeling and Andrej Giev
Fourth Official: Benjamin Abraham
Sydney Olympic: 1.Paul Henderson; 2.Brayden Sorge, 3.Troy Danaskos, 4.Brendan Hooper, 6.Ryan Keir, 9.Dmitri Hatzimouratis, 10.Harris Gaitatzis, 14.Peter Markovic (C), 18.Taiga Soeda, 19.Go Shirai (30.Jason Madonis 90+2′), 39.Michael Gaitatzis (7.William Angel 75′)
Substitutes not used: 111.Nicholas Sorras, 8.Christopher Godoy-Bascur, 24.Bradley Treloar
Yellow Cards: Ryan Keir 29′, Brayden Sorge 53′
Red Cards: Nil
Rockdale City Suns: 1.Tomislav Arcaba; 3.Steven Hesketh (7.Toufic Alameddine 46′), 4.Sean Symons, 5.Paul Reid, 6.Takuya Murayama, 8.Paul Kohler, 10.Tahj Minniecon (14.Patrick Savor 75′), 11.Nikola Taneski, 12.Idriss El Hafiane, 18.Marko Jesic, 23.Askin Oygur (C)
Substitutes not used: 22.David Bradasevic, 2.Andrija Petkovic, 21.Hristijian Tanoski
Yellow Cards: Nikola Taneski 64′, Paul Reid 74′
Red Cards: Nil
– by Matthew Lopez, National Premier Leagues NSW Mens 1 Editor, at Lambert Park