PUSH came to shove, but honours ended even between two of the competition’s unbeaten sides, APIA Leichhardt Tigers and Sydney Olympic.
A tepid first half gave way to an open, exciting second, where three of the match’s four goals were scored as the match ended 2-2.
Go Shirai opened the scoring for Olympic, who were on top in the first 45′ minutes, before Franco Parisi and then Blake Powell, two of APIA’s best this season, put the home side ahead.
It wasn’t enough though as Dimitri Hatzimouratis showed lethal instinct at the back post to equalise and earn a share of the points.
To be fair to Olympic, they probably should have taken all three, but they were denied time and time again by APIA keeper Ryan Norval.
The gloveman himself was only a late replacement for the ill Andrew Bazi, and donned the gloves only moments before kick off.
His opposite number Paul Henderson had a quiet match, but made a superb save in stoppage time to deny Tyson Rhodes. It was a sign of quality goalkeeping, to have such a quiet match but to produce one save of such quality.
APIA were missing skipper Michael West, who was left out entirely after arriving late to the midweek FFA Cup match, while Adam Griffiths was also out.
APIA suffered a further blow when Brett Studman was replaced in the first half, injured, by Rhodes.
The first shot in anger came early in the contest when Shirai found space to the left, but he could only shoot wide.
It was a decent effort and one emulated a quarter of an hour later, when APIA had their first sight of goal but Marc Warren could only find the side netting.
Thereafter, Olympic dominated the first half.
They took the lead in the 17th minute and it was the magician Shirai who conjured up a little bit of magic, curling an unstoppable left footer past Norval to put his side ahead.
It could have been two a few moments later, but a heroic challenge from Studman denied Hatzimouratis. It was to be one of Studman’s last contributions.
Norval made his first significant save just after the half hour mark, sliding out to stop a Shirai effort after nice work by the Olympic playmaker.
APIA looked a new side in the second half and equalised within minutes. It was a touch of stardust from the mercurial Parisi, who showed deft feet to shift the ball from his left to right foot, before sweeping a finish past Henderson into the top corner.
Hatzimouratis could have put Olympic ahead but he was denied by Norval and then, with 56 minutes on the clock, APIA went ahead.
A corner resulted in a massive scramble, but Powell was on the spot to flick a finish in for the third goal of the game.
Perhaps they were still celebrating, because APIA were too open and they let Olympic sneak in the back door only nine minutes later.
Brayden Sorge’s cross from the right found Hatzimouratis, who was on hand to tap in at the back post.
A curious change followed, the energetic Parisi replaced by Corey Biczo. Parisi, who had been outstanding, did not look best pleased as he made his way from the field.
Biczo set up Olsen who shot over the bar, before Hatzimouratis had another chance, but once again Norval came out on top.
Then, when Rhodes headed towards goal in stoppage time, it looked like APIA had stolen it, but Henderson stretched full length to his right to turn the ball away.
APIA Leichhardt Tigers 2 (Parisi 49′, Powell 56′)
Sydney Olympic 2 (Shirai 19′, Hatzimouratis 65′)
Monday April 6, 2015
Lambert Park, Leichhardt
Referee: Kurt Ams
Assistant Referees: Danny Horstead and Sarah Ho
Fourth Official: Christian Layland
APIA Leichhardt Tigers: Norval; Millgate, Studman (Rhodes 40′), Petkovski, Warren; Ucchino, D’Apuzzo (Kayes 83′); Olsen, Parisi (Biczo 65′), Symons; Powell
Substitutes not used: Bazi, Elasi
Yellow cards: D’Apuzzo 9′, Parisi 26′, Rhodes 85′, Petkovski 85′, Millgate 89′
Sydney Olympic: Henderson; Sorge, Hooper, Egger, Spyrakis (Angel 72′); Fondyke, Soeda, Shirai, Tsattalios, Balderson (H Gaitatzis 59′), Hatzimouratis (M Gaitatzis 81′)
Substitutes not used: Sadaka, Markovic
Yellow cards: Nil
Red cards: Fondyke 90+4′
3- Ryan Norval (APIA)
2- Go Shirai (OLY)
1- Paul Henderson (OLY)
– by Matthew Lopez, PS4 National Premier Leagues NSW Men’s 1 Editor, at Lambert Park