Sydney Olympic came to Seymour Shaw Park on the crest of a wave to battle Sutherland Sharks in a tense local derby that would have a huge impact on the visitors title aspirations.
It took until the 11th minute for a worthwhile move occurred when Steve Hayes chipped over the Olympic defence for Seongjin Park to canter on to however the ever-reliable Paul Henderson was quickly off his line to gather.
There was no lack of ambition and it was a keenly contested affair however neither side was able to exert any early dominance and force the goalkeepers into action.
Indeed, in the opening 25 minutes there was precious little in the way of goalmouth action at all, although a Yianni Spyrakis effort from distance whistled over the Sharks bar.
A long ball out of defence 3 minutes later found Sutherland striker Park one-on-one against Olympic skipper Petar Markovic with the attacker pulling his counterpart every which way before unleashing a curling right foot shot that Henderson held comfortably in the middle of the goal.
Taiga Soeda centred a free-kick that was flicked on at the near post in the 33rd minute with Spyrakis hurtling in at the back stick but unable to stretch enough to poke the ball home in Olympics’ best move of the game.
They were coming into the match more although both looked flat after a long campaign yet it was the visitors who looked most likely to break the deadlock in the latter stages of the half.
And so it proved when Dimitri Hatzimouratis opened the scoring for the visitors after Nathan Denham denied Scott Balderson only for the ball to fall kindly to the striker following in to poke home between the keeper and the hurtling back defender on the line.
With no further addition to the score before the break it was Olympic who held the slenderest of margins going into the dressing rooms.
A sweet move from the middle of the park found Bai Antoniou open on the right and his cut back to Perry Moustakas allowed the defender to pick his spot with a curling left-footed shot from the edge of the box five minutes after the restart that sadly didn’t find the target for the home supporters.
It was an improvement that didn’t last long when Troy Danaskos played in Hatzimouratis at the other end only for his effort to screw agonisingly wide of Denham’s upright in wonderful counter-attacking play.
Olympic was starting to open the Sharks up and but for the desperate tackling of Dylan Caton, in at right back, and the central defenders in Jacob Tratt, James McKenzie and left back Matt Gordon the scoreline could have been much worse.
Moustakas was again playing the screening role in front of the Sutherland back four and certainly put his shift in too.
William Angel then broke down the left in the 59th minute and sent in a fizzing cross that Hatzimouratis was unable to stick away. Olympic were starting to shift up through the gears.
Sutherland then made a triple substitution on the hour mark replacing Caton, Antoniou and Park with Lucas Stergious, Jordan Roberts and Charles Lokolingoy, a rare sight in football these days. Olympic coach Lee Grant responded with replacing Balderson with Harris Gaitatzis 3’ minutes later.
Jason Madonis joined the fray for Angel in the 72nd minute immediately after Lockolingoy skied a header over the bar for Sutherland from a Tratt cross albeit he got high but was unable to get over the top of the ball to guide it goal-ward.
The visitors then almost scored the most unlikely of goals in the 75th minute when Brayden Sorge sent over a powerful cross from the right that sailed over everyone and rebounded back into play off the back stick. Soeda was quickest to react but hit it straight at Denham on the line who did well to hold on.
Sutherland upped the tempo in trying to get the goal they needed and found themselves stretched at the back on a number of occasions that excellent defending saved them from going further behind.
The pressure paid off handsomely when Olympic was awarded a penalty in stoppage time that Harris Gaitatzis powered past Denham.
The final whistle blew and Olympic had squeaked home by the odd goal when perhaps they could have.
“I’m a little relieved but we dominated the second-half and created some great opportunities with balls across the face and we really could have buried them a little bit earlier,” coach Lee Grant said.
“In saying that it has been a tough week with the boys travelling down to Canberra where it was very cold and a very wet pitch so it’s more the mental side of the game perhaps our boys are not used to as much in travelling away, the build up all day and stating in hotels etc. but we were patient tonight and got our reward.
“Sutherland didn’t really have a lot to play for but you know whoever they put out on the park they are going to give you trouble and especially at home if you don’t do the right things.
“I thought tonight was a very good professional performance. We were switched on enough, knew what to do and exploited opening when they presented themselves without finding the net but overall it was a great showing.”
Outgoing Sharks coach Steve O’Connor said the result was a fair reflection of the game.
“Two-nil was about the right result I would say. We didn’t keep the ball enough, didn’t control the game, gave away too many turnovers and didn’t win enough second balls and 50-50’s and when that happens it’s very difficult to win games.
“But having said that we created a few chances and it was a bit of an arm wrestle even at a goal down.
“Our last game of the season won’t be an easy one but a reflective time and you have to say we simply were not strong enough mentally and physically.
“We need to get a few players and the club wants to compete against these top teams they need to get players who can play at this level. Certainly physical toughness needs to be addressed as you saw how many 50-50’s we lost out there and came off second best in and obviously you can’t do that.
“We lost a few good players and were in a bit of turmoil early days so we always thought it would be difficult but at 1-nil and then a penalty in stoppage time and other than that we were in the game and we’ve done that a lot this year without really looking like we were going to win the games so that is something that will need to be built on during the off season and see how Sutherland go next campaign.”
Saturday 8th August, 2015
Seymour Shaw Park, Miranda
Sutherland Sharks 0
Sydney Olympic 2 (Hatzimouratis 39’, H.Gaitatzis 90+1 pen)
Saturday 8th August, 2015
Seymour Shaw Park, Miranda
Referee: Ryan Shepheard
Assistant Referees: Andrej Giev & Raymond Osborne
Fourth Official: Matthew McCoist
Sutherland Sharks: Denham ©, Tratt, McKenzie, Gordon, O’Connell, Park (Lokolingoy 60’), Jovovic, Moustakas, Antoniou (Roberts 60’), Hayes, Caton (Stergiou 60’)
Substitutes Not Used: Bandur, Depta
Yellow Cards: Lockolingony 90’
Sydney Olympic: Henderson, Sorge, Danaskos, Spyrakis, Angel (Madonis 72’), Hatzimouratis, Balderson (Gaitatzis.H 63’), Markovic ©, Egger, Soeda, Gaitatzis.M
Substitutes Not Used: Keir, Sadaka, Morris