Sydney Olympic scored with virtually the last kick of their elimination semi final against Sydney United 58 to win a 5-4 thriller at Lambert Park on Sunday morning.
Olympic had opened the scoring in the first half but found themselves a goal behind with six minutes remaining, and needed two goals in the last six minutes from striker Adrian Vranic to seal a spot in next week’s minor semi final against Sutherland Sharks.
Rain, which had threatened to continue through the morning and into the afternoon, lifted early in the half as both sides settled into possession; ponderous on the ball in their respective halves, and somewhat panicked when play moved forward. Understandably, given the stakes, there appeared to be an emphasis as much on scoring as on keeping the opposition goalless.
A cagey opening ten minutes gave way to fluidity as Lachan Roberts skipped down the left side and cut in behind his defender to shoot into the side netting, just seconds after running the ball over the byline.
Olympic responded in stunning fashion: Vranic ran a line from midfield towards goal and centred the ball for Sydney United to clear straight to Jack Green beyond the left corner of the box, who swung his boot and sent a scorching volley inside the far post. A goal from nothing, it was a strike worthy of opening the scoring in this elimination semi final.
Vranic had an opportunity to score himself just minutes later when James Andrew squared across goal for the striker sliding in, but there was slightly too much pace on the ball and it ran through for a goal kick. Sydney United hit back, Tariq Maia the next player to attempt to pull back the deficit when he ran free in front of two Olympic defenders, but they recovered to force a tame shot from the edge of the area, which goalkeeper John Dimitrakis took with relative ease.
United’s next attack was more fruitful: Jordan Koton turned his defender after recieving the ball at the top of the box and ran ahead of the Olympic backline to square for Anthony Vrlic, who couldn’t miss an open goal with the keeper beaten; levelling the score at 1-1 with ten minutes left of the first half.
While it seemed both sides would go into the break locked at 1-1 after a curiously tentative first half, Adrian Vranic had other ideas, and latched onto a long, bouncing ball from midfield before United goalkeeper Luke Babic could rush to intercept, poking a shot into an empty net to give his side a 2-1 lead at halftime.
Nobody watching the first half here could have predicted what might happen in the second. Sydney United came out of the sheds firing and equalised again in the 52nd minute when a low cross to the far post found Vrlic in space, the striker throwing himself to the ground to bundle the ball over the line.
Vrlic might’ve put his side ahead for the first time in the match when Cristian Gonzalez hung up a cross for the striker to attack on the penalty spot, but he wasted the chance with a poor header over the bar. He was left to rue his mistake just five minutes later when Oliver Green put Olympic ahead again, following up a saved shot from Michael Trajkovski and slamming the ball under Babic for Olympic’s third goal of the morning.
Olympic barely had time to settle into their lead before they were pegged back again. Lachlan Roberts tore down the right flank before passing inside for Tariq Maia, who finished from close range to level the score at 3-3 just before the hour mark.
Such was the pattern of the second half that another goal seemed inevitable, and James Temezkovsky made no mistake after latching on to a loose ball on the left side of the box, stepping inside his defender and picking his spot to put Sydney United in front for the first time in the match.
Sydney Olympic simply refused to be beaten, however, and with seven minutes remaining won a penalty when Babic clattered into two Olympic bodies as he charged out to punch a high ball. Injured in the collision, Babic was replaced by Max Ephraim, and the goalkeeper could do little to stop a confident penalty from Vranic, whose equaliser at 4-4 had the match seemingly destined for extra time.
Yet there was time for a final twist in the tale, and when the ball rolled free to Vranic in the box with just two minutes left to play, the striker made his shot count, slamming it low through a sea of legs to find the back of the net, and send Olympic into the second week of the finals. Sydney United launched a final few long balls forward, but late effort was in vain, and the whistle blew on a remarkable elimination final.
"It was a good game, wasn’t it?" said Olympic coach Harry Paras, still in some shock after his side’s late winner. "You saw two technical teams playing good football, a few good goals – defensively, we could have been better, especially in the second half.
"I wasn’t particular happy to go into halftime at 2-1 – we’d conceded a soft goal and I though we deserved to be ahead, but Sydney United made it hard for us, so credit to them. It was a great game."
Sydney United’s Davor Bajsic will have been proud of his team’s effort in coming from behind three times, only to find themselves minutes away from a place in the second week of the finals.
Sydney Olympic FC 5 (J. Green 13′, Vranic 43′, 84′, 88′, O. Green 55′)
Sydney United 58 FC 4 (Vrlic 36′, 52′, Maia 57′, Temezkovsky 71′)
Sunday August 23, 2015
Sydney Olympic FC: Andrew, Dimitrakas, Duncan, O. Green, J. Green, Keir, C. Morris, S. Morris, Nicolis Trajkovski, Vranic
Subs: T. Bonomy, D. Bonomy, Gollan, Petrovski, Youlley
Sydney United 58 FC: Babic, Borovickic, Gonzalez, Kermack, Maia, McGing, Vlismas, Vrlic, Roberts, Koton, Zuvela
Subs: Ephraim, Temezkovsky, Brischetto, Fraser, Agamemnonos
– by Max Grieve, PS4 National Premier Leagues Grade 20s Reporter