Somehow, someway, APIA Leichhardt Tigers FC found a way to win.
It was not pretty at times as the Tigers battled to a 1-0 win over Sydney Olympic FC in the PS4 National Premier Leagues NSW Men’s 1 Minor Semi Final, but it was certainly sweet.
A 43rd minute goal from Nicholas Olsen, which found the back of the net via a wicked deflection off Leigh Egger, was the difference between the two sides in a hotly contested fixture.
An error-ridden first half was edged by APIA, but in truth it was a poor half as the two sides looked heavily affected by nerves.
The likes of Adrian Ucchino and Franco Parisi carried uncharacteristically heavy first touches for APIA, while Scott Balderson failed to inspire Olympic going forward.
APIA started the stronger and it was Corey Biczo who was the quickest off the mark, cutting inside and getting a shot on target after just two minutes.
Dave D’Apuzzo tested Paul Henderson in the Olympic goal after 10 minutes but was denied by the veteran goalkeeper, while Nathan Elasi tried his luck from some distance five minutes later but couldn’t hit the target.
While the chances fell to APIA, it was Olympic who put together the cleaner passing passages but it struggled to turn nice play into real opportunities.
Balderson went closest with a cheeky chipped ball over the APIA defence after 12 minutes that just eluded Dimitri Hatzimouratis.
Brayden Sorge surged forward from the backline to take a shot after 25 minutes but his shot was off target.
It was Olsen who made the breakthrough as the half drew to a close, after a lovely one-two with Biczo that sent the 20-year-old through on goal.
The ball sat up nicely for Olsen to hit and he showed no hesitation in doing so, slamming the ball towards goal only for it to be deflected over Henderson by Egger.
The half-time whistle blew shortly after and Olympic coach Grant Lee wasted no time in making his desired changes.
Go Shirai and William Angel entered the fray for the lackluster duo of Balderson and Michael Gaitatzis.
It was APIA that went close from the restart when a long-range hit from Ucchino forced an uncharacteristic spill from Henderson forcing a corner.
Michael West, absolutely outstanding in defence, almost got reward for his effort down back from the corner when his header went cloe to finding the back of the net.
After that, it was one-way traffic and it was Olympic who was directing it.
Brendan Hooper was seemingly unstoppable whenever he ventured forward from the backline.
After 55 minutes, he won a header from a corner that was only cleared off the line and then four minutes later he hit the post with a cracking volley.
In between the chances, Parisi had a glorious chance to kill the game off when he was well found by Olsen, but he was ruined by a poor first touch.
With 30 minutes to play, Olympic threw the kitchen sink, but there was an APIA defender ready to stand in the way at every occasion.
West, Adam D’Apuzzo and Sean Symons were absolutely outstanding in defence, as was stand-in keeper Tonu Liiband who filled in spectacularly for Ryan Norval, who broke his hand in training during the week.
His best moment came in the 76th minute when he produced a fingertip save to deny in-form Hatzimouratis, tipping the goal-bound strike onto the post.
Speaking after the game, match-winner Olsen was delighted with the team’s effort and ability to turn around the game after last week’s loss to Bonnyrigg White Eagles.
“We’re really happy. We really grinded this result out which is what we needed after last week,” Olsen said.
“We worked on volleys in training this week, so it was good to use it in the game. It sat up well and I just hit it with the right and it got a bit of a deflection and went in.
“We just went out after half-time and we were under the pump a bit … but the boys grinded it out well and they deserved it.”
Olympic coach Grant Lee could not believe his side didn’t equalise in the second half, but said it was the product of a poor first half.
“It’s very disappointing to lose because we played very well in the second half, but the game was set up in the first half,” Grant said.
“We didn’t’ really turn up at the start of the game. The passing was poor, the movement was poor and that killed us.
“We can talk about the second half and we made enough chances in that half to win three games, but it was one of those nights.”
APIA Leichhardt Tigers FC 1 (Olsen 43’)
Sydney Olympic FC 0
Friday August 28, 2015
Lambert Park, Leichhardt
Referee: Ryan Shepheard
Assistant Referees: Nicholas Backo & Janush Adabjou
Fourth Official: Adam Susz
APIA Leichhardt Tigers FC: Liiband, Biczo (Scott 90’), A D’Apuzzo, D D’Apuzzo, Elasi (Bartels 88’), Millgate, Olsen, Parisi, Aymona, Ucchino (Kayes 84’), West
Substitutes not used: Moore, Rhodes
Yellow Cards: D D’apuzzo 45’, Olsen 64’, Biczo, 79’
Sydney Olympic FC: Henderson, Balderson (Shirai 45’), Danaskos, Egger, H Gaitatzis, M Gaitatzis (Angel 45’ (Madonis 70’)), Hatzimouratis, Hooper, Soeda, Sorge, Spyrakis
Substitutes not used: Markovic, Sadaka
Yellow Cards: Balderson 32’, Madonis 73’
-By Matthew Galea, National Premier Leagues NSW Men’s 1 Editor, at Lambert Park