Sydney Olympic defeated Hakoah Sydney City East 3-1 in a gripping PlayStation®4 National Premier Leagues NSW Men’s clash at Hensley Athletic Field on Saturday night.
The sides were level at one-all and the match looked like ending in a draw before Olympic scored two goals at the death to clinch an unlikely and to many, an undeserved 3-1 victory.
“We’ve had our fair share of bad luck this year where we’ve outplayed teams and got no joy so we’ll take the three points tonight, which is nice,” Olympic coach Grant Lee told Football NSW.
The early stages of the match were disjointed, and lacking in continuity and flow.
In the ninth minute, Hakoah’s Deklan Gilmartin let loose with a rasping shot from long range, which seemed to give his side the confidence to press hard and control possession. Indeed, in the early stages of the match, Hakoah was the livelier of the two sides.
Hakoah’s Bradley Walker and Kevin Lopes delivered telling crosses, testing Olympic’s 40-year-old goalkeeper Paul Henderson, but the experienced custodian was up to the task.
After 20 minutes nothing of real significance had happened as the match meandered aimlessly, leaving a feeling of restlessness and indifference amongst the big crowd.
Only Hakoah’s Lee Jones seemed to make an impact, keeping the visitor’s under pressure with some telling crosses. In the 23rd minute, Jones fired in a tantalising free kick, but again Henderson saved well. At this stage it seemed to be a personal duel between Jones and Henderson.
Olympic then countered swiftly, with Harris Gaitatzis skipping through the Hakoah defence, only to be denied by keeper Matt McKenzie. Two minutes later the Hakoah keeper was again brought into the thick of things when he rushed outside the box to head clear.
In the 25th minute Hakoah fullback Nathan Bowden-Haase rose above the defence to head towards goal, but again, the ageless Henderson denied the home side.
The tide seemed to flowing Hakoah’s way but just when the home fans started to gain in confidence, Olympic hit them against the run of play when in the 31st minute Michael Gaitatzis struck a brilliant, rasping free kick into bottom left-hand corner of the net.
McKenzie had no chance to stop the blistering strike and Olympic took the lead 1-0.
Suddenly the match opened up, with Olympic beginning to play with more verve but in the 39th minute Hakoah’s Lee Jones again sent in a menacing corner, Kevin Lopes rose above the defence and headed towards goal, only for keeper Henderson to again deny an equaliser.
The teams went to the break with Olympic leading 1-0.
Hakoah attacked early into the second half but again Henderson proved to be something of a nemesis. His opposite was just as reliable, with McKenzie cutting out a dangerous free kick by Gaitatzis in the 52nd minute.
In the 55th minute, Lee Jones sent in a free kick that Bowden-Haase didn’t quite connect with, giving Henderson an easy save.
In the 62nd minute Olympic almost extended their lead when McKenzie punched a weak clearance from a corner but the ensuing scramble amounted to nothing.
Hakoah took the direct route as they chased an equaliser, launching several long aerial attacks, but again to no avail.
Olympic then started to take control and in the 67th minute, were unlucky to head onto the bar from a corner. Jason Madonis then let loose with a long range speculator that soared over the bar. The visitors were beginning to take charge.
Olympic dominated the second half, especially the latter stages, showing the speed and accuracy they didn’t possess in the first 45 minutes. But just as they started to feel comfortable, Hakoah’s Deklan Gilmartin scored one of the most unfathomable and audacious equalisers. From the left-hand touchline the Hakoah number 10 sent the ball looping over the head of a despairing Henderson and into the back of the net. Was it a shot or was it a cross? We’ll never know but the goal was definitely worthy of goal-of-the-week status. Suddenly it was 1-1 and Hakoah found its second wind.
In the 84th minute, substitute Steven Abbott turned his man inside the box and unleashed a shot, only to see Henderson deny Hakoah yet again.
Hakoah had an opportunity to take the lead in the 88th minute, when Jones sent in a tantalising free kick, only to see Bradley Walker miss from close range. The home fans couldn’t believe their misfortune. But unfortunately for them, there was more to come.
With everyone looking at their watches and willing the referee to blow the final whistle, Olympic turned the game on its head, firstly through Oliver Green, who struck home after a messy goalmouth scramble, before Jason Madonis scored to seal a flattering 3-1 scoreline in injury time.
Agony for Hakoah. Ecstasy for Olympic.
Despite the win, Olympic coach Grant Lee wasn’t entirely satisfied with his side’s performance.
“It’s a completely different style of football that Hakoah play and we had to adapt to that style of football,” he said. “They’re very direct, they’re strong and aggressive and they work hard and put you under enormous pressure. I was a little bit disappointed tonight, but you can’t take away from our work ethic and what we tried to do out on the park. I was just disappointed in the way that we played, we’re far better than that.
“Because they were so physical and so quick to press I just thought we got a little bit nervous on the ball and we needed to get the ball on the deck and play more on the ground. We played into their hands. The ball was always in the air, it was always a contest, which is what they wanted, so we’ve got to give credit to them also.
“I thought the boys battled hard, I just think in these type of games we’ve got to be able to adapt and we’ve got to become a lot stronger physically and mentally.”
A disappointed Hakoah coach Mark Roberston rued the last-gasp defeat.
“If the game was about possession and the most passes I think we would have won, but it’s football and you’ve got to put the ball in the back of the net. We weren’t clinical enough and I don’t think we really looked like scoring, which is disappointing.
“We retained possession quite well. Their turnover of ball was a lot higher than us and the pleasing thing for me is we kept the ball. But the negative was we didn’t get in enough dangerous positions to punish them.
“The two late goals flatters Olympic but that’s life. You know, I think 1-1 would have been a fair result. We just didn’t perform well in the top third to even consider winning that game.
“The difference between the two sides was they put the ball in the back of the net. Our decision making in the final third and the defensive third just wasn’t good enough. We were sloppy.”
Hakoah Sydney City East 1 (Deklan Gilmartin 80’)
Sydney Olympic (Michael Gaitatzis 31’, Oliver Green 90’, Jason Madonis 90+2)
Saturday, 31 April, 2016
Hensley Athletic Field
Referee: Adrian Arndt
Assistant Referees: Joon Park, Daniel Stark
Fourth Official: Anthony Mansour
Hakoah Sydney City East: 20. MCKENZIE, Matthew, 4. WALKER, Bradley, 5. BOWDEN-HAASE, 9. JABLONSKI, 10. GILMARTIN, Deklan, 11. RAE, Gavin (8. ORGAD, Paul), 13. MUNDELL, Jordan, 14. JONES, Lee, 16. ANDRICOPOULOS, Costa (34. PAIKIN, Brad), 18. D’MELLO, Aaron (12. ABBOTT, Steven 67’), 31. LOPES, Kevin
Coach: Mark Robertson
Unused Subs: 1. COSTA, Anthony (GK)
Yellow Cards: 8. ORGAD, Paul 58’, 5. BOWDEN-HAASE, Nathan 77’
Red Cards: Nil
Sydney Olympic: 1. HENDERSON Paul, 2. SORGE Brayden (3. TOMELIC Anthony), 4. EGGER Leigh, 5. MADONIS Jason, 6. STAMATELLIS Mitchell, 7. ANGEL William, 8. FONDYKE Howard, 9. TRIANTIS Chris (37. MONTFORD, Eoin 74’), 10. GAITATZIS Harris, 16. GREEN Oliver, 22. GAITATZIS Michael (11. BOUTOUBIA Jacob)
Coach: Grant Lee
Unused Subs: 20. CRICKMORE, Denver
Yellow Cards: 5. MADONIS, Jason 55’, 6. STAMATELLIS, Mitchell 90’
Red Cards: Nil
3 – Paul Henderson (Olympic)
2 – Deklan Gilmartin (Hakoah)
1 – Lee Jones
-By PlayStation®4 National Premier Leagues NSW Men’s reporter Derek Royal