Peter Kekeris starred as Sydney Olympic worked off their mid-season NPL NSW slump by edging bottom-placed Hakoah Sydney City East 1-0 at Lambert Park on Sunday evening.
Kekeris’ early strike – the winger’s first for Olympic after signing on from A-League’s Central Coast Mariners last month – was the telling effort, one which boosts the reigning champions in their hunt for a top-five finish.
Olympic’s finals ambitions had been dampened over a run of five matches without a win prior to the Round 15 clash in Leichhardt but the club now move above fellow contenders Marconi Stallions and Sutherland Sharks into seventh position.
Kekeris arrived at the back post and dispatched Will Angel’s cross to give Abaas Saad’s side a 15th minute foothold before he saw another effort clatter against the woodwork soon after as Olympic aimed to ram home their first half dominance.
Ryan Norval tipped a stinging effort from Angel away on the cusp of first half injury time, but despite the wizardry of Kekeris, Olympic struggled to break down the resolute visitors after the break.
The best chance of the second period fell to Hakoah – Dominic Cox headed over the crossbar from point-blank range – a great opportunity for the competition cellar-dwellers to equalize and one they will lament given their strong second half performance.
“Peter Kekeris was outstanding today,” said Blues coach Saad post-match. “It’s his first season playing men’s football. He’s been playing kids football [with the Mariners].
“The pace and tenacity of the game was a little bit of a surprise for him at first. He’s learning the physical aspect, and he’s got a lot of talent. On his day he can be dynamite and he certainly was today.”
Saad – who steered Olympic to the championship in 2018 – also added that the win over Hakoah would give his side confidence they require to set sail for a top-five position.
Their credentials will be given a litmus test next Sunday against ladder-leading Wollongong Wolves at WIN Stadium.
“We’ve been shooting ourselves in the foot and making things really difficult for ourselves lately,” Saad admitted.
“It’s not been good enough, we’ve been very inconsistent.
“We want to play finals football and we’re more than good enough to do that. We’ll keep our heads up and keep going.”
Sydney Olympic 1 (Kekeris 15’)
Hakoah Sydney City East 0
Sunday 16th of June,
Lambert Park, Leichhardt
Sydney Olympic: 1. Paul Henderson, 4. Mitch Stamatellis, 6. Nicola Kuleski, 7. Will Angel, 8. Jason Madonis (2. Thomas Whiteside 87’), 9. Radovan Pavicevic (33. Niko Tsattalios 78’), 10. Harris Gaitatzis (19. Darcy Burgess 68’), 11. Jinya An, 12. Zach MacKenzie, 14. Alex Sanchez, 44. Peter Kekeris
Substitutes Not Used: 20. Eze Consoni, 22. Michael Gaitatzis
Yellow Cards: N/A
Red Cards: N/A
Hakoah Sydney City East: 1. Ryan Norval, 2. Connor Shaddock, 5. Steven Katsionis, 6. Dominic Cox, 12. Josh Swadling, 13. Robert Ezekiel, 14. Jordan Koton (9. Shohei Okuno 70’), 17. Harry Jones, 23. Adrian Vranic (8. Hesan Soufi 76’), 24. Amaury Gauthier, 27. Peter Turrall (8. Oliver Green 75’)
Substitutes Not Used: 25. Max Ephraim, 83. Coen Emmenegger
Yellow Cards: Turrall 60’, Vranic 63’
Red Cards: N/A
Player Ratings have now been hidden due to the second half of the season commencing.
-By Jacob Windon