A second-half strike from Alec Urosevski has helped Rockdale Ilinden maintain their perfect start to the 2021 season with a 1-0 win against Sydney Olympic at Ilinden Sports Centre on Sunday.
It was a hard-fought win for Rockdale in front of a vocal home crowd as they held out Olympic for all three points.
However, the win was soured by a freakish injury to Daniel Araujo, who was taken from the field by an ambulance which delayed the game by more than an hour.
The game’s opening salvo arrived in the 3rd minute when a free-kick by Rockdale’s Bai Antoniou was well turned over the crossbar by Sydney Olympic’s custodian Luke Kairies.
Sydney Olympic responded in the 9th minute when a miraculous free-kick from just outside the box by Brendan Cholakian beat all and sundry and crashed straight into the post, much to the home’s relief fans.
On the quarter-hour mark, Rockdale had a nice moment of the play when Kyle Cimenti found himself with plenty of space before finding Brayden Sorge on the right, but his final shot sailed just wide of the intended target.
Shortly afterwards, the game was held up for over 50 minutes when Araujo suffered his terrible elbow injury – all of our thoughts and best wishes are with him at this time.
Just after the resumption, another free-kick by Cholakian from just outside the box narrowly missed the goal.
It was even closer a few minutes later when a rather fortuitous Peter Kekeris free-kick reached Cholakian in the box. Still, this time, the former Manly United player on the turn blasted his own shot onto the crossbar.
Rockdale’s response was just as impressive when Mitchell Stamatellis against his former club found himself with the ball from a corner. Still, his powerful shot, which was destined for the back of the net, was headed away by Daniel Dias standing luckily on the line.
Late in the first stanza of play, a cross from the right by Sorge nearly reached a well-positioned Urosevski in the middle, but his jump was only a few centimetres short, and the ball sailed over his head.
The second half’s first real chance arrived in the 48th minute when a cross from the right reached Urosevski in the centre, but, even though this time he connected with the ball, it bounced ferociously back off the crossbar.
Rockdale Ilinden took the lead in the 59th minute when Urosevski, this time, found the net. A corner drifted into his path, and with a powerful diagonal drive, he beat an outstretched Kairies.
It was Urosevski in the 72nd minute who maybe could have scored again when he seemed to have a lot of time on his hands, but a diving Kairies well met his drive from just outside the box.
It was all Ursosevski also known as “the baker” in the second half as late in the contest he fired just wide from a nice position, much to his own frustration and the home fans frustration too. However, he had done enough and so too had his side to claim the win.
Rockdale Ilinden coach Steve Zoric praised his side’s composure despite the shock of Araujo’s injury and the lengthy delay to the match.
“It has been an impressive start to the season for us,” he said.
“We worked hard in pre-season, the boys have stepped from last year, and I still think we have another 15-20 per cent still in us.
“It was a tough game today that probably could have gone either way, but in the end, they hit the crossbar, and we hit the crossbar, but in the end, it went our way.
“I am proud of the boys because they had to dig deep and focus after the injury, as Danny Araujo is an integral part of our midfield, he is a great character in the dressing room, and so I am hoping for the best for him.”
Sydney Olympic coach Ante Juric spoke about his team’s lack of recent luck.
“It’s disappointing to lose by one goal, but it’s early days in the season,” he said.
“If we play like we did today in the rest of the games, we’ll be okay.
“Today was a tough game, and on show were two of the best teams from last year, but we were well in the game.
“We have not been scoring in our first two games because of a bit of bad luck; it is what it is, but we have hit a few posts here and there, and maybe our luck will change if we keep working hard.”
ROCKDALE ILINDEN: 1 (Urosevski 59’)
SYDNEY OLYMPIC: 0
Sunday, 7th March 2021
Ilinden Sports Centre, Bicentennial Park, Rockdale
Referee: C Verdicchio
Assistant Referees: M.Staples, A.Bloch
Fourth Official: S.Quinn
ROCKDALE ILINDEN FC: 1.David Bradasevic, 2.Daniel Petkovski, 15.Mitchell Stamatellis, 5.Banri Kanaizumi, 6.Daniel Araujo (3.Mick Neill 16’), 7.Alec Urosevski, 8.Tomoki Wada, 9.Bai Antoniou (18.Sam Gulisano 79’), 14.Brayden Sorge,19.Patrick Savor, 23.Kyle Cimenti (17.James Temelkovski 67’).
Substitutes not used: 11.Nikola Taneski, 13.Zac Sfiligoi, 22.Enol Ordonez Suarez
Yellow Cards: Savor 8’, Stamatellis 17’, Kanaizumi 29’, Petkovski 32’
Red Card: Nil
SYDNEY OLYMPIC: 20.Luke Kairies, 2.Thomas Whiteside, 4.Ben Van Meurs, 5.Michael Glassock, 6.Nikola Kuleski, 10.Brendan Cholakian (9.Oliver Puflett 80’), 14.Peter Kekeris (35.Mohamed Adam 60’), 18.Yu Hasegawa (11.Adam Parkhouse 60’), 21.Fabian Monge, 22.Fabio Ferreira (8.Jason Madonis 65’), 23.Daniel Dias.
Substitutes not used: 43.Mohamed Khamis, 70.Chris Parson
Yellow Cards: Cholakian 7’, Monge 76’
Red Card: Nil
3 – Alec Urosevski (RI)
2 – Bai Antoniou (RI)
1 – Brendan Cholakian (SO)
By National Premier Leagues NSW Men’s reporter Joe Russo