An inspired second-half fightback has helped Rockdale Ilinden snatch a 2-2 draw against staunch rivals Sydney Olympic at Belmore Sports Ground on Sunday.
Goals from Tomoki Wada and Alec Urosevski after the interval helped Rockdale secure a vital competition point after conceding twice in the opening 45 minutes.
It was a frustrating result for Olympic who were in control of the contest after goals from Adam Parkhouse and Brendan Cholakian.
However, the visitors were not to be denied with Urosevski opening Rockdale’s account only moments after the restart before Wada headed home to net the equaliser 15 minutes from time.
Pat Savor, fresh from his stunning strike, had the first attempt on goal inside the opening minute after great work from Urosevski and Tomoki Wada.
It was a fast start from Rockdale and put the Olympic defence under early pressure.
So it came as a surprise when the home side took the lead in the seventh minute as Parkhouse swept home a rebound from a diving David Bradasevic save.
The tackling was fierce and rapid with no time on the ball allowed, particularly in midfield.
Olympic began to find space down the flanks but was unable to exploit the good positions they were working.
Rockdale skipper, Daniel Petkovski, a cornerstone of Iinden’s defence, was replaced by Brayden Sorge on the half-hour through injury forcing a reshuffle in the visitors thinking and tactics.
Urosevski swept through five minutes later and bamboozled Luke Kairies between the sticks only to see the effort cleared off the line.
With half-time looming, Olympic doubled their lead as Cholakian hit the back of the net deep into added time.
Rockdale came out of the break desperate to fight their way back into the contest. It didn’t take them long to find their mark as Urosevski hammed home a parried effort to get his side on the scoreboard.
Jordan Figon replaced Gauthier on the hour to add a further attacking option up top for the Reds with his pace and ability to hold up the ball and bring others into play. Figon was a mid-season signing following the departure of Ilinden star Kyle Cimenti who won himself an A-League deal with the Macarthur Bulls.
Van Meurs saw his shot deflected off the post and should have buried the ball from the resultant corner but Bradasevic kept his side in the match when saving from Parkhouse after a great set-up from Oliver Puflett.
The match was becoming increasingly testy, niggling fouls belying the tensions this fixture produces and when Kairies appeared to bring down Figon in the area the crowd reached fever pitch.
Rockdale didn’t have to wait long to restore parity when Wada looped a backward header over the advancing Kairies to ensure this result would go down to the wire.
Further controversy followed in the 81st minute when Olympic appeared to have handled inside the area, the ball falling to Figon whose effort was parried by Kairies before being put out for a corner and a handball decision that didn’t go the visitor’s way.
A flurry of half-chance misses for both littered the closing stages but with none taken the points were shared after a terrific opening half from Olympic and a wonderful fightback from Ilinden after the break leaving home coach,
Olympic boss Ante Juric said it was very much a game of two halves for his side.
“We put everything in the first half, which was good,” he said.
“I felt it was a pretty even 45 minutes, not too many chances created so it a bit of a cagey game and we were lucky to get two, especially right at the death in stoppage time.
“We had maybe six or seven chances after the break and should have scored, didn’t put them away and conceded two silly ones again but that’s a part of football and we move on.
“At the end of the day, Rockdale is running second and playing good football but disappointed we didn’t go on with it today.”
A disconsolate Rockdale coach, Steve Zoric, was disappointed at the final whistle.
“Once again we showed our character to come from two goals down,” he said
“It shows what this team is about and we spoke in the dressing room at half-time about it.
“We were two down, against the run of play particularly with the sucker punch right on the stroke of half-time and had to regroup.
“But we showed character after the break and had a few decisions gone our way. I feel we had two good penalty decisions turned down, the result may have been different but we picked up a point and are still in the mix.”
Sydney Olympic 2 (Parkhouse 7’, Cholakian 45+2’)
Rockdale Ilinden 2 (Urosevski 49’, Wada 76’)
Belmore Sports Ground, Belmore
Sunday, 23rd May 2021
Referee: Hossan Jomaa
Assistant Referees: Hugh Fenton-White & Cameron Wright
Fourth Official: Ivica Covic
Sydney Olympic: 20.Luke KAIRIES, 2.Tom WHITESIDE, 4.Benjamin VAN MEURS, 5.Michael GLASSOCK, 8.Jason MADONIS, 9.Oliver PUFLETT, 10.Brendan CHOLAKIAN, 11.Adam PARKHOUSE, 23.Daniel DIAS (6.Nicola KULESKI 83’), 24.Christopher GLIGOR, 35.Mohamed ADAM
Substitutes not used: 17.Marley PETERSON, 18.Yu HASEGAWA, 21.Fabian MONGE, 22.Fabio FERREIRA, 70.Chris PARSONS
Yellow Cards: Gligor 10’, Van Meurs 38’
Red Cards: Nil
Rockdale Ilinden: 1.David BRADASEVIC, 2.Daniel PETKOVSKI (14.Brayden SORGE 30’), 3.Michael NEILL, 4.Mitchell STAMATELLIS, 5.Banri KANAZUMI, 6.Daniel ARAUJO (16.Mo AHMED 78’), 7.Alec UROSEVSKI, 8.Tomoki WADA, 9.Bai ANTONIOU (11.Samuel GULISANO 78”, 10.Amaury GAUTHIER (23. Jordan FIGON 59’), 19.Patrick SAVOR,
Substitutes not used: 13.Zac SFILIGOI, 22.Enrol ORDONEZ SUAREZ
Yellow Cards: Figon 63’, Urosevski 69’, Stamatellis 74’
Red Cards: Nil
3 – Cholakian (SO)
2 – Urosevski (RI)
1 – Parkhouse (SO)
By National Premier Leagues NSW Reporter Micky Brock