Sydney Olympic secured a 3-1 victory over local rivals Rockdale Ilinden at Rockdale Ilinden Sports Centre on Sunday evening.
The two sides faced up in Round 13 of the National Premier Leagues NSW Men’s competition to renew battle in one of the leagues more traditionally lively fixtures.
Ilinden were down to the bare minimum on the playing roster through injuries, including inspirational skipper Danny Petkovski, to the squad but it would prove no excuse in a full blooded game that promised and delivered plenty.
The visitors got off to a flyer after Irish striker Roy O’Donovan netted a brace by the 11th minute of the tie before Alec Urosevski reduced the deficit with a thumping left-footed drive in the 20th.
The goals kept coming in the opening half when Oliver Puflett found the net with a sumptuous curling effort from the edge of the box.
It proved the final goal of an end-to-end fixture and a vital three points in the chase for final’s football.
After a blistering start O’Donovan had the simplest of tasks to put Olympic into the lead in the 8th minute when side-footing home the opener after good lead-up work down the right flank laid it on a plate for the in-form striker to slot home.
He added a second just three minutes later to double the lead with a delightful shot past David Bradsevic.
Darcy Burgess surged through the middle moments later but couldn’t connect cleanly to add a third leaving a grateful Bradasevic to hold the ball.
Rockdale, as expected, came back strongly and posed many questions to the Olympic defence without getting on the scoreboard until Ursoevski netted in the 20th minute to reduce the deficit after more good work down the right wing from Will Mutch.
Despite the fast start from the visitors, Rockdale grew into the match and were certainly causing Olympic many problems with Olympic hitting on the break without taking their chances.
Both Urosevski and Tomoki Wada fired free kicks into the wall in quick succession as Rockdale applied the pressure without being able to restore parity.
Burgess broke down the right but his cross for O’Donovan was put out for a corner when Olympic mounted an increasingly rare foray forward as Ilinden pushed on and pressed high up the pitch to restrict the visitors in using their pace and mobility.
It was on the break that Olympic restored their two-goal advantage when the ball broke for Puflett who had the time and awareness to pick his spot and plant a curling shot into the net in the 41st minute.
It had been a pulsating half of football that saw Olympic go to the break with a deserved 3-1 lead.
Sam McIlhatton weaved his way through the Rockdale defence on the restart but struck his shot against the woodwork and bounced across the face with no Olympic player able to find the finishing touch before Urosevski sent over a cross-cum-shot that found the crossbar before going out of play.
Bai Antoniou warmed the hand of Nick Sorras with a long-range effort shortly after proving there was still plenty on offer from both sides in a tense and tightly-contested encounter.
Rockdale coach, Steve Zoric, rang the changes just before the hour mark when replacing Antoniou and Mo Ahmed with Peter Kekeris and James Percevski respectively in an attempt to change the point of attack and rest members of his depleted squad whilst reinvigorating the attack in chasing the game by switching to a back three.
A multi-personnel move down the left started with McStay and ended when Kekeris lashed an effort wide from outside the area with Olympic sitting a little deeper and looking to play over the top or down the flanks on the break, but with time ticking down it was proving a long way back for the home side.
It almost proved a winning tactic in the 75th minute when O’Donovan was set free and beat his marker in Percevski to centre for Adam Parkhouse who saw his crisply-struck effort cannon back into play off the upright.
Burgess again blasted over the bar just before the end from inside the area and McIlhatton came close but for the heroics of Bradasevic however, it made little difference as the Blues finished on top of another fiercely contested derby match.
Percevski found the side netting when venturing forward but Olympic held out to gain three very valuable points to push the visitors up the ladder in a tight race for end of season honours.
Olympic coach Ante Juric praised his team’s hard work and intensity in securing the win and all-important three points.
“We got ourselves into a commanding position but I didn’t tell the lads at half time to sit back and hit on the break to be honest,” he said.
“I told them to be smart in the second-half as we let them into the game with their goal which came from a little flick when we didn’t close them down so little moments were hurting us.
“Perhaps the boys were a little nervous when Rockdale came at us, which we knew they would, as it’s a big game in the context of the season with a tightly-congested table.
“We knew this and the way we played was encouraging but we know we have to keep playing well, taking our chances and pushing on for the remaining fixtures.
“It was an important three points today but the way we were intense and worked hard is positive going into the final games of the season.
“We always play aggressively but fairly, ever since I’ve been here anyway, and we won’t be out-muscled in games but I felt we did what we needed to and then controlled the game so very happy with the win.”
Rockdale coach, Steve Zoric, wouldn’t use the playing roster as an excuse after the loss.
“I told the guys just then that what killed us was the early goals in the game,” he said.
“I wanted that start from our team but we were on the receiving end and then we switched on after that and got into the game and it looked like we started to dominate but we were chasing at that stage and the third goal killed us.
“It was disappointing to concede the third goal when we were basically ball watching and not closing the player down allowing his time and space to pick his spot.
“We need to take a long hard look at ourselves this week and bounce back at Lambert Park next week in what will be a very crucial game for us now and we have to be thankful that some of the results have gone our way this week.
“There was a lot of good football played, from both sides, in patches today and Olympic really countered against us well which surprised us a bit, but I wasn’t happy with our one vs one defending today.”
Rockdale Ilinden 1 (Alec Ursoevski 20’)
Sydney Olympic 3 (Roy O’Donovan 8’,11’, Oliver Puflett 41’)
Ilinden Sports Centre, Rockdale
Sunday 29th May 2022
Referee: Hassan Jomaa
Assistants: Matt Staples and Ivica Covic
Fourth Official: Hadi Al-Nakeeb
Rockdale Ilinden: 1. David Bradasevic, 4. Mitch Stamatellis, 5. Will Mutch (6. Daniel Araujo 77’), 7. Alec Urosevski, 8. Nikola Kuleski, 9. Bai Antoniou (11. Peter Kekeris 58), 10. Tomoki Wada, 14. Brayden Sorge, 16. Mo Ahmed (15. James Percevski 58), 23. Jaden Casella, 88. Chris McStay
Substitutes Not Used: 25. Alex Masciovecchio, 31. Matthew Marrum
Yellow Cards: Tomoki Wada 83’
Red Cards: Nil
Sydney Olympic: 1. Nick Sorras, 2. Tom Whiteside, 3. Nikola Udjur, 4. Ben Van Meurs, 5. Michael Glassock, 6. Mathieu Cordier, 8. Sam McIlhatton, 9. Oliver Pufflet (36. Peter Politis 82’), 11. Adam Parkhouse, 19. Darcy Burgess (10. Brendan Cholakian 91’), 99. Roy O’Donovan
Substitutes Not Used: 17. Marley Peterson, 20. Chris Parsons, 22. Fabio Ferreira, 24. Hagi Gligor
Yellow Cards: Nil
Red Cards: Nil
*Player Ratings have now been hidden
By National Premier Leagues NSW Men’s Reporter Micky Brock