Sydney Olympic and Wollongong Wolves shared the spoils in a dramatic 1-1 draw in the last game of Round 15 of the NPL NSW Men’s competition played at Belmore Sportsground on Monday.
A goal at either end of the game provided the framework for an entertaining encounter.
Roy O’Donovan opened the scoring for Sydney Olympic with virtually the first touch of the game while Darcy Madden equalised for the Wollongong Wolves with virtually the last touch of the game to give his side a valuable point that they deserved.
The spectators had hardly sat down in their seats when Sydney Olympic opened the scoring after only 30 seconds.
It was an innocuous ball down the left that the Wollongong Wolves defence tried to clear and get back to their goalkeeper, but O’Donovan simply slipped in behind and found the back of the net with his close-range strike.
Wollongong then had a series of strikes without any luck, starting in the 6th minute when Leroy Jennings shot from distance, but it was well saved by Nicholas Sorras diving to his right.
Two minutes later, a shot from outside the box by Peter Simonoski finished just wide of the mark.
In the 11th minute Jennings tried his luck again from outside the box but the ever-alert Sorras turned it away for a corner.
From Josh Macdonald’s ensuing corner, a firm header by Lachlan Scott bounced off the crossbar as Wollongong once again came very close to equalising.
Sydney Olympic replied in the 16th minute when a drive was blocked by the Wollongong defence but followed through by O’Donovan who hit the post from close range.
The Wolves were at it again in the 24th minute when a corner was met by a Madden header but Mathieu Cordier was well positioned and brilliantly cleared off the line for the Blues.
Just prior to the break Sydney Olympic could have doubled their lead when Adam Parkhouse danced his way through the defence and forced goalkeeper Hayden Durose to turn the ball around the post for a corner with a lovely one-handed save.
Right at the end of the first stanza of play a beautiful cross from the right by Parkhouse was met by a diving Darcy Burgess, but his spectacular header sailed narrowly over the crossbar as the visitors breathed a collective sigh of relief.
In the second half the first opportunity belonged to Parkhouse in the opening minutes as once again he forced his way through the defence, but his wonderful strike was magnificently saved by ‘keeper Durose who turned the ball over the crossbar.
Parkhouse was in the thick of the action again when his corner was met by a header from Nikola Ujdur in the 53rd minute, but unfortunately for Olympic the ball finished just wide of the goal.
Wollongong’s best chance of the half arrived in the 63rd minute when a free kick by Nick Littler from just outside the box was tipped over for a corner by Sorras.
In the 74th minute a long cross from the right was greeted by a header by Scott, which went across the face of goal and just wide of the post.
Sydney Olympic replied a minute later with a Parkhouse free kick that finished wide and the former A-League player was certainly proving to be a real menace for the Wolves’ defence.
The last real opportunity of the encounter came from Wollongong and they scored the equaliser they truly deserved.
Another Littler free kick from the right which went straight into the box where Madden was waiting and his side volley from close range was too hot to handle and the Wolves bench jumped for joy.
After the game Sydney Olympic coach Ante Juric emerged from a very quiet dressing room but still had many positive things to say about his team.
“We are a bit down but we have high expectations and it’s still a good result against a good team,” he said.
“A lot of their first half chances were from 20-25 metres out, so it wasn’t close and I thought that we had the best of the chances.
“We hit the post and then missed an open goal with a header but I did think that they played well in the first half, while the second half was a bit tighter for both sides.
“As a positive we were not at our best – perhaps not even close – but we still picked up a point and probably should have won. Our energy is always high and we never give up.”
His counterpart at Wollongong Wolves Luke Wilkshire was happy with the draw and perhaps a little relieved too.
“It’s disappointing to concede a goal after 40 seconds but I thought that the first half was one of the better halves that we have played,” he said.
“We had our chances and definitely deserved at least a point tonight. Our character is great and it showed tonight how we kept going and got that point in the end.”
Furthermore, as one of Australia’s most decorated Socceroos with 80 national caps, it was appropriate to also ask Wilkshire about the Peru v Australia World Cup qualifier in Qatar coming up in the early hours of the morning.
“It’s a World Cup tie and a one-off game,” he said.
“They are a good team and we are a good team too, but there’s a lot at stake.
“We need to take our chances, be clinical and be tough defensively.
“Overall it’s hard to predict but we will need to be at our best that’s for sure.”
Sydney Olympic 1 (O’Donovan 1’)
Wollongong Wolves 1 (Madden 94’)
Monday, 13th June, 2022
Referee: Craig Fisher
Assistant Referees: Ivica Covic and Jackson Mackie
Fourth Official: Jake Rose
Sydney Olympic: 1. Nicholas Sorras, 2. Tom Whiteside, 3. Nikola Ujdur, 4. Ben Van Meurs, 5. Michael Glassock, 6. Mathieu Cordier, 8. Sam McIllhatton, 9. Oliver Puflett (17. Marley Peterson 61’), 11. Adam Parkhouse, 19. Darcy Burgess (10. Brendan Cholakian 75’), 99. Roy O’Donovan (23. Daniel Dias 84’)
Substitutes Not Used: 20. Chris Parsons, 22. Fabio Ferreira, 38. Mohammed Khamis
Yellow Cards: Ujdur 62’, Whiteside 92’
Red Cards: Nil
Wollongong Wolves: 1. Hayden Durose, 3. Darcy Madden, 4. Nikola Djordjevic, 5. Banri Kanaizumi, 9.Peter Simonoski (14. Nicholas Duarte 46’), 10. Takumu Tsujimura (6. Senna Stevenson 82’), 11. Josh Macdonald, 15. Nick Littler, 16. Guy Knight, 22. Leroy Jennings, 24. Lachlan Scott
Substitutes Not Used: 12. Harrison Taranto, 13. Tomas Butkovic, 19. Jake Lavalle, 25. Nav Darjani
Yellow Cards: Nil
Red Cards: Nil
By National Premier Leagues NSW Men’s reporter Joe Russo