Sydney Olympic secured a valuable victory in their fight to escape a relegation battle against fellow strugglers Western Sydney Wanderers with the Blues running out 3-1 winners in a heart-stomping Round 21 clash at Belmore Sports Ground on Saturday.
It was a day of celebration for the Blues prior to kick-off as one of the club’s favourite sons Will Angel celebrated his 250th appearance for his beloved Olympic.
Young Blues striker Michael Vakis got the early goal for Olympic in the 5th minute and this scoreline would stay in the hosts favor up until the 82d minute when Edmund Lupancu equalised. The Blues knew how important three points were at home and they shifted an extra gear as they scored two late goals via Fabio Ferreira and a penalty to Roy O’Donovan that secured the much needed point for Olympic.
As expected, it was on from the opening minute with a number of fierce tackles eventuating before play settled down in this battle of two lower placed sides.
Nicolas Milanovic should have put the Wanderers ahead in the 4th minute when powering a header against the crossbar from a corner on the right before Vakis was sent away at the other end to open the scoring for the home side with a mighty run and shot beyond the despairing grasp of Lawrence Caruso who come out to narrow the angle.
The early goal was well received and the release of pressure was almost palpable and more so when Wanderers felt they had equalised before the referee spotted a foul inside the Olympic area to ease the home support tensions.
Olympic broke again through Oliver Puflett who believed he was brought down by the onrushing Caruso but to little sympathy as play was waived on and the visitors were able to clear their lines.
It was nervy stuff with neither afforded the luxury of any time on the ball but it was Vakis who came closest to doubling the lead when cutting in from the left but sending his shot across the face and beyond the far upright in the 18th minute.
Neither side was able to gain the ascendency to totally dominate the game but it was the home side who created the better of the chances during the opening quarter of the match albeit the corner count truly favoured the Wanderers who, with a number of varied deliveries, could find no way through a determined Olympic defence.
Darcy Burgess found Donovan down the right with a deft header with the latter standing it up to the back post for Puflett but a last ditch header sent the ball away and was finally cleared.
Sam McIllhatton put himself about but, with one tough tackle too many amid a plethora of niggling fouls, found himself in the book towards the end of the half that belonged to Olympic who would take the slenderest of leads into the break.
No changes after the break as play resumed with the home side in a more determined fashion putting the youngsters of Western Sydney under early pressure. Perhaps a little too much as Angel and Mickey Neill found themselves cautioned only minutes in.
It would prove an early afternoon for Angel who was substituted for Jakob Cresnar after 58 minutes to a rousing ovation from the home support.
Burgess scraped a layer of paint off the upright as Olympic took control of the match by the hour mark and looked the most likely to find the net next, not that the visitors were making life easy for them.
It was tense, disjointed to the point of scrappiness at times but the occasional flashes of brilliance were sublime.
It doesn’t always need goals to produce an enthralling game of football.
Nathaniel Blair headed over for the Wanderers in an increasingly infrequent foray forward to produce an opening with Olympic forcing the Wanderers deeper as the minutes ticked away.
O’Donovan fed Puflett inside the area with only Caruso to beat but the ‘keeper got down sharply to produce a wonder save and deny the Olympic striker from scoring what surely would have been the last straw for the visitors.
And it almost proved vital as it was Western Sydney who would strike next through substitute Edmund Lupancu who headed home at the back post after Blair kept the ball alive to restore parity in the 82nd minute after a flurry of activity off the bench.
Sides are never more vulnerable than after scoring and Wanderers showed their naivety when conceding almost immediately after Ferreira thundered a shot into the top corner to again give Olympic the lead and, ultimately the points.
Not wanting to rest on their laurels, Olympic were award4ed a penalty in the 94th minute with O’Donovan all but assuring the points would stay at Belmore.
Post-match Wanderers coach Andrew Christiansen was upbeat after the game despite the result.
“I felt we were always in the game and when we scored I wanted us to keep pressing and score more,” he said.
“I wanted us to keep going and that’s the mentality I want for this team and not to play for a draw or sit back.
“So I was pleased to see the mentality of trying to get the ball to score once more and that’s the team I want to create so I wouldn’t put it down to any naivety.
“We want to be in this league to play these tough games and we’ll do everything possible to stay here,” he concluded.
Labinot Haliti was more pleased for 250 game Will Angel.
“I might sound crazy but the performances have been there this season but we haven’t picked up the points perhaps we should have,” he said.
“We don’t have enough to show points wise but I cannot fault the boys and the effort they’ve put in and we expect tough games in this league and we’re happy with the points of course but today is about Will Angel.
“I’ve only worked with him for a few months but he leads by example on and off the pitch at to reach his 250th game for the club is an amazing achievement and hopefully the win today will help him to celebrate this milestone with a smile.”
Sydney Olympic 3 (Michael Vakis 5’, Fabio Ferreira 84’, Roy O’Donovan 94p’)
Western Sydney Wanderers 1 (Edmun Lupancu 82’)
Belmore Sports Ground, Belmore
Saturday 24th June2023
Referee: Ivica Covic
Assistants: Amir Hosnani and Nikolas Djakovic
Fourth Official: Jackson Mackie
Sydney Olympic: 20. Chris Parsons, 2. Pater Politis, 3. Mickey Neill, 5. Ziggy Gordon, 7. Will Angel (23. Jakob Cresnar58’), 8. Sam McIllhatton, 9. Oliver Puflett, 10. Darcy Burgess (22. Fabio Ferreira 80’), 14. Michael Vakis (29. Nick Fitzgerald 91’), 15. Will Mutch, 99. Roy O’Donovan
Subs not used: 1. Nicholas Sorras, 6. Jack Simmons, 24. Christopher Gligor
Yellow Cards: Sam McIllhatton 27’, Will Angel 48’, Mickey Neill 52’, Michael Vakis 71’, Ziggy Gordon 73’, Peter Politos 81’
Western Sydney Wanderers: 1. Lawrence Caruso, 3. Joshua Hong, 31. Aiden Simmons (25. Ryley Hollingdale 79’), 7. Jarrod Carluccio, 9. Nathaniel Blair, 11. Nicolas Milanovic (10. Alex Badolatto 59’), 13. Marcus Younis (29. Edmun Haddad 59’), 14. George Antonis, 23. Mason Fernandez, 26. Yannis Frerck (12. Edmun Lupancu 45), 27. Farah Koko (22. Jesse Camerron 79’)
Subs not used: 20. William Loucas, 22. Jesse Camerron, 25. Ryley Hollingdale
3 – Michael Vakis (SO)
2 – Darcy Burgess (SO)
1 – Will Mutch (SO)
By NPL NSW Men’s Reporter Micky Brock0