APIA Leichhardt have secured a crucial three points to bolster their Premiership title hopes with an exhilarating 5-3 victory over rivals Sydney Olympic at Belmore Sports Ground.
Sydney Olympic got off to a flying start, opening the scoring inside four minutes.
Upon winning back possession off a long ball, some short, clever interplay saw Ruben Sanchez Marcano released in behind after a subtle, clever lay off from Darcy Burgess.
The Spaniard soared down the left-wing, driving towards goal against a depleted APIA defence, who were slow to react to the racing Olympic move.
Marcano played a pinpoint pass across goal, and sharpshooter O’Donovan’s brilliant movement saw him free, and he calmly tapped the ball into an empty net.
APIA were quick to react following the concession, with Jason Romero feinting his way through the backline after a lobbed volley from youngster Franco Farinella, forcing a good save from Christopher Parsons with his left-footed effort.
Three minutes later, Romero went close once more, bringing the ball down cleverly after a freekick, and just striking the ball over the frame of the goal with a razor-sharp effort.
In the 11th minute, APIA did find the frame of goal, but still not the back of the net; a clever, clipped ball in behind from Romero found the onrushing Armson in behind.
The technical attacking midfielder brought the ball down and thumped a thunderous strike towards goal, hitting the near post from an acute angle.
The away side’s rampage continued, as Olympic struggled to clear the ball, but a crisp effort from Romero moments later finally released APIA’s pressure.
APIA were controlling possession, and looked energised by the early concession, as the home side defended their lead gallantly against the league leaders.
However, APIA were continuing to find space in between Sydney Olympic’s defence and midfield line, with the defending team sometimes slow to close down opponents and defend the pockets.
As a result, APIA’s midfielders (Adrian Ucchiono, Farinella and Armson, striker (Romero) and wingers (Sean Symons and Jack Stewart) were able to show for the ball in central areas and retain possession, while sometimes being able to drive forwards and create opportunities for themselves or others.
The league leaders were showing their true quality in retaining possession and progressing the ball forwards – either through wide areas or central areas – but Olympic were keeping them out well and had the advantage on the scoreboard.
The home side suffered a scare in the 34th minute, with Symons aggressively closing down a clearance from William Mutch inside the six yard box, getting contract on the ball and hitting the crossbar with an inadvertent effort.
But APIA did find their equaliser a minute later.
A counter attack was begun by a classy drive from Themba Muata-Marlow, who then find the threatening Stewart wide-right.
Stewart drove forwards with purpose, coming slightly inside, and lashed a shot towards goal, which with the aid of a deflection found its way past Christopher Parsons and into the back of the net.
APIA continued their attacking domination and went ahead in the 40th minute, with Armson smoothly finishing an aesthetic move.
The Jack’s combined, showing the well-rounded ability of their combined skillsets; after cutting inside, Stewart released an insightful pass in behind the defence, and Armson made no mistake in powering a right-footed strike into the bottom corner from a tight angle.
Stewart continued his outstanding performance by adding another APIA goal with the last kick of the first half to supplement his involvement in the away side’s quick comeback with an astonishing effort from range.
An energetic, skilful run from left-back Michael Kouta brought the ball forwards, before Romero received the ball on the edge of the box and pinged a pass out to Stewart on the right.
The winger cut inside in trademark style, and on his supposedly weaker foot unleashed a sumptuous effort into the top-left hand corner.
Sydney Olympic opened the second half with more attacking intent, and in the 57th minute, went close to clawing a goal back; after Fabio Ferreira received the ball in behind, substitute Nick Fitzgerald made a clever run back to the penalty spot, but was prevented by some good defensive reading from Dakota Askew.
However, it was APIA who found the net once more, with Stewart making it a hattrick off a cooly taken penalty, after a handball.
Michael Neill had the chance to reduce the deficit in the 68th minute, but he couldn’t find a way past the imposing Ivan Necevski, who celebrated playing his 150th match for the club, after a clever run and one two with Marcano to see him in behind in a one on one.
In the 71st minute, Stewart made it an astonishing four goals for the match, going level with Armson as the top scorer for the side.
A good drive from Kouta then saw him latch onto his blocked cross, and on the second attempt he made no mistake in finding a target, picking out Stewart – who had made a peeling run to the back post – to convert.
APIA were inches away from making it six in the 77th minute, as an artful one-two between substitutes Florent Indalecio and Rory Jordan saw the former clatter the post in what would’ve been a glamorous sixth goal for the home side.
Two minutes later, it was Olympic’s turn to find the woodwork, as an exceptional, volleyed effort from Marcano on the outside of the box dipped in style but could only find the crossbar.
With six minutes remaining, the home side did find a goal.
After Ziggy Gordon won his side a penalty off a corner, O’Donovan stepped up and clinically converted into the top left-hand corner to earn himself a brace.
Three minutes later, Olympic reduced APIA’s lead to two goals, and the impossible comeback looked on.
After fantastic drive inside, youngster Michael Vakis released Nick Fitzgerald in behind with a pinpoint pass, and the experienced winger astutely placed a shot past Necevski and into the back of the net.
The home side were reenergised in the dying stages, forcing a succession of desperate blocks from APIA’s backline, but the away side stood strong to collect a deserved three points.
APIA coach Franco Parisi was happy with his side’s overall performance and attitude, and praised the football played during the ninety minutes.
“The crowd would have been happy; eight goals, a couple of penalties and not too many yellows or reds, so a lot of good football,” he said.
“Belmore Sports Ground was better than I thought; it was good grass and the boys put on a clinic.
“Jack Stewart scored four goals but there was a lot of determination and hunger from the team across the board and we’re showing what we wanted to do today which was the three points.
“Our hopes of a clean sheet ended after five minutes but I was pretty happy with the attitude for the whole 90 minutes and in the last 15 we just had to keep our legs fresh, because we have an Australia Cup game on Wednesday in Shepperton and then we’re back home to Sydney FC.
“We lost our way in the last 15 and it made the game interesting but we were comfortable and felt we deserved the win.”
Sydney Olympic FC 3 (O’Donovan 4’, 85’, Fitzgerald 88’)
APIA Leichhardt FC 5 (Stewart 35’, 45+3’, 65’, 71’ Armson 40’)
Saturday 5 August, 2023
Belmore Sports Ground
Referee: Sam Kelly
Assistant Referees: Matt Staples and Hugh Fenton-White
Fourth Official: Sophie Allum
Sydney Olympic FC: 3. Michael Neill, 5. Ziggy Gordan (C), 8. Sam Mcillhatton (9. Oliver Puflett 67’), 10. Darcy Burgess (6. Jack Simmons 83’), 11. Adam Parkhouse (29. Nick Fitzgerald 45’), 15. William Mutch (7. William Angel 83’), 18. Ruben Sanchez Marcano, 20. Christopher Parsons, 22. Fabio Ferreira (14. Michael Vakis 67’), 23. Jakob Cresnar, 99. Roy O’Donovan
Substitutes Not Used: 46. Lucas Pezzano
Yellow Cards: Simmons 90’
Red Cards: None
APIA Leichhardt FC: 1. Ivan Necevski, 4. Joshua Symons (6. Anthony Sparacino 67’), 7. Jack Stewart (8. Florent Indalecio 75’), 9. Jason Romero, 14. Jack Armson (17. Rory Jordan 67’), 15. Themba Muata-Marlow (3. Paul Galimi 67’), 16. Sean Symons (33. Joshua Lazzaro 79’), 18. Adrian Ucchino (C), 21. Michael Kouta, 23. Dakota Askew, 98. Franco Farinella
Substitutes Not Used: 12. Anthony Bouzanis
Yellow Cards: None
Red Cards: None
3 – Jack Stewart (APIA)
2 – Michael Kouta (APIA)
1 – Ruben Sanchez Marcano (SO)
By Jack George (@JackGeorge0004)