Hills United FC caused major shockwaves after the newly promoted National Premier Leagues Men’s NSW side defeated a star-studded Sydney Olympic outfit 2-1 as Luke Casserly’s men played the majority of the match with ten-men at Belmore Sports Ground.
Hills United’s Japanese import Yu Okubo stunned the hosts with a well taken goal in the first half before Nicolai Muller was given his marching orders in the 34th minute.
Olympic thought they had the game in the bag after that but thought wrong as Hills pushed the Blues but the home side thought they got a point following Roy O’ Donovan’s penalty in the 86th minute.
The match then turned on its head two minutes later as Eion Montford stole all three points and a famous first up victory with a penalty of his own downing Labinot Haliti’s men in front of their crowd.
The action started early for Olympic as Darcy Burgess sent one narrowly wide of the upright for the new look home side after good work from Will Mutch down the right created an opening after two minutes.
It was Casserly’s troops that hit the lead however as Okubo opened the scoring by sliding the ball under an advancing Noah James in the 8th minute that stunned Haliti and the home crowd.
Montford gave Olympic a warning moments earlier when rising at the back post to flash a header wide of the woodwork.
Jaden Casella, a recent recruit to the home ranks, forced Ryan Wood into a fine save with a trademark curling effort in the 11th minute as the game began to turn into an end-to-end contest.
But luck wasn’t with Olympic when Ziggy Gordon limped off after 16’ minutes to be replaced by debutante Teng Kuol who immediately slotted in at right-back.
Adam Parkhouse pulled the ball back for O’Donovan midway through the half with the usually reliable striker uncharacteristically almost putting the ball out for a throw from just inside the area. It was a well worked move with only the finish lacking.
Daniel Petkovski, returning to the top-flight after departing Rockdale Ilinden early last season had a tough start to his new career with Hills as the big defender limped off to be replaced by Daniel Belkadi after just twenty-seven minutes.
The match took another twist when former Central Coast Mariners German star Nicolai Muller went in high on Burgess to receive his marching orders, after consultation with the sideline official, reducing Hills to 10-men after thirty-four minutes.
Olympic had been starting to assert some pressure but now had the advantage of the extra man for almost an hour of play. Casella and O’Donovan were both being flagged for offside in an attempt to exploit the resulting gaps.
Yet it was Belkadi who brought a fine save out of James in the 39th minute when he was put through down the right via Sunday Yona as the visitors pushed for a second but failed to capitalise from the corner.
Hills skipper Glen Kelshaw came close with a header in first-half stoppage time for United but the score remained 1-0 at the break for Casserly’s men.
Half-time substitutions were made by both sides, Jackson Bandiera replacing Will Mutch for Olympic and Tommy Makko coming in for Yona on the opposing end.
Olympic were pressing constantly however United looked more than troublesome when hitting on the counter albeit much of the play was inside their own half with tiring legs as the match drew on.
Politis, cautioned earlier, limped off and Burgess made way as Haliti threw on fresh legs with twenty-five minutes remaining hoping to salvage something as his side struggled to break down a ten-men Hills squad.
Oliver Pufflet and O’Donovan probed across the front-line resulting in Wood and his defence pulling off a few valiant saves and blocks with Olympic coming home strongly.
O’Donovan should have done better when going through only for Wood to smother but it may have had more to do with the surface than the home striker in the 70th minute yet the home side were finding openings at regular intervals without putting them away.
A free-kick on the edge of the area in a central position gave Olympic hope in the 73rd minute that Kuol slid under the wall but went agonisingly wide of the post leaving both the player and team-mates with their heads in their hands.
Indeed, desperate defending was the order of the day in the latter stages with everyone threw their bodies in the way of Olympic attacks. A sterling effort from the new kids on the block particularly when Montford chased back to deflect Parkhouse’s shot out for a corner in the 79th minute.
With Hills’ tanks nearing empty, it remained to be seen if they could hold out for the remaining actions of the match and retain the precious three points they held.
It wasn’t to be when Olympic were awarded a penalty with five minutes remaining that saw O’Donovan step up for the spot-kick and plant the ball past the gallant Wood to restore parity.
But if that wasn’t enough for a single ninety minutes, it didn’t end there when the hapless Kuol gave away another penalty at the other end in the 88th minute that was duly converted by Montford for Hills to retake the lead.
In the end, Montford’s penalty proved to be the winning goal of the game.
It was an unforgettable day for Hills United who picked up its first NPL Men’s NSW win defeating one of the league’s heavyweights, something coach Luke Casserly was delighted about.
“I’m delighted for everyone connected with this club,” he enthused.
“Six or seven years ago we weren’t even an NPL status so the work everyone has done over that period to now be in the highest League we can be in and playing a big traditional club like Sydney Olympic and come away with the win, I’m just so rapt for all the fantastic people involved with Hills United.
“The work ethic from the team after the sending off cannot be praised highly enough, how strict and disciplined we were in our structure was brilliant.
“We felt the penalty against us was a little tough, a ricochet in the box but our heads didn’t drop in adversity and we went up the other end and got one of our own so it was a crazy finish to the match that will be talked about but credit to the boys for sticking to the task in hand, persevering for long periods against a strong Olympic side and battling for the win.
“I’m a very proud Coach this afternoon.”
Sydney Olympic FC coach Labinot Haliti was unavailable post-match with is parting words being “No Comment.”
Sydney Olympic: 1 (Roy O’Donovan 86’p)
Hills United FC: 2 (Yu Okubo 8’, Eoin Montford 88’p)
Belmore Sports Ground, Belmore
Referee: Logan Jones
Assistants: Chabel Geha and Luke Chapman
Fourth: Hayden Kaye
Sydney Olympic: 1. Noah James, 2. Peter Politis (19. Gianni De Pizio 65’), 5. Ziggy Gordon (18. Teng Kuol 16’), 7. Jaden Casella (9. Oliver Pufflet 60’), 8. Sam McIllhatton, 10. Darcy Burgess (17. Abraham Majok 65’), 11. Adam Parkhouse, 12. Zac Zoricich 15. Will Mutch (23. Jackson Bandiera 46’), 29. George Antonis, 99. Roy O’Donovan
Subs Not Used: 20. Chris Parsons
Yellow Cards: 2. Peter Politis 50’, 23. Jackson Bandiera 86’
Red Cards: Nil
Hills United FC: 1. Ryan Wood, 4. Brian Jamba, 5. Daniel Petkovski (10. James Belkadi 27’)( 7. Wade Giovenali 76’), 6. Saac Hovar, 8. Eoin Montford, 9. Yu Okubo (11. Anthony Frangie 76’), 13. Cam Philp, 17. Caleb Jackson-Brown, 19. Glen Kelshaw, 24. Sunday Yona (26. Tommy Makko 46’), 27. Nicolai Muller
Subs Not Used: 15. Noah Casserly, 21. Emlyn Cross
Yellow Cards: Luke Casserly (Coach) 88’
Red Cards: 27. Nicolai Muller 34’
3 – Eoin Montford (HUFC)
2 – Yu Okubo (HUFC)
1 – Adam Parkhouse (SO)
By NPL Mens NSW Reporter Micky Brock