The foul gifted Sydney Olympic a dramatic penalty to take all three points away from Wollongong with just 10-men on the pitch for the final 30 minutes.
Against all odds a brave Sydney Olympic picked themselves off the canvas on more than one occasion to win the ?battle? as described by Sydney Olympic coach Milan Blagojevic after the game.
The day was always going to be a tough affair with both sides pushing to solidify their semi-final bound placings, and on paper Sydney Olympic looked to be the strongest. Wollongong FC were without first-grade regulars Balla Conde (injury), Danial Cummins (suspension), Ilija Prenzoski (injury), Micheal Hawrysiuk (injury) and Alfredo Esteves, who was overseas for an invitational International match; whilst Sydney Olympic were without Shannon Cole and fielded pretty much a full strength side.
The match started in unfamiliar style for Wollongong FC when they opened their account in the game after only 3? minutes. Quite often this season it has been the Wolves that have conceded early but this time it was the visitors to stumble first.
A chance from next to nothing for Wollongong’s Osagie Ederaro saw the Olympic keeper Michael Herbet come off his line and look to collect the through-ball on the edge of his area but his hesitation to go beyond his area saw Ederaro stretch to get a toe on the ball and his strike beat the grasping hands of Herbet and sailed over his head and into the open net to send the Wolves ahead 1-0.
In their Round 2 clash Olympic midfielder Matthew Mayora was one of the major destroyers in their 4-0 defeat of Wollongong, and in the 13? minute it looked like he may menace the Wolves again when a perfectly executed cross from Iain Ramsay found the climbing head of Mayora but his powerful header flew over the bar and didn’t trouble the advancing Pasfield in goals.
Wollongong FC gave a debut to another up-and-coming WFC Junior in the form of Samet Kaynak, and his enthusiasm and pace early on was testing the Olympic defence. In the 19? minute Kaynak’s pace down the right saw him run at the Olympic defence and in a brilliant solo effort he beat three would-be defenders to turn them inside and out and then fired a rocket of a shot, which had Herbet beaten, but to Olympic’s good fortune the ball caught the post and fired back out to safety.
Just two minutes later Kaynak was at it again down the right and this time he fired in a dangerous cross to the far post and the climbing Lachlan Cahill was out-jumped by the Olympic defence but the ball fell to Chris Price who?s opportunistic shot flew wide of the mark.
The scores would be evened up in the 25? minute in somewhat bizarre circumstances when Olympic midfielder Chris Triantis scored from a lobbed shot outside the edge of the area.
Triantis collected the ball in the centre of the field and roughly five metres in front of the area with a wall of defenders in front of him and the goal but he gambled on a volley that sent shock waves through both teams and the crowd on hand.
All 22 players stood still and watched his lob, which at first glance looked to be sailing well over the bar, take a late dip and scrape inches under the cross bar and into the net. The moans of ?oh? from the stands was shared with the Wollongong FC players as they stood in disbelief to see the ball finish up where it did.
With the scores locked at 1-1 the two teams had one clear chance each before half-time, but it was solid defence for Olympic to firstly deny the strike of Matthew Bailey and then the outstretched fingers of Justin Pasfield to deny Mayora’s low drive just minutes later.
The first chance of the second-half went to Anthony Hartshorn for Olympic but his angled run in behind the Wolves defence was denied by the advancing Pasfield who blocked the attempted shot at goal. Minutes later Hartshorn was again unable to convert when good lead-up work with the constant threatening Paul Wither layed off to Hartshorn to shoot but his shot fired wide of the mark.
Moments later Wither again showed his strength and size as arguably the biggest forward in the League, climbing high above the Wolves defence to fire a header over the bar and wide. Wither’s constant battle with Wollongong FC’s Michael West was looking to be a contest for Man of the Match honours with every stride.
The match turned in the 63? minute when an awkward foul on Mitchell Long by Chris Triantis saw referee Srebre Delovski show Triantis his second yellow and subsequent red for an early shower.
The Wolves looked to take control with the man advantage for the remainder of the match but the extra man wasn’t utilised by the home-side.
As the match wore on the experience of the Olympic men were showing signs of a last gasp effort to steal the three points from the home team.
Wolves coach John Turner decided to throw 15-year old Corey Gameiro into the game with eleven minutes to go in the hope that the youngster’s pace would open up the weary defence but some telling substitutions from Milan Blagojevic and a restructure of his formation threw life into his team?s resolve.
At one stage in the dying minutes his forward Paul Wither was witnessed defending and bringing the ball forward from within his own half and this effort would be rewarded in the final seconds of a bruising match.
With the scores locked at 1-1 in the 90? minute the Fourth Official held up the 3? minute sign for stoppages and the game looked destined for a draw.
The substitutions for Olympic would be the difference in the end with the elusive Peter Zorbas making a desperate run into the area with just 10?? seconds remaining of the 3? minutes of stoppages and a penalty was awarded for Michael West’s challenge.
Jordanian international Siraj At-All stepped-up to the spot and made no mistake by beating the diving Pasfield who was yellow carded moments before the spot-kick in his response to the awarding of the penalty.
Sydney Olympic’s coach Milan Blagojevic was full of praise for his team after the match but commented on the ups and downs of the game:
?It was a scrappy first-half and our team should have taken their chances, but I was happy with the way we battled today.
?It was a real battle out there today?, he said.
Blagojevic praised the way his team fought back especially after the second yellow to Triantis:
?I thought we were flat after the send off but it took us about 10? minutes after that to get back into the game and I was happy with the way we fought back and the performance with the way our substitutions changed the game.?
For Wollongong FC it is back to the drawing board and coach John Turner, along with his players, were shell shocked with the final penalty to deny the draw:
?I would have been happy at 1-1 considering the injuries we have. We didn’t deserve to lose that one,? he ended.
Wollongong FC (Osagie Ederaro 3′)
Sydney Olympic 2 (Chris Triantis 25′, Siraj At-Tall 95′ (pen))
Venue: John Crehan Park, CRINGILA
Referee: Srebre Delovski
Assistant Referees: Brett Woodford, Michael Clisdell
Fourth Official: Miles Allen-Scott
Wollongong FC: 1. Justin PASFIELD; 3.
Substitutes Not Used: 20. Adam RODRIGUEZ (GK), 15. Jamie PITT, 16. Karouna MICHAEL
Yellow Cards: Osagie EDERARO 44′, Justin PASFIELD 94′
Red Cards: Nil
Sydney Olympic: 1. Michael HERBET; 3. Emmanuel ZUNINO, 4. Mirko JURILJ, 7. Milorad SIMONOVIC, 8. Paul WITHER, 9. Anthony HARTSHORN (Marino MUSUMECI 87′), 11. Carlo MUSUMECI, 15. Matthew MAYORA (22. Peter ZORBAS 76′), 16. Nathan SHERLOCK, 17. Iain RAMSAY (37. Siraj At-Tall 62′), 18. Chris TRIANTIS
Substitutes Not Used: 21. Nestor TSIOUSTAS (GK), 25. Emmanuel GIANNAROS
Yellow Cards: Chris TRIANTIS 26′, 63′;
Red Cards: Chris TRIANTIS 63′ (2nd Yellow)
3 ? Paul WITHER (SO)
2 ? Michael WEST (WFC)
1 ? Mirko JURILJ (SO)
-By Andrew Byron