It also came along with a dramatic penalty-shootout, as Olympic sealed a Tiger Turf Cup Final berth at the expense of TeleChoice Premier League leaders Sutherland Sharks, who were joined by Wollongong FC at the top as they defeated Sydney United in a rescheduled fixture playd on Saturday night also.
In cool conditions at the pictographic venue, the Sharks fought bravely with ten-men from the 73? minute following Pedj Bojic?s uncharacteristic second yellow card. Despite the numerical disadvantage, the Sharks created chances to claim a Finals berth though Sydney Olympic, who is certainly in great touch, clinched the win via the dreaded penalty-shootout.
The opening stages of the match provided many niggling fouls from both sides, though the Sharks were the first to penetrate their opponent?s defence.
Creative midfielder Nick Stavroulakis proved to be up for the challenge with an inch-perfect long-ball onto the chest of Brad Boardman. The Burly striker cleverly laid the ball off to Jim Bakis who in-turn fed Brendan Gan on the far post. The new Sydney FC signing though failed to get a good first touch on his way towards goal and his attempted cut-back finished over the goal-line.
Sydney Olympic?s first chance of note arrived following some good hassle by Paul Wither. The Blues midfielder delivered a precise cross to Chris Triantis on the back post – his half-volley finished well-over the cross bar.
On 17? minutes, Emmanuel Zunino?s venture down the left-flank provided the Blues an attacking option. Zunino floated a pin-point effort onto the head of Matthew Mayora ? the striker?s glancing header was exceptionally well saved by Phillip Zabaks, down to his left.
With Sydney Olympic getting on top of possession in their opponents half, the Sharks relied greatly on the counter-attack. On 22? minutes, the Sharks? quick movement out of defence almost provided the opening goal. A swift move from the back-line played Stavroulakis into some space in the Blues? half; from the edge of the penalty-area, the Sharks? number 14?s effort finished agonisingly wide of Michael Herbert?s right-hand post.
On 35? minutes, following a Sharks? counter-attack well thwarted by Michael Herbert, Sutherland?s Phillip Zabaks came off his line to divert a Sydney Olympic counter-attack. Outside of his penalty-area, Zabaks anticipated Paul Wither, though was collected by the Blues? midfielder; leaving the Sharks? custodian ?worse for wear? on the surface.
Zabaks remained a little shaky following some medical attention, and his presence for the remainder of the match was certainly under question when he went down again following a fine save from a Milorad Simonovic effort just before the break ? the half ended goal-less.
As expected, Zabaks did not return for the second-half, allowing youngster Matt Brandalise the chance to show his worth for the senior Sharks? team.
The second period saw a much more aggressive Sharks side take the match to Sydney Olympic, as Brendan Gan found his way behind the Blues? defence following an exquisite through ball by Bakis.
Gan?s diagonal effort from the right-side of the penalty-area was well-parried by Herbert.
The chance of the match fell to the lively Nick Stavroulakis in the 54? minute. A lobbed effort into the penalty-area fell into the path of Stavroulakis who was left totally un-marked. With only the goalkeeper to beat, Stavroulakis hit a venomous snap-shot effort from point-blank range only for Herbert to block with his feet before the defence cleared to safety.
At the other-end, a scuffle broke out following a foul by Pedj Bojic, the referee with no choice but to yellow card the talented defender ? along with Brad Boardman and Matthew Mayora ? the main offenders following the fracas.
The resulting free-kick was swung into the penalty-area and following a series of exchanges inside the 18-yard box, the ball fell into the path of Mayora who with a lunging effort from point-blank range called upon Brandalise to produce a remarkable save with his first real involvement in the match.
On 68? minutes, Brandalise again proved he was up for the challenge as he turned over a long-range ?bullet? from Milorad Simonovic with a finger-tip save.
Following Pedj Bojic?s second yellow card, and consequent send-off, Sydney Olympic gained momentum and peppered the Sharks defence in search of a winning goal.
Paul Wither?s strength and speed down the right provided Mayora with what seemed a routine tap-in following his run to the near post. Brandalise again proved his worth with an expert save down to his left.
Brandalise?s weak point though seemed to be his handling of crosses, and the Blues almost caught the Sharks? shot-stopper out on 86? minutes. A cross from the left was dropped by Brandalise ? who was forced to chase the ball down, leaving his goal unattended. Bakis reacted quickest and unleashed a ferocious drive towards goal, only for substitute David Reid to head away from safety.
At the other end, Sharks? substitute Matthew Hall found the back of the net with a perfectly timed lob over the advancing Michael Herbert. The referee ruled out the goal due to an offside flag.
Extra-time was confirmed when the final chance of the ninety-minutes went begging for Sydney Olympic. Jin Kim?s ambitious ?half bicycle kick? effort following a series of failed clearances from the Sharks defence finished over the crossbar.
The Sharks? attacking hopes in the extra-time period relied greatly on the speed of Matthew Hall, and in-fact, the ten-men would find the opener via their ?speedster?.
A swift Sharks? counter-attack saw Hall chest the searching long-ball from defence into the path of Gan. The Sharks? midfielder created the goal with his composure on the ball, picking out Hall on his left, before the number 10 cut inside onto his right foot and drove home a low effort into the bottom left-hand corner.
The brave efforts of the Sharks? players would come undone in the second-period of extra-time as a corner from the left was headed goalwards by Paul Wither. Despite Nick Stavroulakis? attempted clearance, the referee and his assistant determined that the ball had crossed the line and the goal was awarded.
The final chance fell to Wither again. His snap-shot effort from the penalty-spot following a Zunino cut-back finished well and truly over.
Tiger Turf Cup semi-final number 1 would then be decided by the dreaded penalty-shootout.
Following Jim Bakis? penalty conversion for Sutherland, Shannon Cole saw his effort parried by Brandalise down to his left.
Neil Jablonski, Anthony Doumanis, George Souris and Peter Zorbas each converted their penalties, before Michael Herbert had Olympic back in the contest with a fine save of Michael Katz?s effort. Mayora drew the Blues level with the next penalty, before Nick Stavroulakis? miss handed the advantage to Sydney Olympic.
With one final penalty conversion required for Sydney Olympic, Milorad Simonovic totally missed his shot, shooting past Brandalise?s right-hand post.
David Reid found the back of the net for the Sharks before Blues? captain Mirko Jurilj audaciously chipped his effort past Brandalise in a carbon copy of Francesco Totti?s EURO 2000 effort for Italy against Holland.
Michael Herbert then parried Matthew Hall?s attempt, before Michael Jurman ensured Sydney Olympic a spot in the Final with his penalty conversion ? sparking scenes of content amongst the Sydney Olympic players and supporters.
Sydney Olympic boss Milan Blagojevic expressed his content at the conclusion of the match:
?I am very happy with the result, we have reached our second Final of the season (following Johnny Warren Cup).
?We played well throughout, even though I am disappointed with conceding the goal we did. We were attacking, we had the ball in possession, yet we lost it against ten-men and conceded a goal against the run of play ? that was the only disappointment for me.
?It is difficult to win or lose on penalties, though I am proud of each and everyone of the boys for their efforts, and we?ll give it our all to win this trophy ? without losing sight of our League ambitions.?
Asked about Captain Mirko Jurilj?s penalty, Blagojevic could only smile:
?I had no idea he would try to take his penalty in that way. You need a lot of courage to do something like that. He executed it perfectly and we are all extremely happy with the outcome.?
Brian Brown was visibly disappointed with the loss, yet remains upbeat with a Premiership still up for the taking:
?Disappointed with the result – absolutely. Penalties are like a lottery, so that can go anywhere. In-terms of our performance, I can?t falter my players. They gave their all and we are extremely happy with that aspect.
?We did go down to ten-men which is very frustrating for the way it happened, though on the whole we played to the best of our ability.
?We now must focus on the Premiership ? Wollongong FC won tonight, so we will need to win our next match next weekend, and we?ll then give Wollongong a very difficult match in the final Round of the season.?
Sutherland Sharks 1 (Matthew Hall 104?)
Sydney Olympic 1 (Paul Wither 107?)
*1-1 after extra-time. Sydney Olympic won the match on penalties ? 5-4.
Venue: Seymour Shaw
Referee: Matt Gillett
Assistant Referees: Sarah Ho and Allyson Flynn
Fourth Official: David Morris
Crowd: Approx. 1,000
Sutherland Sharks: 99. Phillip Zabaks (21. Matt Brandalise 46?); 2. George Souris, 3. Brendan Gan, 4. Pedj Bojic, 15. Michael Katz, 38. Mike Robinson, 7. Jim Bakis, 8. David Huxley (22. David Reid 85?), 9. Brad Boardman (10. Matt Hall 85?), 14. Nick Stavroulakis, 39. Neil Jablonski
Substitutes Not Used: 20. Jim Lawrence, 37. Jim Nikas
Yellow Cards: Nick Stavroulakis 12?, Pedj Bojic 59?, 73?,
Red Cards: Pedj Bojic 73?
Sydney Olympic: 1. Michael Herbert; 14. Shannon Cole, 4. Mirko Jurilj, 73. Michael Jurman, 3. Emmanuel Zunino, 7. Milorad Simonovic, 6. Roger Galayini (22. Peter Zorbas 90?), 15. Matthew Mayora, 18. Chris Triantis (10. Anthony Doumanis 65?), 9. Anthony Hartshorn (32. Jin Kim 81?), 8. Paul Wither
Substitutes Not Used: 37. Siraj Al-Tall, 20. Sam Emmanouil (RGK)
Yellow Cards: Paul Wither 37?, Matthew Mayora 59?, Emmanuel Zunino 70?, Jin Kim 87?, Peter Zorbas 25?
Red Cards: Nil
3 ? Paul Wither (SO)
2 ? Nick Stavroulakis (SS)
1 ? Mirko Jurilj (SO)
Penalty shoot-out sequence:
BAKIS – GOAL.
COLE ? SAVED.
JABLONSKI ? GOAL.
DOUMANIS ? GOAL.
SOURIS ? GOAL.
ZORBAS ? GOAL.
KATZ ? SAVED.
MAYORA ? GOAL.
STAVROULAKIS ? SAVED.
SIMONOVIC ? MISSED.
REID ? GOAL.
JURILJ ? GOAL.
HALL ? SAVED.
JURMAN ? GOAL.
-By Joseph Carlucci