Rockdale City Suns sent Sydney Olympic’s finals hopes spiralling with a 2-0 victory in their PlayStation®4 NPL NSW Mens clash at Seymour Shaw Park on Sunday night.
Olympic goalkeeper Paul Henderson turned in a brilliant man of the match performance but the 75th minute dismissal of Rwanda born defender Jean-Pierre Hakiri enabled the Suns’ Peter Makrillos and Aleksandar Canak to steal the spoils.
The win ended a horror run of results for Rockdale and tied up fourth spot for Paul Reid’s side.
A boisterous crowd and a place in the finals proved to be an explosive concoction as both teams played with a vigour befitting such a critical match.
Both teams pressed early with efforts by Rockdale’s Toufic Alameddine and Olympic’s Joshua Gaspari providing early excitement for the fans despite not troubling the scoreboard.
The Suns had a golden opportunity to open the scoring when in the ninth minute a pinpoint Blake Ricciuto free kick was headed wide by Idriss El Hafiane.
Rockdale created a number of goal-scoring chances in the first 15 minutes but couldn’t capaitalise with Alameddine and Ricciuto causing mayhem with their physicality and skill.
In the 17th minute, Suns’ player coach Paul Reid sent a great ball to Ricciuto who showed sublime skill inside the box, before passing to a teammate. The opportunity eventually cleared the bar.
A minute later, Olympic’s Howard Fondyke hit wide a long range volley, one of the few shots on target by the home side.
As dominant as the Suns were, Olympic stopper Jean-Pierre Hakiri marshalled his troops well, intervening with a timely tackle or clearing header and distributing well; while evergreen goalkeeper Paul Henderson was, as always, rock solid between the sticks.
In the 25th minute Olympic’s Jake Green attempted a shot from the left, but it was a harmless effort that skewed wide.
A minute later a dangerous Suns cross from the left was parried by Henderson, with the move ultimately cleared off the line.
Rockdale continued to string together some lovely passages of play while Olympic seemed to be out of sorts and struggled to make an impact. An errant pass here, sloppy control there, the home side were just a little off colour.
The rain started falling on the half hour mark and Alameddine set off on a brilliant run before passing to Ricciuto. Alameddine then hit a rasping shot that took a wicked deflection, only for the evergreen Henderson to pull off a brilliant save.
In the 34th minute Rockdale hit the side netting but it was Olympic who probably had the best chance of the opening half when in the 43rd minute Joshua Gaspari sent in an inch-perfect cross to an unmarked Harris Gaitatzis, who failed to beat Suns keeper Andrew Bazi from point blank range.
The first half may have lacked a goal but it certainly wasn’t lacking in passion and intensity, with the Suns the sharper and more dangerous side.
After the restart, Olympic seemed to awake from their first half slumber. Two minutes into the half, Fondyke hit a long range speculator that was well saved by Bazi, and two minutes later, Henderson was again in action, thwarting yet another Rockdale raid.
With almost an hour of play gone, Hakiri leapt high above the Suns defence to nod a corner goalwards but somehow the ball sailed wide. Yet another golden opportunity that went to waste.
Two minutes later Henderson again showed his brilliance, stopping yet another raid by the Suns. He was called upon again a moment later, deflecting a Makrillos effort wide of the target.
Things got heated when Hakiri brought down Makrillos from behind, receiving a yellow card for his troubles. Then in the 69th minute Suns keeper Bazi dived low to snuff out a dangerous low cross by Gaitatzis.
Things were hotting up. In the 73rd minute courageous Suns keeper Bazi was replaced by David Bradasevic after suffering an injury.
Two minutes later, the complexion of the game changed completely when Hakiri received his marching orders for a second yellow card.
Hakiri’s dismissal seemed to invigorate Rockdale, who just a minute later opened the scoring through Makrillos. Pandemonium erupted as the Suns celebrated with a fervour equal to the passion of their fans.
Rockdale started to dominate, launching numerous raids on the Olympic goal. Bradasevic showed his worth when in the 81st minute he put his body between the goal and a rasping long range effort by Olympic.
Rockdale kept coming and in the 85th minute Ricciuto hit first time from inside the box but again Henderson was up to the task, denying the bushy haired midfielder a goal. Controversy erupted when referee Adrian Arndt waved away Olympic claims for a penalty.
In a twinkling, Rockdale launched a lightning-fast counter-attack that led to an Aleksandar Canak goal, extending the Suns’ lead to 2-0.
Rockdale player coach Paul Reid was very pleased with his side.
“It was a really good performance by us and I guess it could have even been more than 2-0,” he said. “I guess they did get a player sent off but before that we were the dominant side. It was a really impressive performance by us and something we’ll take into the semis.
“I think we pressured them well. We had a game plan and the boys stuck to it. We knew how Olympic would play and we put them under pressure from the start. We were on the front foot and we did create a lot of chances tonight, especially in the first half, but we didn’t put them away. Two nil is a great result for us, another clean sheet and as I said, we’ll take this form into the semis.”
Meanwhile, Olympic coach Grant Lee rued a missed opportunity.
“I think the first half we were a little bit disjointed,” he said. “We’ve had a lot of things happen off the park this week, which probably distracted us a little bit and also changed our formation. We lost two of our key players, a centre back and midfielder, which upset the midfield rotation. But to be fair to Rockdale, they worked very hard in the midfield and they were playing their one-twos and moving, while we weren’t tracking their runners well enough. They caused us a few problems.
“Second half we came out and rectified that and did really well until Jean-Pierre was sent off, which I thought was (a) soft (decision). Then of course they score a free kick from it and at a man down and a goal down I think we responded really well. Changed our shape, had a really good go at them, and created a lot of opportunities. Then there was the non-penalty decision and they scored on the counter. But it is what it is. The boys played well and I don’t think we deserved to lose 2-0.”
Sydney Olympic FC 0
Rockdale City Suns 2 (Makrillos 77’, Canak 87’)
Sunday 7 August 2016.
Seymour Shaw Park, Miranda
Referee: Adrian Arndt
Assistant Referees: Lance Greenshields, Mitch Clark
Fourth Official: Jarryd McFarlane
Sydney Olympic FC: 1. Paul HENDERSON (GK), 2. Brayden SORGE, 6. Mitch STAMATELLIS, 7. William ANGEL, 8. Howard FONDYKE, 10. Harris GAITATZIS, 14. Jake GREEN (4. Leigh EGGER 84’), 16. Oliver GREEN (3. Anthony TOMELIC 52’), 67. Jean-Pierre HAKIRI, 90. Joshua GASPARI, 92. Christopher GLIGOR.
Unused Subs: 20. Denver CRICKMORE, 37. Eoin MONTFORD, 82. Nikita ANDRICOPOULOS
Coach: Grant LEE
Yellow Cards: Jean-Pierre HAKIRI (63’, 75’)
Red Cards: Jean-Pierre HAKIRI (75’)
Coach: Grant LEE
Rockdale City Suns: 22. Andrew BAZI (GK – David BRADASEVIC 73’), 2. Daniel PETKOVSKI, 4. Trent MCCLENAHAN, 5. Paul REID, 6. Blake RICCIUTO, 8. Aleksandar CANAK, 10. Peter MAKRILLOS (7. Alec UROSEVSKI 89’), 12. Idriss EL HAFIANE, 15. Nicholas PETRILLO, 17. Toufic ALAMEDDINE (11. Hristijan TANOSKI 85’), 19. Patrick SAVOR.
Unused Subs: 14. Alek LEKOVSKI, 16. Isaac SAVOR,
Player Coach: Paul REID
Yellow Cards: 12. Idriss EL HAFIANE (65’), 6. Blake RICCIUTO (90+4)
Red Cards: N/A
Coach: Paul REID
– By Derek Royal, PS4 National Premier Leagues NSW Men’s Reporter.