Sydney Olympic won a scrappy, hard fought battle at OKI Jubilee Oval this afternoon to record their first win in front of their home fans by the solitary goal of the game in sunny but treacherously windy conditions.
Michael Baird, who this evening jets out to the UAE with the young Socceroos, scored perhaps a contender for goal of the season in the 63rd minute with a peach of a goal. After riding a rough challenge from United's David Huxley, he continued to take the ball on before unleashing a beautiful curling right footed shot from the edge of the box that Liam Reddy had no chance of reaching.
It was little more than the home side deserved after controlling much of a match that was littered with errors but very few fouls. Huxley fell awkwardly in the challenge and appeared to have dislocated his left shoulder but was later confirmed as an AC Joint problem that could see him out for three weeks.
It wasn't what coach Grant Lee needed with a very small and inexperienced squad that will see Obay out for another week after his sending off and Anthony Doumanis out for collecting two yellow cards in the space of 30-seconds toward the end of the match.
Inexperience showed in the player when in the 88th minute he was cautioned for dissent when throwing the ball on the ground after a referee, Simon Micallef, decision. To compound matters he was shown a second yellow and, consequently the red card, thirty seconds later for a rash challenge, his frustration boiling over.
Two moments of brilliance, apart from the goal, brightened an otherwise strangely contested game.
The first came from a Pablo Cardozo free-kick which was powerfully struck and looped up off the wall and went agonizingly wide of the 'keepers left-hand upright for a corner that was eventually cleared but not before Reddy had to knock a resultant cross up into the air from a Jim Bakis point blank effort before re-gathering above his head.
The second was another free-kick effort, this time by Sydney United. Matthew Langdon fired a shot in from 20-metres out that was dipping under the crossbar before Peco Trajcevski managed to tip the ball over. It was a mercurial effort matched only by the reactions of the Olympic custodian.
Chances came and went but a lack of imagination from both sides in the windy conditions meant a single goal was all that was needed to settle the result. Both Olympic and United can play better but as an early season game played in atrocious conditions it was entertaining enough.
Olympic Coach, Peter Papanikitas said ... "We worked very hard in training all last week after our defeat to Northern Spirit and I thought we played very well in the 1st-half today, especially against the wind and when considering this is only our third match together. Michael Baird will miss next weeks match against Marconi as he is away on Young Socceroo duty and he heads straight to the airport from here. When a player so desperately wants to play for his club side before jetting out I feel you must encourage that commitment and repay it also. I thought Pablo Cardozo played a pivotal role for us today after moving him to act as the link between midfield and the forwards and Iain Fyfe gave us a little more mobility at the back which enabled Peco (Trajcevski) to regain some of his confidence between the sticks."
United Coach, Grant Lee, added .... "There are no easy beat teams in the NSL, especially for a club like ours which neither has a large squad nor an experienced one. Having the bye after the Kingz match didn't help us because the young guys must have felt like they were on a bit of a holiday after that win and it showed in our performance today. It took us a long time to settle today and we simply didn't turn up to play 90-minutes of football today. I have to put that down to the inexperience in the side but it's something we will cope and deal with. Regarding the Doumanis send-off, you have to say it was stupid football, dumb play. He became frustrated about the way things were going and he let that boil over. It's understandable in young players but you cannot condone it of course. He will learn a valuable lesson from this."