Sydney Olympic had a relieving win in front of their home crowd today thanks to a top class strike by young Socceroo Michael Baird. And considering the conditions the crowd was good & and appreciative. It was so windy up in the stand, looking out across Botany Bay, that the pages were tearing from my notebook. There was a reasonable selection of food at the canteen and the pies were mercifully hot. The pitch looked a bit moth-eaten but not too bad. Both coaches approved. Just a shame about the chilly wind.
Olympic looked better to begin with. Capitalising on an error by Franco Parisi, Olympic made a quick break down the right, Hiroyuki Ishida passing to Baird, but David Huxley blocked the cross. Olympic's Scott Baillie was good dispossessing Parisi on a break into the left of Olympic's penalty area. A cross from Paul Kohler, playing in midfield, almost found the bandaged Baird. Then, quickly back in defence, Kohler blocked a cross from Anthony Doumanis. Both sides were playing rubbish; giving away easy ball.
In the tenth minute United' strong but not-quite-speedy Antoni Zmire centred to Huxley who shot wide from distance. Two minutes later after a sustained spell of Olympic possession Ante Juric shot from 20 metres in front of goal and missed, just wide to the right. Juric was then very good shutting down Zmire after Zmire took advantage of an Olympic error and was heading goalward. Olympic were making some very silly, pointless, dangerous passes around the backline.
In the 18th minute Damon Collina headed off the line after Olympic scrambled around Uniteds penalty area looking for a shooting opportunity. Liam Reddy was particularly good coming out when Olympic looked most dangerous attacking into the left of the box. Dean Heffernan almost got onto a Mathew Langdon cross from the right; but it was deflected just past the post for a corner.
Olympic looked great on the counter, but were eventually stopped by a foul on Zenon Caravella. The Pablo Cardozo free kick was deflected off a defender' back just wide of goal. From the corner a good chance was headed hard by Iain Fyfe, but down to Reddy who took two grabs to hold the ball.
Olympic were soon on the attack again, with Joseph Schirripa benefiting from a United defensive gaffe and Reddy making a fine reflex save. Collina got rough with Ishida, Baird got a chance thanks to a Collina passing error, then Collina made a good tackle to stop Caravella breaking down the right. Kohler was good getting around Doumanis and working with Jim Bakis but Collina cut out Kohler' cross.
United were again lucky clearing a cross from the right that Reddy, coming off his line, barely got his fingertips to. Baird had a crack that sailed too high. In the 35th minute Parisi was brought down 25 metres from goal. Langdon' free kick was heading to the top right corner but Peco Trajcevski did extremely well to leap and palm it out. Schirripa, on the left, almost got the ball in the path of Bakis; but soon Langdon was down the right, keeping the ball from crossing the line before chipping it back for Parisi who arrived at the near post and shot wide.
Zmire played wide right to Parisi whose cross was blocked by Schirripa. The corner fell untouched into the goal box. Schirripa, then on the attack, cut in from the right, beat two players and shot low. Reddy saved. Just before half time Heffernan earned a yellow card for bringing down Ishida. Zmire switched to Langdon who passed into Parisi. Parisi turned on his defender but shot far off target. Olympic came back after the break with more resolve.
In the first minute of the second half Kohler cut in from the left across the front of the United penalty area, fighting off one tackle before shooting just over the crossbar. Mark Rudan stopped Baird chasing a chip into the box. In the 50th minute Bakis volleyed with power over the crossbar. For United, Langdon crossed from the right and Zmire, with a diving header, lobbed the ball over the Olympic crossbar. Rudan was good for a big fella chasing back after Bakis. Doumanis let Juric through for a shot & wide. Then Doumanis had a rare victory over Collina but Kohler was cool as you please playing out of defence.
Michael Cunico seemed to be having a dog of a game. Every time he got near the ball he was destined to give away a free kick. A bit like Parisi who earned his yellow for a snap at the heels of a player whod just rounded him. In the 62nd minute Baird struggled through a tackle from Huxley (who fell awkwardly and had to be replaced) and found space and time for a long, low shot that eluded the diving Reddy. Zeljko Babic, replacing Zmire, put more pressure on Baillie, but the Olympic backline held. Joe Vrkic was good stopping Bakis chasing a long through ball. Collina had a few, desperate but vain attempts to put away a United corner, then United scrambled clear an Olympic corner at the other end.
In the 77th minute Schirripa hit a good low cross from the left but Bakis was stopped by a fine tackle. The clearance only fell to Ishida who messed a chance, running into space and blasting high. Just before full time the frustrated Doumanis earned a yellow for angrily bouncing the ball in front of referee Simon Micallef; then he ot his marching orders for racing 15 metres to make a crazy tackle. Collina had some good moments against Ishida and some Babic persistence won United a free kick in a good position, but this was not going to be United' day.
Olympic coach Peter Papanikitas thought, despite the windy conditions, his team avoided the elementary mistakes committed the previous week against Spirit. "t has taken time for the boys to understand exactly what we want. They worked very hard during the week. They were embarrassed last week by the poor performance". He said he didn't think Olympic kept the ball enough against Northern Spirit and using Pablo Cardozo as a pivot had slowed things down a bit. He thought Olympic had the better of the first half and could have been up two or three goals. His defence performed better, he said, with a bit of experience. "Scottie Baillie had a big game and Iain Fyfe gave us that extra mobility and also strength in the air, he's quite brilliant. I think Ante (Juric) played with those two guys quite well. And the goalkeeper became a lot more confident with those two blokes ahead of him". He said he was happy with Kohler's performance, saying he had a good game. "I think he gives us that sort of bite that we needed today in the middle of the park. We lost nothing by having Paul there, he did quite well".
United coach Grant Lee said his side hadn't turned up to play. He thought his inexperienced players did not benefit from having a week off and in fact lost the momentum of their second half against Kingz two weeks earlier. He thought there were patches where his team took control but over the 90 minutes of football United were not involved in the game. He said Olympic were always going to be a dangerous side. "There are no easy-beat teams in this league, especially for us. Olympic have good footballers all across the park & They are smart boys, especially in conditions like these. We were a little bit na´ve, didn't know how to hang onto the ball, gave away possession too cheaply. Just silly things".