Sharks v Spirit

Round 16 report by Micky Brock
Sydney Olympic v Northern Spirit

Sydney Olympic may only have won by a penalty on paper but were it not for the heroics of Paul Henderson between the sticks for the visitors it would have been a far more significant drubbing here at OKI Jubilee Oval this afternoon.

With both teams sporting a 4-4-2 formation, Olympic kicked off the game in overcast but humid conditions without either side really posing any problems as they felt each other out and sought the weak link in the other's armour.

Nine minutes in and Stewart Petrie found Wayne O'Sullivan free and it was his chip over the Olympic defence that sent Macallister scampering down the right, into the box and the byline only to see his cross skid across the 6-yard box without a single Spirit player making the run. It was a story that would not improve as the game wore on.

The breakaway seemed to spark the home side into life with Bakis firstly stinging the palms of a diving Henderson before he again went close after good lead-up work from Elias Augerinos and Troy Halpin, perhaps playing his best football in a number of weeks.

Indeed it was Halpin who showed his class with a neatly flighted free-kick, after Jonathon Richter upended Hiroshi Ishida, to the back post where a soaring header from Michael Baird really should have had the ball bulging the net instead of whizzing harmlessly past the upright.

Ian Ferguson and Petrie combined to see a chip over the 'keeper from fully 20-yards resulting from yet another free-kick, by the latter that had Brett Hughes scrambling back in some panic until the ball was under his control in what was really the final attempt Spirit had in the 1st-half.

Bakis had yet another chance to break the deadlock when Augerinos again sent him on his way, only to see the ball go under the despairing dive of Henderson but wide of the post before Ferguson picked up a yellow card for a rough challenge on Halpin on the edge of the Spirit box after 33-minutes. Halpin laid the ball into the path of Augerinos but his shot sailed harmlessly over the bar by some distance.

The half concluded with no score being recorded but, in truth, a flattering scoreline for Spirit who simply didn't do enough and looked as though they were beginning to struggle.

Halpin didn't make an appearance for the second period and was replaced by Zenon Caravella. When asked afterwards this was because of injury the coach replied that Halpin had almost fainted in the dressing room the previous week as he was suffering from a very bad virus and he was simply taken off as a precaution as he was feeling quite low when he came off.

He went on to add that had the team been under the pump in the first stanza they end result might have been different but even without their inspirational play maker, Olympic players were confident they could get a victory.

Vuko Tomasevic lost the ball too easily in the opening seconds of the second-half and it would prove costly. George Goutzioulis found the ball at his feet but was bundled over in the box by Mark Milligan when really he should have been able to shepherd but the Olympic striker and the ball away from goal. Up stepped Baird to send Henderson the wrong way and plant the ball in the 'keeper's bottom right hand corner.

It was no more than Olympic deserved as they applied themselves far greater than the visiting side.

Pablo Cardozo and Caravella should have sewn up the points for Olympic with their respective efforts later on but Spirit were still clinging to the hope of finding an equalizer but they squandered perhaps their best chance moments earlier when Petrie managed to shrug George Souris off and cross from the left. The ball went behind Macallister as he made a dummy run to open up space for Richter who, with a shimmy and a shake managed to create fantastic opening only to mishit the shot completely from right in front.

Olympic picked up two cautions for time-wasting - Hughes and Iain Fyfe - and added a third name to the list when Predrag Bojic brought down John Hutchinson very late on, but had the match gone for another hour it was difficult to see where Spirit would find a goal from, such was their lackluster performance south of the bridge today.

Spirit coach Laurie Mckinna was candid with his after match words when saying: "The only player to put in a performance today was Paul Henderson. If it had not have been for him Olympic would have won by two or three more goals.

"Our wide men didn't really put in a cross for the entire 90-minutes and that simply isn't good enough. There are too many in the team at present who are sitting back waiting for someone else to do the hard yards and every time Macallister got forward there was no-one up with him, no-one was making any runs.

"I told Tomasevic not to give the ball away too cheaply during half-time and that is exactly what he did seconds into the second period. Out wide he was disposed and Goutzioulis ended up with the ball and the penalty, although I have no qualms that it was a penalty.

"All the news we've had about the club this week has been good and although things have been hard behind the scenes for a while, the players cannot use this as an excuse and neither will I. We simply didn't deserve to win this game and we didn't turn up to play. All credit to Olympic on their win, they fully deserved it."