Olympic v Falcons

Round 6 report by Charles Pickett
Sydney Olympic v Gippsland Falcons

The two loudest crowd responses to this game came before and after the contest. The first was the applause for new signing Mehmet Durakovic, who was introduced to the crowd pre-match. Part of the football diaspora produced by the Malaysian financial melt-down, the former International truly needed no introduction. He is quite a catch, and not just because Kimon s season-ending injury created a defensive vacancy.

The other loud response came at the end of the match, in the form of prolonged booing. It would be pointless to observe that Olympic has so far managed two wins and a draw at home this season, and are third on the table after six rounds. Not a bad start for a team still in the making.

True, they did not resemble likely champions, but the crowd reaction is less a product of this than a consequence of heightened expectations produced by the recent club privatisation and acquisition of high-profile coaching staff. Regardless of the club bank-balance, expectations have never been exactly low at Olympic. Given the newly professional status of the team, this season was always going to have an inbuilt tension. Should the team slip out of the top six, will the fans be similarly professional?

The other pre-match introduction may prove to be more significant. Adrian Cervinski was paraded, minus the neck-brace he has worn since a pre-season accident. Cervinski won t be playing until the new year, and this can't come soon enough. Despite plenty of activity on the flanks, Olympic continually failed to capitalise on the resulting crosses and corners. Someone with Cervinski s physical and aerial presence is desperately needed as a foil to the diminutive striking partnership of Tome and Cardozo.

Coming into this game, Gippland s season statistics were: scored four goals, conceded three. Which says just about all you need to know about them. Nonetheless, the Falcons refrained from camping behind the ball, concentrating on hard work and good organisation in midfield. A few desperate last-second tackles were necessary to keep Olympic out, but as the weight of expectations began to tell on the home side, Gippsland steadily crept into the game. Unlike Olympic, they were dangerous from crosses, Marko Perinovic hitting the bar midway through the first half.

Olympic s new keeper, Jim Kourtis, continues to struggle with crosses and anything aerial, seeming to punch rather than catch a little too often. Needless to say, the always-supportive Olympic fans hooted anything resembling an insecure moment from their keeper.

Still, Kourtis looks the part as a shot-stopper. He made two fantastic saves in the last few minutes of the game - one from Will Hastie was particularly good. Without Kourtis earning his pay, the visitors would have gone home with the points. That would have really produced something to boo about, yet a sense of relief was not evident. Anguished histrionics on the Falcons bench were the only obvious emotion.

By this time the Olympic faithful were perhaps ruing the substitution of an old favourite. Starting only as a result of Chris Kalantzis suspension, Eli Augerinos was one of Olympic s best during the first half, several times making and using space down the left. Despite this, only his errors drew a response. I liked Eli s insistence on applauding the crowd when substituted. He clearly has a sharper sense of humour than his detractors.

As well as Hastie, young Olyroo Archie Thompson stood out for the visitors. Despite the constant attentions of Peter Tsekenis, Thompson displayed the sort of flamboyant adventure not evident in his Olympic counterparts. Apart from a marvellous volley on the run, Pablo Cardozo produced little of note, and even that was hit straight at the keeper.

Later, Jason Culina made a promising surge to the edge of the Falcons box, but was left stranded when Cardozo failed to run into the ample space to Jason s right. This time the anguished histrionics came from Culina senior on the Olympic bench. Cardozo was dragged shortly afterwards, and will no doubt be more helpful to the bosses son in future! It was that sort of night.