Parramatta Power survived 25 minutes of Sydney Olympic bombardment to seize the initiative and never let it go in winning 3-1 despite being reduced to 10 men early in the 2nd half. The generally dour game had its moments of drama however.
Coach David Mitchell, with any remaining hopes of a top 6 spot scattered by the last two week's hammerings by Brisbane and South Melbourne, fielded an attacking looking team including young legs in Matthew Thompson and Luke Roodenburg up front.
Sydney Olympic, closing fast on a top two spot after its own run of good form and rival slip-ups, were brimming with confidence as they took the field.
Local junior teams whose obvious enjoyment in the occasion was infectious entertained a somewhat better Sunday crowd of 4,179 including a good travelling contingent of Olympic fans. Why however do National Youth League games keep disappearing without notice?
Despite instructions from David Mitchell to "hold them off for the first 10-15 minutes and see if we can snatch one" Power found an opportunity as early as the 1st min to get the ball wide and win a free-kick.
Damian Brown knocked a ball into the area for Joel Griffiths. Griffiths was tackled as he went for the ball and was hit hard in the head and fell awkwardly. Within minutes he regained some balance but was substituted as a hamstring injury became apparent.
Joe Miller, back after 3 weeks out injured, came on and Power slipped into the role the coach had set for them. In fact the Power defence took on a fortress look with up to 6 across the back as Olympic pushed men forward. Parramatta was not afraid to defend their fortress either, evidence by an early poleaxing of Kresimir Marusic by David Barrett.
If Olympic breeched the wall Power 'keeper Andrew Crews was equal to the task taking an early shot from Pablo Cardozo easily.
Goutzioulis hit a long range shot over at the 13th min and a few minutes later Crews came out quickly to smother the ball at Marusic's feet after he was played through beating the offside trap. It was all Sydney Olympic in the midfield.
At last Power had weathered the early storm and put their noses over the halfway line. Milan Blagojevic put Joe Miller away on the right but his cross was cut out.
Ahmad Elrich made his first run forward in the 25th min and after the ball was delivered in to the Olympic goal area and cleared it fell to Peter Bennett at range. His stinging shot deflected slightly off Troy Halpin as it bypassed Clint Bolton and slotted into the right had corner of the goal. Power had 'snatched and grabbed' the lead.
Sydney Olympic have been in this position before but acted like rabbits caught in the spot light. Matthew Thompson got in a shot that Bolton held well, and then Elrich forced a corner.
As Power pushed up Olympic caught them in turn on the break as Goutzioulis was put away and slipped it out to Lindsay Wilson on the right but Cardozo's shot off his pass was easily saved by Crews.
Olympic's penetration was real enough but getting less effective. Damon Collina was reduced to a 35m shot that curled strongly to the right and forced a diving save by Crews.
Power stepped up a gear and as Elias Augerinos collided with Ante Juric Elrich swept the ball away but his cross was met and skied by Bennett.
As time for oranges approached Barrett slipped a delightful ball through bypassing the Olympic midfield and Thompson bobbed up on the right to swing in a nice cross. Luke Roodenburg met the cross in the box and slammed it first time past Bolton for number two to Power.
Down 0-2 Olympic coach Culina took a gamble with his formation by making a triple substitution as the teams retook the field. Would this gamble on all out attack work?
Sydney Olympic's fresh young legs certainly picked up the tempo as the half unfolded.
Cardozo had Olympic's best chance at 51 mins when he gathered a rebound from a Crews save but not only did he miss but was judged offside to boot.
The drama I told you about continued to unfold. Weird offside decisions by the 'western' assistant were topped by the flagging of an infringement by the 'eastern' assistant. Referee Simon Micaleff conferred and offered Peter Bennett his 3rd straight red card of the season. The reason apparently was foul or abusive language directed at said assistant.
Both teams battled for domination with Blagojevic prompting the revival by Power. Soon after Miller slipped his marker and lobbed Bolton but the ball sailed over the bar.
Olympic's dead ball plays were well read by Power but a Halpin corner onto the head of Marusic looked certain to cause trouble but was put wide.
In the 67th minute Olympic's growing frustration was turned to despair as Blagojevic lobbed Collina, and as the ball fell nicely Elrich beat two defenders and lobbed an advancing Bolton for Power's third goal.
Power didn't drop off - they kept coming. Brown, who had shackled the Wilson threat, found time to hit a freekick that went just wide. Blagojevic sent substitute Steve Eagleton on a run but his angled shot was smothered by Bolton.
It was time for Olympic to pull out all stops and when Greg Owens hit a stinging ground shot from 30m which went just wide it looked like they were going to be more direct in attack. Packer hit a long shot straight at Crews.
In the 87th min Olympic at last got a consolation goal when Cardozo only had to tap the ball in after it had been fired in and somehow eluded the legs of the defence.
With 5 mins of extra time shown Olympic could not lift enough to make a difference and missed a chance to consolidate 2nd spot.
"We just didn't so enough and paid the price" said a surprisingly relaxed coach Culina after the game. "It is a wake up call to us, and we have had a few egos dented". He said that they did not exhibit enough urgency and the inexperienced players were not given enough guidance by the senior players.
David Mitchell praised his team's "determination and commitment". He indicated his thoughts were not on the top 6 but on getting a bit of pride back into the team. He was pleased with the contribution of some of his younger players.
Parramatta was best served by Blagojevic, Brown, Crews, Roodenburg, Tobin, Thompson, and Barrett, Olympic should thank for their contributions Marusic, Bolton, Baillie, Halpin, and Collina. I have never before seen Marusic put in the work rate he did today as he prompted and fetched and carried.
Olympic can regroup in their top 2 charge given the other R24 results but Power are really just playing for their pride (and to retain some fans) - and of course next year's contracts.