Alike most games at this time of the season, this was a very important one for both sides.
Olympic were attempting to remain in the Top 2 for the double-chance whilst Sydney United
were trying to stay in the Top 6 just to play in the Finals. This game was also the first
in the three way match-up of the Sydney teams. Although there was only one goal in the game,
there was action from side to side.
Olympic were without Zelic and Ardone whilst United were missing Enes. The home team started with 5 at the back and unlike the games of a month or so ago, they did not attack as a force, but more with a few players at a time. United had both Lamond and Patikas up front, but it was evident that they were not receiving the service that they deserved. Oh yes, and Mike Gibson was playing his 250th game.
So, what could have been a great match turned into only a really good match. This was end to end stuff with no team really dominating although it appeared that Olympic did have a few more chances.
Amidst a couple of early chances that fell the way of the visitors, Norman Tome should have put his side 1 up in the 9th minute. A Nick Meredith shot rebounded off Kris Trajinovski and into the path of Tome. He was only about 10m out, but his shot although beating Andrew Crews in the United goals, did have the same effect with the upright. Only 5 minutes later, Manis Lamond did extremly poorly when he recieved a ball from Tony Popovic. He too was only 10m out, but Lamond's shot balooned well over the bar.
Ante Moric saw his 17th minute shot, after a great through ball from Paul Bilokapic, just saved by Olympic's Mike Gibson. A little while later Derek Poimer recieved a ball on the edge of the penalty area. He easily rounded Mark Babic and sent a low cross that was just out of the reach of the diving Kimon Taliadoros. A few minutes later Meredith took a long shot that was just over the crossbar. Two minutes after that Taliadoros just missed with a shot across goal and a minute after that Ante Milicic did exactly the same at the other end. And how much time has gone past... only 30 minutes!
There were two more chances before the end of the first half, one to either side. First a Meredith through ball found Taliadoros but his shot went into the side net. The other was after a good build-up that involved both Popovic and Milicic and found Manis Lamond free in the box, but his shot was pushed away by Gibson. The fans now had a break from the action before the next entralling chapter.
It was not long into the second half before Jimmy Patikas, who had generally been silent throughout the first stanza, finally got into the act with a header towards goal, but Gibson saved well. A little while later David Barrett sent a great low cross through the United box, but unfortunately for him and his side, Meredith was asleep at the far post and watched as the ball went by.
In the 60th minute Lamond crossed the ball to David Zdrilic, but his header sailed over the bar. Then a minute later, Alistar Edwards made one of his forays forward along the wing and sent a ball to Tome which was first saved well by Crews and then scrambled away by Kupresak. Only a few minutes later another Barrett cross was headed wide by Poimer, and two minutes after this a Meredith long shot just scraped over the bar. Olympic were gaining some ascendency at this stage and the next to lineup was Taliadoros whos shot from an Edwards cross went over the bar. Then Scott Baillie nearly suprised everyone with a rifle shot from 40m out, but it went straight at Crews, so no damage.
Time was not running out fast enough for United as Olympic were charging forward for that ever elusive goal. In the 75th minute Patikas nearly stole one for the visitors, but his shot was saved by Gibson. Then a blast from the past appeared on the field - Robert Ironside came on for Norman Tome. In the next minute Mark Babic was to play hero for United when he first pushed a cross away with Trajanovski on his tail and nothing stopping the ball from finding the net, the only seconds later, he cleared a ball off the line with another Olympic player on his heals.
In the 80th minute Popovic moved forward for a corner and was able to connect with a header, but this went over the bar. Then two minutes from time, finally a goal. Meredith sent a great through ball and Taliadoros beat two defenders by timing his run to perfection. This left him one on one with Crews and the ball bouncing in front of him. Taliadoros chipped the keeper and that was the winning goal. Ante Moric had a last gasp chance two minutes into extra time, but his shot went straight to Gibson.
It's hard to say that the result was not a correct one. Olympic were attacking more and had more chances, but United didn't deserve to lose by more than one goal. A 2-1 scoreline probably would have looked better. One thing that did show out, and I just wish someone could have kept stats on this, is the number of shots that didn't force a save from the keeper. Does Australia really have a problem with finding REAL strikers?