Referee: J Blaney 7/10, Crowd: 4,055 Game rating: 7/10 Weather: Fine and overcast / cool. Field very heavy after rain this week..
As I'm paying through the nose for Optus Vision for just these occasions I settled into my sofa at Epping in Sydney with a glass of cider in hand, feeling a little guilty for not being there and nervous about the game after the two viewings of Olympic's form I'd had in the last few weeks.
For the first 5 mins it was a scrappy affair with obvious deep defence by the Breakers. The very heavy pitch had been kept long and according to the Optus team the sidelines brought in. This was all to slow Olympic down and crowd their width. It was working. There were two attacks in the first 10 mins from Olympic which breached the defence and these were innefective, and still Newcastle handn't mounted one attack. Then they slowly pushed up and in a breakaway they earned a free kick outside the area. Pryce took it quickly before the wall was back and the referee yellow carded him as he not indicated play to start. The only real blemish in rookie Blaney's steady but tentative night. The free kick didn't have the desired effect (except that the Rowdies started to be heard). By 15 mins the Breakers counter attacks started to look dangerous - with a flick from Ritchie to Owens leading to a clearance by SO and then Owens with his trademark mid-range strike which was a scorcher on target and well saved by Bouhoutsos.
The mid period saw pressing attacks by Olympic which were broken down or diverted by the very disciplined Breakers formation - Baillie, Culina, and Cervinski getting shots. In breakaways Buonovaglia was causing problems (including one free kick call overlooked) and 'Witchy' was almost in. Owens has two more strikes. Toward the end Olympic are still on top dropping their heads a bit with all their strikers and midfielders being picked up well, and Cervinski and Durakovic limping. This is not pretty football but boy it is absorbing as the two coaches spar with each other, using the players like chess pieces. The half close with Thomas in the box but stopped by McManus and Emerton and Cardozo missing.
At the half time break it looked like Olympic would have to change something and Newcastle had to decide whether they were going to go for the points. At this time I got a phone call telling me of a death in the extended family so I can't give a detail description of all the 2nd half. It would seem that Branko Culina changed his team's shape with Thomas and Juric going up, and Sterrey kept things as they were but asked his players to push up a little.
After a good chance to Emerton Newcastle attacked upo the left with Witchy putting a great cross to Buonovaglia which was cleared by SO but fell to Owens just inside the area, who hit another of those volleys into the right hand side of the goal. 1-0 !! Could Breakers hold out? Olympic seem to be getting better penetration, esp. by Juric and Cardozo and Emerton both hit wide. Little Johnny B scythes through the Olympic defence like butter again and Sanderson forces a save from Bouhoutsos. Thus sparks SO and in the 86th min Juric takes a sweat strike which clears Catlin and it's 1-1. Olympic settle for the points and its Newcastle who push forward (seeking an outside chance of a top 6 spot) but its all neutralised and the score remains 1-1.
Sydney Olympic did not like the slow pitch and they lacked the fire of recent games, and Newcastle were well drilled and disciplned. Not great football but we Newcastle fans can applaud our coach for his hard work and scheming.
Best: NB - Buonovaglia, Owens, and Weiczorek. SO - Juric, Bouhoutsos, Thomas.