If the media build-up to this game was to be believed, the Sharks players could well have been cadging lifts after the game, so desperate is the club's financial plight. As Sydney United's season shows, cash-strapped clubs are not necessarily easy-beats, though I'm sure that was the expectation of some Olympic fans. The Sharks started the game minus some of their better-known players, including Derek Poimer and John Gibson. Branko Milosevic was sighted on the bench, but didn't play.
Hamilton Thorpe was pursued by Olympic for this season, after he had escaped from one or other of El Tel's managerial fiascos. He chose the Sharks instead, which in retrospect was not a brilliant decision. He didn't come off the bench until well into the second half, but certainly enlivened proceedings thereafter.
Olympic could have been advantaged by two Sharks send-offs - one for some wild tackles by Thorpe late in the game. He certainly thought he had a point to prove, but was lucky that the generally lenient Jerry Connelly was holding the whistle. The other possible send-off was for a professional foul on Tome when he looked clear on goal. Yep, football's all about luck - and referees. And Pablo hit the bar twice. On the other hand, Joel Porter's header hit the underside of the Olympic bar early in the game. Which side of the line did it bounce? The linesman showed the usual caution of his trade and ruled no goal.
There was also much talk of the 'must-win' status of this game for Olympic. With a bye next week followed by a trip to Perth, it certainly looks like our only points for a while. But I suspect Olympic will creep into the play-offs regardless, mainly because Carlton, Marconi and Brisbane are doing such a hopeless job of putting pressure on the top six. Apart from the top three (and the Breakers, who have hopefully left their run too late), no one seems capable of stringing wins together, giving an anti-climactic air to the tail end of the season.
Anyway, Olympic played with a caution usually reserved for an elimination away leg. A lot of time was spent playing keep-ball, but few chances were fashioned. Tome's goal came from a Mark Brennan free kick. Not the tallest timber around, Tome was left unmarked at the far past, and smacked the header home with aplomb. He had another header saved in the second half, shortly before Cardozo had one of his few chances of the game. Pablo is not large, but he can certainly hit a ball. This one was fired straight at the goalie, whose arms could not hold it. Unfortunately the crossbar did the job for him.
For the second half Blagoyevic moved into mid-field to no great effect except to make the Olympic defence look shakier. George was called on to make a few saves late in the game, and the Sharks won a series of corners. Scott Baillie conceded one unnecessarily well into injury time, which rather summed up most of the second half. Olympic looked to have mentally clocked off, but the Sharks didn't quite have the finish or the luck to take advantage.
All in all probably the dullest Belmore game of the season. We didn't even have the Brazil dancers or the dancing girls at half time. An intervarsity seven-a-side was a poor substitute. Surely some of the million or so received for Jason could be spent on entertainment - if not a player or two?