If Olympic's 98-99 season comes to anything, I suspect this will be the match identified as the campaign's turning point. Regardless of the future, it was clearly the match of Olympic's season so far, and should fuel an optimistic buzz for a few weeks yet.
Of course, the match was notable for Ante Juric's transformation from likely match-loser to unlikely match-winner. All very Boys Own Paper. But Juric's winner was memorable for its quality as well as its importance. A few minutes earlier Jason Culina had blasted wide of the goal from a similar position. Juric (previous Ericsson Cup goal tally standing at two) not only chested down Mark Brennan's cross with great aplomb, but realised that he had the time to take his time, and gently rolled the ball inside the left-hand post. The crowd was celebrating before the ball crossed the line.
About an hour earlier, Juric was clasping his head in dismay, after somehow losing control of the ball in the area and placing it in the path of John Markovski. Well to the left of goal, Jonesy didn't have much to aim at, but was never going to miss. Perth were thus gifted the lead despite a promising start by Olympic.
For the first 30 minutes, it had seemed a matter of time before Olympic went ahead, especially when Danny Milosevic somehow deflected a seemingly certain Cardozo goal. But after Juric's error, the pressure was well and truly on the home side. Lose this one and a gap would open to the top six contenders. Nick Politis might decide to spend his hard-earned on someone else. Branko Culina might be looking for another club to coach.
Fortunately, Olympic didn't follow the pessimists script. After the break, they steadily built the pressure. This had a lot to do with Carlos Gonzalez replacement of Chris Kalantzis on the left flank. Perhaps depressed by the return of Milan Blagojevic from Malaysia and his consequent displacement as number one Olympic heart throb, Katantzis spent the first half collapsing in a heap whenever in the penalty area, arguing with the ref, and generally indulging in attention-seeking behaviour.
Gonzalez was more effective and, like Emerton on the right, was soon raining the crosses in. But Olympic's shortage of specialist strikers and aerial power was counting against them, as it has for much of the season. Fortunately, Bernd Stange did us a favour by dragging Markovski with twenty minutes to go. Markovski is nominally a striker, but his midfield work is truly prodigious, both in winning and distributing the ball. The Olympic fans booed him constantly, but he was a class above anyone on the pitch. With Jonesy's departure, it was one way traffic, made even more so with Bobby Despotovski's dismissal.
The handball which produced the red card and penalty was so obvious it probably was unintentional. But it was certainly a relief to the home fans, as was Cardozo s successful penalty shot. People who think footballers are too highly paid should put themselves in Cardozo's position, standing around while Despotovski got his marching orders and so on before finally getting the penalty whistle.
A few minutes later Juric performed his transition from villain to hero, and Agerinos put the icing on the cake in injury time with a third. By that time Perth were down to nine, Naven having been dismissed after a wild lunge at Scott Thomas. Not a happy night for the league leaders. But a memorable one for Olympic.