Stirring encounter at Lambert Park

By Corinthian (Paul Green):

NSW PS4 National Premier League 2015 – Round 4 – Feature Game

4:15pm, Monday 6 April, 2015 – Lambert Park, Leichhardt

APIA Leichhardt Tigers FC 2 (Franco Parisi 48′, Blake Powell 56′)
drew with
SYDNEY OLYMPIC FC 2 (Taiga Soeda 17′, Dimitri Hatzimouratis 65′)


Two unbeaten teams met at Lambert Park on Easter Monday and after a stirring encounter hosts APIA Leichhardt Tigers and visitors Sydney Olympic, foes from long ago during their NSL days, as much as anything else more recent, had to settle for a 2-2 draw, which in many ways was about the right result on the day, on the balance of play.

Olympic began by far the brighter and were in front quite soon, thanks to some smart play down the left.

A side-footed finish from captain Taiga Soeda from a neatly squared pass from the left by Nick Tsattalios put Olympic in front and it was no more than they deserved at that stage.

APIA struggled for early possession with Soeda, Yianni Spyrakis, Howard Fondyke and Go Shirai all contributing to a high degree, allowing APIA very little chance of getting much happening, although the Tigers’ loyal club servant, Franco Parisi, laboured hard in the middle of the park.

Olympic seemed to hold the aces, while APIA had already made their first substitution by the 42nd minute mark as defender Brett Studman made way for Tyson Rhodes.

It was almost all the Blues in the first half, although APIA did show occasional enterprise, but ran into a tightly-knit Olympic defence most of the time.

All of that changed after the break with the home team immediately going on the offensive and pressing Olympic strongly.

It was not long before they drew level and not a lot longer after that when a rare blunder by Olympic keeper, Paul Henderson, made it easy for Blake Powell to bundle the ball home and give APIA the lead,

Early pressure from APIA wore away at Olympic from the start of the second period and the home side looked a different outfit entirely after the break.

Parisi hooked the ball home from close range after the defence showed far too much hesitation in clearing their lines after only 48 minutes, three minutes after the resumption.

That lesson was not heeded as APIA continued to press hard and won some corners and free kicks.

From one of those, in the 56th, swung over by Sean Symons on the right, Olympic keeper, Paul Henderson, whose height and reach would normally ensure that he had full control of his territory, made a rare fumble, being unable to grasp the ball cleanly and it fell to the feet of the alert Blake Powell among a posse of APIA men, hungry for the kill.

Powell swept the ball home and APIA suddenly had the lead and were looking the more likely side to go on with it.

APIA were unable to maintain that same level of intensity for the remainder of the game, only threatening intermittently, allowing Olympic back into the game and with some astute substitutions by coach Grant Lee the visitors managed to draw level at least and eventually get the draw, against an opponent who’d won each of their opening three matches.

Those Olympic substitutions gave them fresh legs and renewed energy, allowing them to draw level.

Scott Balderson left the scene to be replaced by Harris Gaitatzis who showed plenty of industry and some guile.

It was he who began the move that saw the equaliser arrive and set up a grandstand finish.

APIA had suffered a slight setback just before the game, when regular keeper, Andrew Bazi, became ill and could not complete the warm=up.

Deputy, Ryan Norval, after a tentative start, shone for APIA with some superb late second-half saves to keep his team in the game.

Two one-on-ones, especially, stood out, but he could do nothing to prevent Dimitri Hatzimouratis from levelling in the 65th after a precision cross from the right by-line by the speedy Brayden Sorge,

Henderson had also atoned for his earlier error with some excellent work mostly of anticipation as APIA sought to catch Olympic out with fast runs from substitute Corey Bizco, especially.

With two wins and two draws Olympic still have more to do if they are to satisfy their demanding fans’ expectations, from what is essentially a very young side, build from the basics by Lee, who’s placing his trust in youngsters he feels can do the job for him and the club.

Late in the game, with APIA throwing everything at Olympic, tempers began to fray and Olympic midfielder, Fondyke, was shown a straight red card by no-nonsense referee Kurt Ams, who’d dished out five earlier cautions to APIA players, with Olympic players avoiding any notations until the red was flashed in the 84th minute.

Grant Lee was happy to see his side come back into the game and claim a point, but knew it was a game his team could have won.

“We talked about it at half time, what APIA would do in the second half yet that’s exactly what happened and we were caught out by their early pressure which we knew we’d be facing.

“They are a little naive at times, these young players, but they’ve given a good account of themselves and I can’t really fault them and if it weren’t for their keeper I’m sure we’d have won the game.

“Then again, some of the decision-making that allowed the saves to be made, is what happens with younger players as they don’t always take the right options sometimes. But the keeper certainly made their job difficult.

Match details

Crowd: about 350

APIA LEICHHARDT TIGERS FC: GK 92 Ryan Norval; 2 Nathan Millgate,  15 Brett Studman (6 Tyson Rhodes 42), 12 Daniel Petkovski, 3 Marc Warren; 23 Nicholas Olsen, 13 David D’Apuzzo (7 Stephen Kayes 82), 16 Sean Symons, 18 Adrian Ucchino; 10 Franco Parisi (8 Corey Bizco 65), 9 Blake Powell
Subs not used: RGK 1 Andrew Bazi, 11 Nathan Elasi,

Coach: Billy McColl
Yellow cards: David D’Apuzzo 9, Franco Parisi 26, Tyson Rhodes 85, Daniel Petkovski 85, Nathan Millgate 89

SYDNEY OLYMPIC FC: 1 Paul Henderson; 2 Brayden Sorge, 4 Brendan Hooper, 5 Yianni Spyrakis (7 William Angel 73), 15 Leigh Egger, 16 Howard Fondyke, 19 Go Shirai, 18 Taiga Soeda (C), 11 Scott Balderson (10 Harris Gaitatzis 59), 9 Dimitri Hatzimouratis (22 Michael Gaitatzis 80), 33 Nick Tsattalios
Subs not used: RGK 12 Daniel Sadaka, 14 Petar Markovic

Coach: Grant Lee
Yellow cards: Nil
Red Card: Howard Fondyke 84

Ratings and points

Referee: Kurt Ams
Assistants: Sarah Ho and Danny Horstead
Fourth Official: Christian Layland

Match 8/10
Pitch: 10/10 (Synthetic)

Weather: Mostly cool with little breeze

Players to note: Taiga Soeda (SO), Yianni Spyrakis, (SO), Howard Fondyke (SO), Franco Parisi (ALT), Blake Powell (ALT), Sean Symons (ALT)