Toughly contested draw at Lambert

By Corinthian (Paul Green):

NSW – PS4 NPL 1 – MEN – 2016 – Round 1 – Feature Game
Sunday 13th March, 2016 4.30pm – Lambert Park, Leichhardt

APIA Leichhardt Tigers FC 1 (Tasuku Sekiya 17′)
drew with
Sydney Olympic FC 1 (Harris Gaitatzis 37′)


Apia-Leichhardt Tigers and Sydney Olympic played out a keenly-contested 1-1 draw at Lambert Park in Sunday’s 2016 NPL1 season- opener.

It was a close game in many respects and a relatively clean one, despite a number of players being attended to by the club physio and being banished to the blood-bin, following damaging clashes with opponents.

The only man to avoid that fate, after a skirmish, was Olympic’s veteran keeper, Paul Henderson, who needed some facial strapping applied on the field of play, as the game began its move into six minutes of accrued stoppage-time.

Henderson had collided with Apia’s 84th minute substitute, Kenta Hasegawa, who couldn’t pull out in time when trying to snatch a late winner, as he chased a through ball and was then unable to avoid the sprawling keeper, making the brave save.

The APIA man got a yellow card for his trouble, but it was not the only time during the match that Henderson had out-thought an opponent bearing down on his goal, at full speed.

He almost single-handedly stopped APIA’s other Japanese striker, Tasuku Sekiya, who opened the scoring after 17 minutes.

Henderson managed to block the initial shot from the diminutive newcomer – surely the smallest target man in the division – but as the ball flew on towards goal and defenders could not reach it in time, Sekiya managed to bundle the ball home at the second attempt.

As the game wore on Henderson did all in his power to prevent any repeat, at one stage racing to stop his opponent from gaining possession out on the left, after Sekiya had out-paced the Olympic defence, with Henderson and his opponent both rolling towards the brick wall behind the goal.

Henderson came off better that time, but for a moment or two it looked nasty for the energetic Japanese player.

After treatment, however, Sekiya was able to regain his feet as well as his composure, but over the course of the remaining hour or more, the Olympic keeper appeared to hold all the aces, as we saw him win the battle of several one-on-ones that ensued.

Having thwarted Sekiya often enough, Henderson then had to face Hasegawa, who took over up front for the last ten minutes, when Sekiya dropped back into the number ten role of Apia skipper, Franco Parisi, who had come off for the second Japanese man.

Thus Henderson had to deal with a new threat, as the taller and younger substitute was full of running, but just as with Sekiya, the keeper had the experience and, importantly, the stature to help his side retain a point.

Obviously it wasn’t all Henderson’s doing that Olympic came away with a useful point against a team they’d drawn with 2-2 on the same ground during the previous season.

A much-changed Blues side were competitive throughout and gave Apia plenty to think about.

While they were mostly well-contained by the strong Apia defence, one piece of individual brilliance from Harris Gaitatzis was enough to nab them the equaliser 20 minutes after they’d fallen behind.

Looking up, 25 yards out on the left, Gaitatzis tried his luck with a swerving lob that beat Apia keeper, Ryan Norval, all-ends-up, as it sailed into the top-right corner of the net, an individual goal of some note and one that on the day was to prove enough for a share of the spoils.

An entertaining start to the new campaign, then and one that should have pleased both coaches.

Olympic tactician, Grant Lee, was more than happy with his own team’s performance.

“I think it was a fair result and if we’d lost I would not have been at all happy, as we definitely deserved at least a point.

“Considering the number of new and younger players we had to bring in this season, on our reduced budget, I think we did very well today.

Apia look strong again, but their ploy of operating with Sekiya alone up front, relying on his speed and nose for goal, with attacking partners all sitting off him, may only be a work in progress.

He’s very quick and capable of springing the offside trap, with no difficulty in finishing things, either, but it will be worth seeing if new Apia coach, John Carnevale, persists with this formation, or looks for others to form perhaps a twin-spearhead or even a three-pronged attack in future games.

The Apia defence certainly looks solid again, so getting more than one goalscorer might be the next priority and we won’t know until the season unfolds just how the team goes about achieving that.

Olympic might tinker a little too, as they found it hard to break down the well-drilled Apia defence.

The players lost from last season’s team will not be easy to replace, as Grant Lee fully appreciates, so Olympic will also be a work in progress for a few more weeks yet.

Match details

Crowd:   about 200

APIA LEICHHARDT TIGERS FC: 92 Ryan Norval (gk); 2 Nathan Millgate, 21 Themba Muata-Marlow, 16 Sean Symons, 13 David D’Apuzzo (3 Matthew Fsadni 81); 7 Sean O’Connell, 11 Nathan Elasi (8 Corey Bizco 73), 18 Adrian Ucchino, 10 Franco Parisi (19 Kenta Hasegawa 84), 23 Nicholas Olsen;  20 Tasuku Sekiya
Subs not used:  1 Tonu Liiband (rgk), 4 Bradley Bartelis,

Yellow cards: David D’Apuzzo 21, Kenta Hasegawa 86; Red cards: Nil
Coach: John Carnevale

SYDNEY OLYMPIC FC: 1 Paul Henderson (gk); 2 Brayden Sorge (37 Eoin Montford 59), 3 Anthony Tomelic, 4 Leigh Egger, 5 Jason Madonis; 8 Howard Fondyke, 71 Mitchell Stamatellis; 7 William Angel (19 Mark Cindric 75, 14 Chris Triantis (22 Michael Gaitatzis 70), 33 Nick Tsattalios; 10 Harris Gaitatzis
Subs not used: 20 Denver Crickmore (rgk), 11 Jacob Boutoubia

Yellow cards: Howard Fondyke 29, Anthony Tomelic 51, Mitchell Stamatellis 59; Red Cards: Nil
Coach: Grant Lee

Referee: Kurt Ams
Assistants: Nick Backo and Valerio Bertuccioli; Fourth Official: Jere Bitas

Ratings and notes

Match 8/10

Pitch: 10/10 (Synthetic)

Weather: Warm and humid, with a light breeze

Players noted: Themba Muata-Marlow (ALT), Tasuku Sekiya (ALT), Adrian Ucchino (ALT), Paul Henderson (SO),Leigh Egger (SO), 71 Mitchell Stamatellis (SO)