APIA Leichhardt and Sydney Olympic’s senior men’s sides played a fantastic, enthralling clash in front of a massive crowd, with the game finishing in a tense 1-1 draw.
The crowd was right in the match, with fans of both sides showing their passion and emotion through voice.
The women’s played an enthralling clash beforehand, with Sydney Olympic prevailing 3-2 thanks to a stunning goal in the last ten minutes, much to the despair of the home fans, with the likes of Lisa De Vanna, Teresa Polias, Jada Whyman, Ange Histridoulou, Taylor Ray and Elizabeth Ralston and co battling it out.
The night included more than a dozen food stalls, and APIA had all of their youth teams present as fans, who had played the day prior.
To start the men’s game, APIA controlled possession from the back and Themba Mauta-Marlow was fantastic from defence at presenting himself as an option and carrying the ball forwards into the midfield line.
Meanwhile, Sydney Olympic focused on quick ball movement in their 4-4-2 formation with passes down the line, allowing former Western Sydney Wanderers forward Mo Adam to use his pace to run the channels and get him isolated to take on opponents in 1v1 situations.
In possession, Olympic played with a narrow back four, and Michael Glassock consistently tucked inside, allowing first Adam Parkhouse, and then Marley Peterson after the formers’ injury, to remain high and wide.
Olympic relied on pace and physicality when moving forwards, and it worked.
In the 18th minute, a well weighted through ball released Adam Parkhouse in behind for Sydney Olympic.
The wide midfielder struck a left footed shot across the goal, which was smartly parried away by APIA no.1 and former Sydney FC goalkeeper Ivan Necevski.
Olympic opened the scoring five minutes later, after another well-weighted through ball in behind, this time from Mo Adam, found Oliver Pluffet in behind.
The twenty-one-year-old forward made no mistake in converting after his run in the inside right channel, striking across Necevski and into the bottom left corner.
After APIA conceded, they looked to play more direct, becoming less possession orientated and looking to win second balls in midfield and attack from there.
Interestingly, when APIA were in possession in their defensive line, they chose to keep the straight four at the back, which became two when their fullbacks pushed up, and instead of having a centre midfielder drop-in played with a 2-1 or 2-2 to move forwards.
However, Olympic continued to threaten.
In the 41st minute, a freekick found the head of Marley Peterson just outside the six-yard area, but he couldn’t keep the ball down as his shot grazed off the top of the crossbar.
APIA came back strong and started the second half with aggressive attacking movement.
Sean Symons looked increasingly strong leading the line, running the channels and pressing from the front, while they started to take more control in midfield.
In the 55th minute, APIA evened the score to the delight of the home crowd.
A one two allowed Symons to penetrate into the box, and the experienced forward found Sam Mcillhatton, who made no mistake in converting the ball into the empty net.
APIA didn’t let off, and continued to control the match, creating the better of the chances.
In the 64th minute, a powerful left footed shot went narrowly wide, while Olympic looked to slow down the game to gain control.
In the 70th minute, the home side’s dominance continued as a header went narrowly over the bar from just outside the six-yard box.
Olympic’s players looked increasingly tired but came back into the game after a double substitution.
In the 84th minute, Olympic had a fantastic chance to win it, after a fantastic ball from the right found Pufflet at the back post, but he couldn’t get the connection required on the header as the ball hit the side netting.
The game was even and tense heading into the final five minutes.
Both sides continued to push for a late winner, and APIA was so close to finding one in the 93rd minute when a brilliant corner from Symons landed awkwardly in the middle, no APIA player could convert, with the final whistle coming shortly after.
The reserve players were ecstatic with the crowd and general atmosphere, with both men’s and women’s reserve teams’ players expressing their delight.
“The atmosphere’s very good for an NPL team”, said a member of the men’s APIA reserve team squad.
“Many supporters came, and all round it’s just a great day with friends and family, and to support the club”.
“I’ve been here for a couple of years now, and this just encompasses the club’s growth over the last couple of years”, said a member of the women’s APIA reserve team squad.
“It’s really important to show that the men’s and women’s clubs are able to come together, and it’s a really great atmosphere for everyone involved.”
“I’m pretty new to APIA, but I know this club’s came a long way and it’s great to see everyone come together, especially the women’s and the mens,” said another member of the Women’s APIA reserve team squad.
“And especially the juniors – they played yesterday and they’re all here in the stands, in the cold.
“It really shows the support for the club and the teams.”
Sydney Olympic head coach Ante Juric was animated throughout the contest, consistently barking tactical instructions at his players.
He was making sure they kept up the intensity and kept their high line, and looked increasingly frustrated as his team started to lose control in the second half.
However, he responded cleverly, and made a double substitution in the 77th minute which allowed Olympic to force themselves back into the contest.
It proved to be a good tactical move from Juric, as his side responded, showing the mobility and physicality that had lacked for the previous twenty minutes.
Sydney Olympic striker Mo Adam looked quality again tonight, with the Olympic fans delighted with his workrate and quality leading the line.
His pace and trickery consistently kept the APIA defence worried, and he was a useful outlet when Olympic were defending under pressure, using a combination of technique and physicality to run the complete striker role to perfection.
He had a fantastic assist for the opening goal for Olympic, but struggled to get into any goalscoring positions himself.
NPL NSW 1 MENS
APIA Leichhardt 1 (Sam Mcillhatton), Sydney Olympic 1 (Oliver Pluffet)
Referee: Katie Patterson
APIA Leichhardt: 4-3-3
No. 1. Ivan Necevski, 2. William Mutch, 15. Themba Muata-Marlow, 4. Josh Symons (Paul Galimi 82′), 21. Michael Kouta, 20. Sam Mcillhatton, 13. David D’Apuzzo (18. Adrian Ucchino 24′), 10. Franco Parisi, 19. Peter Kekeris(8. Corey Biczo 79′), 11. Mathieu Cordier, 16. Sean Symons
Unused substitutes: 7. Tynan Diaz, 9. Blake Powell, 22. Luke Turnbull
Manager: Paul Dee
Yellow cards: D’Apuzzo, Symons
Red cards: None
Sydney Olympic: 4-4-2
No. 20. Luke Kairies, 5. Michael Glassock, 4. Benjamin Van Meurs, 2. Thomas Whiteside, 8. Jason Madonis, 11. Adam Parkhouse (17. Marley Peterson 25′, 22. Fabio Ferreria 77′), 10. Brendan Cholakian( 6. Nikola Kuleski 77′), 24. Christopher Gligor, 23. Daniel Dias (21. Fabian Monge 59′), 35. Mo Adam, 9. Oliver Pluffet
Manager: Ante Juric
Yellow cards: Madonis, Peterson
Red cards: None
Supplied Image – loopii/Football NSW