Newcastle Olympic showcased their best performance and can hold their heads high but are unable to hook one back as they are defeated 1-0 against Melbourne City.
Newcastle Olympic hosted an A-League Men’s side for the second time in a row in the Australia Cup. They entered the match hoping to better their 3-0 loss to Macarthur FC last campaign.
Starting with their regular side they’ve played with throughout the NPL season, same players, tactics, and formation, Olympic were not fazed by potentially facing a full-strength Melbourne City, which is exactly what came into fruition.
All bar two players appeared regularly for the reigning A-League Premiers, with Luke Oresti being the only one yet to make a league appearance.
The spearhead to a high number of dangerous City’s forward movements was Marco Tilio. The young star, who has already registered three Socceroos appearances, was electric, zipping past defenders and creating many opportunities.
City took the advantage into the break through a 41st minute Luke Oresti goal. The ball fell to Oresti’s feet after a deflected off the goalkeeper from a Jamie Maclaren shot, with the young star unceremoniously finishing the move off.
Any optimism that Newcastle Olympic held walking through the sheds should have been shaved off as the home team struggled to expel the onslaught of pressure ensued by Melbourne City for the opening 45 minutes.
All of Olympic’s attacks would be closed down with minimal effort by the over-qualified City defence headed by Nun Reis and Curtis Good during the few glimpses Olympic saw at goal.
But despite the overarching domination shown by City in the first half, Olympic came out with a gargantuan point to prove and started to control the football and in City’s portion of the pitch for the first 15 minutes of the second period.
After a tame first half, Malik Thom showed his worth early in the second. Soon after showcasing some impressive ball skills and skinning Scott Galloway, during the next play, Thom played a delicate cross into Harrison, heading the ball towards the back stick and forcing Tom Glover to make a full stretch save.
City midfielder Florin Berenguer tried to slow the play while Olympic were in control by taking a while to recoup from a tackle. But karma struck, and he was shown yellow in a separate incident soon after and allowed play to resume for Olympic in full motion.
Ten minutes in, it seemed City might be able to rebuild off a counter attack, but a confident save from Adam Pearce initiated a counter back in the direction of City. Full-back Jye Rodway darted down the right flank and played winger Jared Muller the ball. Muller would then open himself up, cut in, and have a shot deflecting off Harrison towards the bottom right corner forcing another crucial save from Glover.
It was an unusually even tussle for the remaining half an hour of football. The increased attention to their opponent’s game and overall quality of football on Olympic’s behalf meant City struggled immensely to regain their control over the NPL side during the first 45.
In the closest chance for a deserved equaliser, Olympic came inches away from finding a goal in the 81st minute. Beating Glover, Olympic hit the bottom half of the crossbar across the face of the goal but the ball took an unfortunate bounce into the opposite direction of the target during a positive passage of play
Olympic could not take advantage of a last-second corner and are knocked out in the Round of 32 to a better team. But they can hold their heads high in giving City coach Patrick Kisnorbo a headache on the flight back to Melbourne.
A walk in the park turned into an unexpected tussle for Melbourne City.
Dominating all aspects of the game and controlling the possession and flow during the first half, City were in no doubt of a result and easy progression into the Round of 16.
But a magical half time team talk from coach Joel Griffiths gave the Olympic boys a boost of confidence and an enraged heart to take it to a relaxed and content City after a boisterous first half.
Throughout all departments, the City domination in the first half could not be replicated in the second, and Olympic’s half-glance chances turned into fully fledged opportunities. Also, Olympic’s hesitancy in midfield was eradicated, and they tested their A-League adversaries with Taras Gomulka and Berenguer trying to grapple onto any real ball possession they could get a hold off
Patrick Kisnorbo shook his head in disappointment as the game concluded despite taking victory, proving a lot needs to be rendered before the start of the A-League season.
PROUD DEFENSIVE EFFORT FOR OLYMPIC
With a starting attacking line consisting of Socceroos Maclaren, Tilio and Olyroo Jordy Bos, any given football fan would expect numerous goals against an NPL Northern NSW side. But Newcastle Olympic’s defence had a night to remember.
Lead by former Central Coast Mariners backup goalkeeper Adam Pearce, the defensive chain consisted of Jack Read-Jones, Luke Rutledge, Marcus Duncan, Jye Rodway, and even defensive midfielder Joey Langlois put in a solid shift.
The Olympic defence copped the brunt of Melbourne City’s attack in the first half but did incredibly to keep the gates at bay for 40 minutes, only conceding through an unfortunate deflection, landing at the feet of Oresti.
Their efforts in the back were amplified from their league form this season, having the third-best defensive record in NPL Northern NSW, conceding 21 goals in 15 games.
MACLAREN AND LECKIE SUBDUED
Completing 94 Socceroos appearances between the two, Jamie Maclaren and Matthew Leckie were pocketed all night by the Olympic defence.
Personally, Maclaren had a night to forget. The former Darmstadt and Hibernian striker registered only three shots, landed one out of his five passes in his 60 minutes, and was barely visible in a dominating side.
In a similar fashion, Leckie played an entire half and was impotent as City struggled in the attacking phase. The travelling party were equalled in chance creation and threat during the second period, and there was an apparent disconnect that usually the experienced heads, like Leckie, fill in, but they could not on the night.
Leckie did not register a single shot and only completed 16 touches.
Luckily for City, they came away with a narrow victory and progressed into the Australia Cup Round of 16, but Kisnorbo will want something to change within his sides’ psyche if they’re going to replicate the last three years of success.
Australia Cup Round of 32, No. 2 Sportsground Newcastle
Newcastle Olympic 0
Melbourne City 1 (Luke Oresti 41m)