Cold and windy conditions at Lily Homes Stadium on Sunday was somewhat indicative of what was to come, as the contest between the defending champions and Blacktown City FC kept the crowd on the edge of their seats in anticipation.
Sydney Olympic were boosted by the return of a fan favourite, Matthew Mayora who looked lively throughout the encounter. The 'Blues' defence was delivered a huge blow during the week as centre-backs, Ibby Haydar and Blaz Dejanovic are expected to miss the remainder of the season due to their respective injuries.
End to end football dominated the opening minutes of the half at Lily Homes, however it was the 'Blues' who possessed the first goal scoring opportunity with back to back attempts fired by Mayora and Chris Triantis. Mayora was the first to try his luck, however his strike lacked power and travelled into the arms of the Blacktown goal keeper, Brody Crane. Minutes later, Triantis caught the home side by suprise as he delivered a screamer that narrowly travelled over the cross bar.
The home side retaliated, as Yuichi Yamauchi picked out team mate, Ray Miller with a well executed through ball, however the latter was unable to execute a powerful shot, as Olympics' Paul Henderson pulled off a routine save. Travis Major tried his luck twice for the home side but his back to back attempts failed to travel on target.
Olympics' Will Angel overpowered his marker Matt Lewis on several occasions and has developed a great partnership with defender Manny Giannaros, with the too doing well to link up and create chances for their team-mates upfront. Giannaros broke down Blacktowns defence and caught the home side by surprise as he unleashed a shot of his own, which narrowly missed the intended target.
Blacktown's defence struggled to maintain a hold on Matthew Mayora who almost provided the 'Blues' with the lead with his consecutive efforts. Luck was not on his side, as Crane did well to thwart his efforts. The 'Blues' were reduced to 10 men in the 35th minute as David Gullo received a second yellow, minutes after he received his first. Olympic managed to hold as the score line remained at a dead lock at the half time break.
Olympic appeared to turn it up a notch in the second half despite their one player disadvantage, as Chris Triantis once again displayed his exeptional technical ability and weaved his way through Blacktown's defence to fire a thunderous effort, his strike however deflected off the back of Brett Studman who attempted to duck. Nothing was able to stop Triantis' next effort in the 53rd minute, as Studman delivered a well-weighted pass into the path of Triantis who unleashed a fine effort into the back of the net.
The 'Blues' netted a second, five minutes later as Mayora was brought down inside the penalty box. Captain, Phil Makrys stepped up and capitalised from the penaty spot. In a turn of events, Olympic were reduced too 9 as Manny Giannaros was given his marching orders, in what came as a shock to the Olympic faithful and the player himself. Both Giannaros and opposing defender Matt Lewis appeared to run onto a loose ball, as the latter ceased his run and shoulder barged the solid, Giannaros who dominated him in size. Lewis fell to the ground and was awarded a penalty in what was a debatable call. Blacktown soon capitalised from the penalty spot and avidly searched for an equaliser.
Olympic set their sights on the difficult challenge at hand, with the 'Blues' forced to defend deeper in their half. The 'Blues' threw their bodies on the line to prevent the home side from obtaining an equaliser but dropped off in the 82nd minute as Ryuji Miyazawa fired home an equaliser.
Shot-stopper Paul Henderson pulled off several spectacular saves to keep his side in the game as Blacktown appeared frustrated by their inability to secure the winner. The Olympic faithful rejoiced when the final whistle was sound, as the home side failed to pick up all three points against a 9 man Sydney Olympic side. The 'Blues' received a standing ovation from their supporters after the game, as their strong character remained intact after what was a difficult test.
Image courtesy of FNSW