Sydney Olympic returned to winning ways in arguably its best performance of the season to demolish Sutherland Sharks at Seymour Shaw on Saturday evening.
An emphatic 4-0 shellacking of the Sharks was just reward for the Blues in a match where coach Peter Tsekenis’ tactics were carried out to near perfection. David Gullo, Chris Triantis, Sam Awad and Kutaiba Elrich rounded out the scoring on a night where clear Sutherland chances were few and far between.
A high-tempo, high pressing game, gave the home side very little breathing room in a match where the Sharks were constantly forced deep in their own half with immense pressure on the regular ball carriers.
Sydney Olympic carved out the first real opening of the night with Will Angel getting forward down the right flank on 4’ minutes. The speedy midfielder played a pin-point cross to pick out David Gullo who saw his blasted volley richocheted off a Sharks defender before falling into the arms of Nathan Denham.
The visitors created another opening 1’ minute later via a set-piece from Phil Makrys. The captain’s curling effort picked out the head of Sam Awad, however the striker’s powerful header finished inches wide of goal.
Sutherland’s response arrived in the 7’ minute as Blake Powell centred for Panni Nikas. The Sharks’ playmaker closed in on goal, though his headed attempt lacked direction as he failed to force a save from Paul Henderson.
Makrys’ sublime set-piece deliveries continued on 13’ minutes as he picked out defender Brett Studman inside the Sharks’ penalty-area. The defender got some good height though failed to beat Denham.
The Blues opening onslaught continued 1’ minute later, as the visitors had the Sharks defenders stretched. Gullo was the recipient of a neat square ball out on the left before forcing Denham into a save with a vicious low-driven effort.
Gullo should have opened the scoring in the 16’ minute as he was played through on goal. With only the goalkeeper to beat, Denham spread himself well to divert the ball behind for a corner.
The resulting corner did produce the opening goal of the night, and this time Gullo was not found wanting. A poorly dealt with corner by the Sharks saw the ball fall into the path of the left-sided winger – Gullo blasting the ball into the roof of the net from point-blank range.
Sutherland nearly found an equaliser in the 20’ minute following a positive spell of ball possession in midfield. Right-winger Hussein Salameh got in behind his marker to get an attempt away on goal, however his lunging effort lacked any real power to trouble Henderson in the Sydney Olympic goal.
Despite all the early running going with the Blues, Sutherland managed to ease the pressure on them with the Stavroulakis-Matt Bailey duo combining well in midfield to keep the ball in the opposing half.
Nikas, Powell and Matt Gordon played a tantalising triangle in the front third to send the former through on goal, though Nikas was cleaned up by a firm, but fair, Studman challenge.
Nikas was at it again for the Sharks on 31’ minutes as he played a slick through ball to split the Blues defence and send Salameh through on goal. Much to the disappointment of the home crowd, Salameh’s run was halted by the linesman’s flag.
Even with the Sharks starting to gain the ascendency, Sydney Olympic played a fabulous counterattack down the right on 32’ minutes to double their lead. Chris Triantis was picked out with a neat square ball to the edge of the penalty-area – the Blues’ number 10 drove a fierce low-driven effort into the bottom right-hand corner, leaving Denham helpless.
Sutherland was denied a goal that would have re-opened the encounter in the 36’ minute as Gordon played Powell through on goal. Powell unleashed a firm drive, though Henderson was up to the challenge with a firm parry to thwart any danger.
Salameh followed up that chance with an opening of his own 5’ minutes from the break, however, once more, his shot from the edge of the penalty-area was well parried by Henderson.
Salameh again had the Sharks’ supporters on their feet 3’ minutes later as he used his pace to weave past the challenges of two Blues’ defenders. Bearing down on goal, the right-winger hit a powerful shot, sending the ball inches wide of the target.
The Sutherland show continued in the closing stages of the half as Nikas again released Salameh down the right. Once more, however, Henderson was up to the challenge, saving at Salameh’s feet to keep the Blues two-goal lead intact at the break.
Following the break, Sydney Olympic nearly breached the Sharks rearguard for a third time in the opening exchanges, due largely to the exquisite searching ball by Giannaros into the path of Powell. The perfectly floated delivery had the Sharks defenders beaten, though Gullo’s attempted volley lacked the required accuracy.
Sutherland’s reply arrived in the 48’ minute via a corner from the left. Stavroulakis was picked out on the edge of the penalty-area before driving his long-range attempt against a sea of legs inside the Blues’ area.
The Triantis brothers and Makrys looked extremely comfortable calling the shots in midfield for the visitors as Chris Triantis was played into space before forcing Denham into a save down to his right moments later.
The home side’s best forward forays arrived via the feet of Stavroulakis and Nikas, however the Blues central defensive pairing of Studman and Marton Vass marshalled the back line to perfection.
On the hour, Sydney Olympic put the result beyond doubt as Chris Triantis played Awad into a clear goal scoring position. Despite the advances from Denham, Awad kept his cool to slot the ball, calmly, home underneath the shot-stopper, much to the delight of the travelling supporters.
The Blues had the Sharks stretched again moments later as Peter Triantis this time initiated the counterattack. With options on both sides, the Blues failed to centre to an unmarked Awad as the chance went begging.
At the other end, Nikas’ constant running and energy was clear for all to see as the playmaker was relentless in chasing a goal to re-open the encounter for his side.
The Sharks’ number 23 tried his luck from distance just shy of the 70’ minute mark, however his attempt cleared Henderson’s crossbar.
Chris Price then tried his luck with a shot on the turn of his own, however the scrambling Blues defenders got bodies behind the ball to thwart any danger.
In the 77’ minute, Awad showed all his skill and determination as he dispossessed a Sharks' defender near the left corner flag before closing in on goal. With the goalkeeper ahead of him, and from an acute angle, Awad drove his shot into the side netting.
Sydney Olympic completed the fine showing with an exceptional goal to substitute Kutaiba Elrich. The striker capitalised on another swift counterattack before picking his moment to unleash a pile-driver over the outstretched arm of Denham to round out the 4-0 result.
Report and Image courtesy of FNSW