A very tense affair between two fierce rivals was brought to life when Nathan Elasi scored early in the encounter for the Stallions. Niggling fouls, followed by some tough tackling, and a handful of yellow cards were dished out as the reigning champions drew level midway through the second-half via Ibrahim Haydar, before Chris Triantis netted the winner 3’ minutes from the end.
Played at Marconi Stadium, the fixture was a home match for Sydney Olympic who continue to play its home fixtures away from home due to the ‘unplayable’ surface at Belmore Sports Ground.
Sydney Olympic managed to sneak in behind the Stallions defensive line inside the first 30’’ seconds of the encounter as Kutaiba Elrich attempted to chip goalkeeper Lachlan Tibbles – making his debut after James Chronopoulos broke a bone in his foot last weekend. The shot-stopper was beaten, however the retreating Stallions defence cleared the ball away to safety.
The Stallions reply arrived in the 3’ minute as a Daniel Severino set-piece from distance was easily dealt with by Paul Henderson in the Blues goal.
At the other end, Kutaiba Elrich had a set-piece of his own 2’ minutes later from a very promising position, though once again, it was easy pickings for the goalkeeper.
Despite Sydney Olympic’s dominance of possession, Marconi Stallions took the lead against the run of play. Elasi collected the ball inside the Blues half and smartly drove his left-foot attempt inside the far post, curling the ball past the outstretched arm of goalkeeper Henderson.
The goal seemed to spark the Stallions forward as Keith Shevlin was played through down the right moments later. The striker showed pace and composure as he crossed the ball into the penalty-area, however no Stallions player was on the receiving end as the Blues cleared their line.
Marconi continued to take the initiative across the middle of the park, though the Blues created the next scoring chance on 24’ minutes via the feet of Zac Elrich. The skillful midfielder created the space to shoot on goal and force Tibbles into a save – the shot-stopper claiming the ball at the second attempt.
On the half-hour, a Phil Makrys free-kick had the Stallions on the back foot. The Blues’ captain picked out the head of Marton Vass who directed his header on goal. Amidst a sea of legs, and pushing from both sets of players, the referee correctly whistled for a foul in favour of the Stallions.
At the other end, Mailer stung the palms of Henderson at the other end with a ferocious shot-turn-cross that was claimed by the goalkeeper.
Tensions did begin to show with a series of stoppages for fouls in the middle of the park in the closing stages of the half as both the Stallions and Sydney Olympic looked to gain the ascendancy.
Referee Ben Williams, after a number of yellow cards, issued a red card to Mailer for an incident down the left touchline, leaving the Stallions to defend their lead with ten-men in the second-half.
Despite playing with a numerical disadvantage, the Stallions carved out the first opening of the second-half via Jamie McMaster. The playmaker created the yard of space to fire a shot on target, comfortably dealt with by Tibbles for Marconi.
On 52’ minutes, Makrys and Vass combined again off a set-piece from the right for the Blues. The defender rose highest to get his head to the ball though his effort lacked the power to trouble the goalkeeper.
The match produced a fine matchup between Kutaiba Elrich and Shane Webb, and the two players were in need of some treatment following a head clash between the two players on 54’ minutes.
Kutaiba Elrich was full of energy once more after returning to the field as he latched onto a neat through ball behind the Stallions defence before blasting his first-time effort wide of the mark on 57’ minutes.
On 61’ minutes, Marconi had the Blues stretched down the left as Severino was picked out with a square ball at the edge of the penalty-area. The crafty midfielder hit his shot first-time, though some desperate Sydney Olympic defending saw the Blues thwart the chance.
Sydney Olympic substitute Matthew Mayora almost made an immediate impact on 63’ minutes as he cleverly turned on the edge of the penalty-area before blasting on goal – forcing Tibbles into a fine save down to his right.
The reigning champions’ efforts in the final third finally reaped reward on 67’ minutes as Makrys and Ibrahim Haydar combined to level the scores. Makrys’ sensational cross from the right set Haydar up for the header – the defender made no mistake in diverting his effort into the back of the net.
The goal spurred the Blues forward as Chris Triantis first, then Matthew Mayora, had openings, though the Stallions got men behind the ball to keep the scores level.
Troy Danaskos’ showing, along with that of Peter Triantis, was impressive for the Blues - both players showing their continual development for Sydney Olympic.
Stallions captain Shane Webb, with the armband due to Nahuel Arrarte’s unavailability, led a late charge by the Stallions with an energetic close to the encounter. Webb was the engine room for a Stallions side that was running on empty following Mailer’s first-half departure.
Elasi went close on 75’ minutes to finding an unlikely winner as he wiggled his way into some space inside the penalty-area. The attacking midfielder hit a venomous drive on goal though was denied by one of the many bodies put on the line to deny a goal.
Marconi should have restored its lead in the 79’ minute via Joey Gibbs. The Stallions midfielder received a neat square ball and, from point-blank range, saw his first-time shot cleared off the line by a Blues defender.
The Stallions squandered a glorious chance 6’ minutes from time via the boot of McMaster. Initiated once more by Webb, McMaster cut into the penalty-area with a swift step before rifling his right-footed effort well off target from a really good position.
At the other end, Sydney Olympic found its match winner via Chris Triantis. Following a goalmouth scramble where Tibbles failed to claim a corner, Chris Triantis managed to toe-poke the ball home to send the Blues’ supporters into raptures.
The injury-time exchanges failed to provide an equaliser to the Stallions who bravely pressed for an equaliser as the Blues sealed three valuable points in its bid to keep its title ambitions alive.
MATCH REPORT COURTESY OF FNSW