Yu Kuboki’s late winner has blown the race for the top five wide open after Sydney Olympic edged out former NSL rivals Sydney United 58 2-1 in an intense PlayStation®4 National Premier Leagues NSW Men’s affair at Sydney United Sports Centre on Sunday afternoon.
The Japanese attacker notched his 11th strike of the campaign with ten minutes remaining to seal a landmark victory for Gorka Etxeberria’s side and propel Olympic into fifth position on the ladder.
Olympic had earlier broke the deadlock through a neat Christopher Gligor header but were pegged back two minutes later when Chris Payne tucked away a Matt Sim cross at the far post.
Kuboki stepped off the bench at half time to spearhead an excellent second half performance from the visitors and eventually swept home the winner in style after a brilliant assist from Olympic defender Mitchell Stamatellis.
The victory gifts Spanish custodian Etxeberria his first win as Olympic boss and snaps a run of three consecutive defeats for the unfancied visitors, who needed all three points on the day to keep their season alive.
As a result the Blues leapfrog sixth-placed Wollongong Wolves on goal difference while Sydney United 58 drop into seventh and face an almighty battle to secure a finals spot with huge encounters with fourth-placed Manly United and premiership frontrunners Blacktown City to come in the remaining fortnight.
Mark Rudan’s side will lament their showing against their Olympic rivals, particularly having equalised through Payne so quickly after Gligor’s opener.
The Reds went on to waste two excellent opportunities on the cusp of half time with Payne denied by Olympic gloveman Paul Henderson at close range and Nick Olsen spurning an effort into the side netting after racing into the clear.
They proved to be crucial misses for the hosts who were unable to grasp much of a foothold in the second half and were lucky not to go behind before Kuboki’s eightieth-minute winner.
Forward Radovan Pavicevic played a crucial part in Olympic’s opener but missed a wonderful chance one on one with Thomas Manos minutes into the second half, while Kuboki forced a pair of strong stops from Manos and smacked the underside of the crossbar on the half volley when picked out by William Angel.
Kuboki made no mistake with his next opportunity though, brushing the ball past Manos after a wonderful Stamatellis run from deep inside his own half.
The visitors survived a late scare when Henderson tipped a Nikas free kick on to the post but were well-deserving of a crucial three points.
Olympic manager Etxeberria hailed his players for their gutsy performance post-match.
“I am really happy with the players because it is difficult to adapt to changes late in the season. They have been put in a very unnatural position – but they have been trying hard and I am really happy with their attitude,” he said.
“We’ve had a little bit of trouble in our recent matches but at the end of the day the most important thing for us is that we remained positive.”
Olympic host Hakoah Sydney City East at Belmore in next Sunday’s penultimate fixture before visiting Sutherland Sharks on the last day of the season.
Sydney United 58 1 (Payne 20’)
Sydney Olympic 2 (Gligor 17’, Kuboki 81’)
Sunday 30th of July 2017
Sydney United Sports Centre, Edensor Park
Sydney United 58: 17. Matthew Bilic, 44. Yianni Fragogiannis (18. Glen Trifiro 62’), 21. Thomas Manos, 20. Peter Markovic, 3. Michael Neill, 23. Panagiotis Nikas, 32. Nicholas Olsen (7. Yutaro Shin 61’), 66. Christopher Payne, 14. Nicholas Stavroulakis (9. Adrian Vranic 80’), 5. Anthony Tomelic
Substitutes Not Used: 11. Yianni Perkatis, 30. Lucas Pervan
Yellow Cards: Markovic 72’, Neill 84’
Red Cards: N/A
Sydney Olympic: 11. Jinya An, 7. William Angel, 19. Darcy Burgess, 24. Christopher Gligor, 1. Paul Henderson, 8. Jason Madonis (12. Yu Kuboki 45’), 9. Radovan Pavicevic (99. Paul Katsetis 72’), 14. Mohammad Rahimi (15. Sebastian Malfara 56’), 5. Yianni Spyrakis, 6. Mitchell Stamatellis, 16. George Timotheou
Substitutes Not Used: 20. Ezequiel Consoni, 63. Charbel Haddad
Yellow Cards: Malfara 80’, Angel 81’
Red Cards: N/A
-By PlayStation®4 National Premier Leagues NSW Men’s reporter Jacob Windon