Barton Park a hit as St George Saints’ resilience sees past Sydney Olympic


By National Premier Leagues NSW Men’s reporter Joe Russo

It was a celebration on all fronts as St George Saints defeated former NSL rivals Sydney Olympic 2-1 at the wonderfully refurbished Barton Park facility on a soggy Saturday evening. 

The venue and the teams were a blast from the past in what was a grand opening day for Football NSW, Bayside Council and St George FC. Barton Park celebrated in style with festivities as it hosted its first ever game since the once historic St George Stadium was demolished. And amongst the festivities there was a great game of football that ended with St George FC defeating Olympic by 2-1 after the visitors took the lead towards the end of the first half through Michael Vakis before St George struck back in the second half with a Peter Grozos penalty and a late Evangelo Souris winner.

The encounter was truly fitting of the occasion between two teams that have written their own pages in the history of Australian football – St George FC back at the spiritual home and Sydney Olympic also in many ways home, as the old St George Stadium was once their venue too.

barton park sydney olympic
Barton Park opening. Photo: Nielsen Images

The first salvo of the game arrived in the 9th minute when a Zac Zoricich cross reached George Antonis on the far side who fired from just outside the box, but the home side’s defence was able to clear the danger.

Some sloppy play by St George FC  ‘keeper Andrew Di Blasio a minute later almost gifted Roy O’Donovan a goal but the Irish striker was unable to find the back of the net from an acute angle and his attempt drifted narrowly over the crossbar.

In the 22nd minute St George FC’s Harry Jones almost had the home side on the board when his pinpoint accurate cross from the right nearly reached a lurking Troy Danaskos on the far side, but defender William Mutch’s slight defection was just enough to thwart the St George FC captain.

The Frank Arok Grandstand came close to erupting on the half-hour mark when a diagonal shot by Conor Quilligan went narrowly wide of the intended target.

In the 34th minute St George FC went ever so close again. A Grozos free-kick from the right reached Quilligan in the box who met the ball with a delightful header that went only a fraction over the crossbar, as the Sydney Olympic defence breathed a collective sigh of relief.

Just prior to the break in the 42nd minute however, Sydney Olympic took the lead when Vakis found the bottom right hand corner of the net. It was a beautiful long ball from the left by George Timotheou that was able to find Vakis who did some delightful work on the right to beat the St George FC defenders before majestically slotting the ball home.

barton park sydney olympic
It was a celebration on all fronts as St George Saints defeated former NSL rivals Sydney Olympic 2-1. Photo copyright The Greek Herald / Takis Triadafillou.

It was a great goal to suit a great occasion shortly before experienced former A-League referee Kurt Ams blew the halftime whistle to give both sides a welcome reprieve.

The second stanza of play opened with an Adam Parkhouse shot from an acute angle that sailed across the entire face of goal but narrowly wide in the 47th minute, as Olympic looked to double their lead early on.

A few minutes later St George FC replied with a long range shot from Grozos that in reality wasn’t too far off target.

The home side did manage to equalise in the 59th minute through a Grozos penalty. It was awarded when Grozos himself was sandwiched between Mutch and Sammy McIllhatton in the box and referee Ams who was right there awarded the spot kick from which he made no mistake.

Both sides had a good chance then in the 65th minute. Nicholas Kalogerou fired from just outside the box for St George FC but it was just wide as Olympic immediately went up the other end of the park before McIllhatton too put his attempt just wide of the target.

Sydney Olympic put more pressure on St George FC in the 75th minute. A Parkhouse cross found Abraham Majok at the far post who headed down to Oliver Puflett in a nice bit of combination work, but the latter’s attempt was just wide of the mark.

St George FC then broke Sydney Olympic’s heart in the 86th minute through an Evangelo Souris goal. A cross from Troy Danaskos on the left reached Souris who volleyed home by simply jumping high enough to meet the ball before.

The final chance of the encounter belonged to Zoricich and his rocket in the 88th minute was probably the best attempt of the night, but it finished just over the crossbar as Olympic desperately tried to find the equaliser.

After the game the coach of St George FC Jane Talcevksi was justifiably very pleased with his side and the win.

“It was a cagey first half where both teams had chances,” he said.

“They got a goal on the break towards the end of the first half but we knew that if we played the way we know, then it would be okay for us in the second half.

“With have a lot of players and staff who are connected to St George FC so for them to come in, christen the ground and then take the win was fantastic. The spirit of St George may have pushed us along in the second half.”

His counterpart at Sydney Olympic Labinot Haliti was left to rue the missed chances by his side.

“When you don’t score after creating so many chances, there is always a chance of conceding,” he stated.

“Obviously their first one was a penalty but we still had chances after that goal. We had clear-cut chances that needed to be taken to win the game and it’s as simple as that in the end.”

Source: Football NSW.




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