Lions FC 2 (Reardon 59′; Madle 95′)
Olympic FC 1 (Whyte 12′)
Marek Madle’s extra time goal proved the difference as Lions came from behind to claim the NPL Queensland League and Grand Final double at the first time of asking.
In front of a bumper crowd at Lions Stadium including a highly vocal and substantial Olympic support, it looked as though it wasn’t to be Lions day as they limped and faltered throughout the opening period whilst the visitors looked sharp and bossed the game.
Olympic took an early lead just after 10 minutes when Steve Whyte found the back of the net having earlier threatened with a long range strike.
Things got worse for the hosts when striker Jheison Macuace landed awkwardly, twisting his ankle just before the half hour mark and following a lengthy period of treatment, was unable to continue, replaced by Nathan Shapherd off the bench.
Lions failed to create many clear cut opportunities other than an early effort from Josh Brindell-South that bounced awkwardly in front of Olympic keeper Nicholas Mooney before he had to bundle it away from danger.
Olympic went close to doubling their lead when Danny Byrne’s cross was met by Shelford Dais but he was unable to keep his effort down as Lions keeper Luke Borean was relieved to watch it fly harmlessly over.
The second half saw Lions resume with more purpose and they found the equaliser just before the hour mark. A free kick out on the left was floated into the box and met by the head of Nathan Reardon, who was deputising for the suspended Tommy Jarrard. His header flying past Mooney as the Lions faithful erupted.
Both sides had their opportunities to take the lead with the visitors twice denied by the heroics of Luke Borean who had the measure of live wire winger Jaz Lofthouse, which included a superb save midway through the half that looked destined for the top corner.
Shortly after, Lofthouse was again left frustrated when Danny Kim made a crucial tackle to prevent him heading towards Borean one on one
At the other end, Shepherd and Madle were both thwarted with Madle wasting one of his side’s better chances on 70 minutes, heading wide from a corner when unmarked.
Olympic went close towards the end of normal time when Kristen Waters headed over from a corner when well placed.
So it would require a further 30 minutes to decide the winner, with the hosts having already played out extra time and penalties just the week before en route to reaching the grand final.
Five minutes into the first period of extra time, a free kick in front of the Olympic bench for the hosts found Madle in the box rising highest and his deft header drifted past Mooney before nestling into the bottom far corner of the goal as Lions took the lead.
With the first period close to completion, tempers began to fray and a challenge on Jean Carlos-Solorzano sparked a melee which saw the Costa Rican cautioned for retaliating as well as his Olympic protagonist. Former Brisbane Roar defender Shane Stefanutto also earning a yellow ticket for his dissent towards the officials.
Substitute Alex Smith went close to replying for Olympic but headed over as his side were unable to regain control of the game as they’d done earlier on.
Shaun Carlos had the best chance of the second period of extra time, blasting over from close range after picking up Shepherd’s neat through ball.
With time running out, further frustrations boiled over with Referee Matt Skinner doing well to keep his cards in his pockets and keep a lid on things as Lions looked to see the game out whilst Olympic were hustling to regain the ball. Finally, following some six minutes of added time at the end of the regulation 30 minutes, Referee Skinner signalled the end and the hosts claimed the double in their first season in the NPL.
Next week they must do it all again in the national finals when they host Northern NSW NPL Champions Edgeworth Eagles FC.
On winning the double: “It feels great. We set some serious goals this year on what we wanted to do and we spoke about certain benchmarks. One was winning the league, another being to win the double and also doing well in the FFA Cup. It’s been an absolute dream year and this playing group, I can’t speak highly enough of.”
“Tonight we were down and out physically and tonight it caught up with us. Olympic were far better in the first half, but they have to understand what we’re about – it can’t be a fluke and it can’t be bad luck as we’ve played them four times and beaten them three times. They have to recognise what a good team we are; we found a way to win the game and they found a way to not win it which says a lot more about us a team and our character and that’s why we are the champions and the grand final winners.”
On the NPL National Finals next week:
“We’ll go in with confidence and real determination to have a go, be brave and be positive and see where it takes us now. It’s so much better going into it after a win, the boys will be high on emotion and probably ready to give Edgeworth a great game.”
Borean (gk), Thompson, Reardon, Simic, Hore, Solorzano, Brindell-South, Macuace, Carlos, Kim, Madle.
Subs: Cuminao (rgk), Maher, Cosgrove, Shepherd.
Mooney (gk), Stefanutto, Waters, Whyte, Mundy, Dais, Ito, Mundy, Sanders, Nazary, Lofthouse.
Subs: Glover, Psaros, Cuminao, Smith, Sprange (rgk).