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Golden game for Olympic star Raf

In years to come Raf De Gregorio's grandchildren will get a terrible
ear-bashing from an old man who keeps raving on about the Sunday in
August 2007 when Wellington Olympic travelled to Gisborne and snatched a
3-2 Central League win against Gisborne City.
The kids will love the story. After all, when you score from the penalty
spot, it's memorable. When you score two from the spot and they seal up
a hard-fought match it's even more memorable. But when you're a
midfielder and score two penalties and also hit a wonder goal with a
35-metre shot that rockets past an All White keeper, you remember it
Ask "Raf" about this and he'll modestly say it was just one of these
In effect, he was the star of this game, not just for his goals but for
his overall contribution in midfield. His experience overseas and in the
A-League was evident as he and fellow battlers Simon George, Mikey
Halikias, Jimmy Haidakis and Anthony Neonakis starred in a hard-fought
City coach Kevin Fallon was happy enough with his injury-struck,
patched-up side.
"I thought we deserved something a little more than pride in our efforts
from this one," he said.
"The lads gave us everything and, after all, this was Olympic we were
playing against . . . a very good team still in title contention. I felt
we were just a bit unlucky with our finishing. But it was an exciting
Olympic keeper Andrew Toomath was the early hero when he turned a
25-metre volley from City's dangerous striker Robert Gill over the top
in the 15th minute.
In the 25th, De Gregorio belted home a 35-metre rocket that gave City
keeper Michael Utting no chance.
The lead only lasted three minutes. Mount Albert Grammar left-winger
Pomare Te Anou waltzed past two defenders and cut back an inch-perfect
pass to Pedro Garcias, who blasted it home from 25 metres.
City pushed forward strongly with Gill's pace and skill causing openings
for Garcias, who came close on three occasions.
But the Olympic rearguard of Antonio De Gregorio, Barry Lewis, Shaun
Easthope and Chaz Lawrence never panicked and a 39th-minute penalty
awarded in a defensive mix-up made it 2-1.
With Shane Hooks, Hone Fowler, Noah Hickey and Skye Parminter all
playing confidently, City midfielders Hose Ramos, Joe Simpkins, Jakub
Sinkora and Te Anou began to dominate.
Early in the second-half, Gill was inches away from pushing a low,
angular drive from Ramos into the net. Garcias hit the cross bar with a
diving header. Then in the 60th, Hickey, who had an excellent game,
equalised with a free-kick from near halfway.
Keeper Toomath was too far off his line to get back for that one but in
the closing stages he made a great smothering save at Hickey's feet when
the fans were already yelling "Goal!"
A draw seemed likely but in the 80th minute a Hooks handball resulted in
the second penalty and De Gregorio gave Utting no chance from the spot.
Campion College students David Salmon and Caleb Duncan joined the fray
as Hickey was pushed forward to help Gill. It produced an exciting
finish but no more goals.

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