Olympic win Chatham Cup!
A 75th-minute penalty from Raf de Gregorio proved the difference as Wellington Olympic fought back from a goal down to win the Chatham Cup soccer final 2-1 against Three Kings United in Auckland today. Olympic went behind inside three minutes to Three Kings' standout Brazilian playmaker Luiz Del Monte but a pinpoint header from Mickey Malivuk brought them level after 29 minutes before de Gregorio's spot kick sent the trophy to the capital. Captain Mikey Halikias, who was team mascot as an eight-year-old for Olympic's only other final appearance in 1994, said winning the 86-year-old Chatham Cup more than made up for the disappointment of missing out on the central league honours a week ago. "It's huge. At the end of the day we've won a trophy and that's something that Olympic doesn't do very often and it's a great way to pay back all those supporters who travelled up today and have been behind us all season," Halikias said. He reserved a special mention for man-of-the-match de Gregorio. "To come up here and step up again is really satisfying. The first 15 or 20 minutes we were under the cosh but after that it was all on and we started to find our rhythm. "When Raf de Gregorio plays for us we're outstanding." Three Kings, who play in the northern league's first division, eliminated four premier league sides to reach their first final. They looked set for a fifth top-level scalp when an impassioned start earned them an early lead against the central league runners-up. Glen Eie's slide-rule pass took Sam Mathews to the corner of the Olympic box, and a clever back heel left Del Monte free to slot the Aucklanders into an early lead. Olympic almost replied immediately when a quickly taken de Gregorio free kick rattled the crossbar with Three Kings goalkeeper Greg Walters still setting his defensive wall. But Three Kings had the better of the early passages, with Del Monte finding plenty of space in front of Olympic's defence. Twice he caused Olympic some heart palpitations but after drawing out goalkeeper Nick van Hattum on the first break his centred pass missed its mark, and then a few minutes later a lack of support from his teammates left Del Monte with a lack of options. Olympic's dominance at set pieces eventually got them back on level terms when Malivuk found space and had the presence of mind to direct his header downward to bounce it over a despairing Walters. De Gregorio was denied by the woodwork a second time, this time seeing a 35th-minute header slam back off the upright. Daniel Finlay almost netted a equaliser eight minutes from fulltime but his first-time volley skimmed over the crossbar. There were more nervy moments for Olympic in the dying minutes with van Hattum just clawing away a cross off the head of substitute Jesse van Kekum, and then Andre Sherard just failed to connect with a miscued shot from Sam Mathews. Three Kings coach Paul Marshall acknowledged his team were not good enough on the day. "We weren't at our best today. They had the best of the first half but we created a few chances in the second but you've got to take them at this level."