Bulli and Wollongong Olympic played out another epic at Balls Paddock on Saturday afternoon with the Illawarra Premier League heavyweights forced to settle for a 2-2 draw.

Olympic stormed to a two-goal lead with goals from John Martinoski and Keegan Matias before Luke Van Zyl supercharged a Bulli comeback.

The visitors had a couple of early chances through Martinoski and Yu Hasegawa but the first gilt-edged opportunity fell to Ryan Emerton who blasted Van Zyl’s cut back over the bar in the 12th minute.

Unfortunately for Emerton, he was involved in the opener after his turnover led to Martinoski getting the ball in space on the edge of the box, and with no one closing the attacker down, he opted to curl a shot past the diving Ben McGinnes.

Olympic’s lead doubled nine minutes later through youngster Keegan Maties who made a bustling run into the box before poking the ball into the bottom corner for his first-ever IPL goal.

In the 37th minute, Van Zyl revived the hosts with a stunning 25-metre strike which swerved across the outstretched Justin Pasfield and inside the far side-netting. 

Bulli had a couple of speculative chances before the break including a Ben McDonald header and a snapshot from Ian Clarino but Olympic maintained their one-goal advantage heading into halftime.

The enthralling contest stepped up another notch in the second period with Bulli pulling level just after the hour mark.

Van Zyl scurried into the left of the box before overcoming a bumbling touch to square the ball to McDonald to finish from close range.

Van Zyl continued to feature heavily for Bulli with the former Helensburgh winger forcing a couple of smart stops from Pasfield. 

At the other end, Olympic also came close to reestablishing a lead with Hasegawa squandering three decent chances including getting on the end of a Corey Haines-Grose cross before blazing it over as he slipped to the ground.

Ultimately, the two side’s couldn’t be separated with the draw pushing Bulli to the outright lead in the competition with their round three match against Port Kembla still in hand.

Coach Julio Miranda put the comeback down to fitness and felt his players may have been unfortunate not to leave the match with more.

“Judging by the last 60 minutes of that game, yes (we deserved to win),” Miranda said.

“(Olympic) have some very good players and they were always going to create things and it was a matter for us to just stay in the game.

“The first 30 minutes, maybe (Olympic were on top), but I knew our fitness would take over.”

Miranda’s side play a Bert Bampton Cup semi-final against Cringila at Crehan Park on Tuesday night before visiting Tarrawanna Oval in round five.

Olympic coach George Antoniou admitted it was tough encounter but also believed his side were worthy of a win.

“Bulli are very well drilled and hard to beat,” Antoniou said.

“They are never an easy game and I wouldn’t expect any different and we got nothing different.

“I think we had the best part of the game, they came back at us in the second half and probably they were lucky to stay in the game at one stage.

“Maybe it’s a fair result, asking me now, I’ll be biased and say we should have got the points.”

The draw leaves Olympic in fourth spot heading into round five where the 2020 league champions will host Cringila.

Bulli 2 (Van Zyl 37′, McDonald 63′)

Wollongong Olympic 2 (Martinoski 27′, Matias 35′)

Bulli: 1. MCGINNES Ben, 30. KAMBAYASHI Seiya, 3. HARRIS Jack, 27. CLARINO Ian, 5. FOSTER Luke, 2. JACKSON Kyle, 6. DAVIES Sam, 31. EMERTON Ryan, 7. VAN ZYL Luke, 9. MCDONALD Ben, 26. TSUJIMURA Takumu

Substitutes: 4. BAKER Aaron (EMERTON), 8. HEWSON Blake (VAN ZYL), 19. MIRANDA Sam (TSUJIMURA), 11. ENGLISH Eddy, 16. FARINA Daniel

Wollongong Olympic: 1. PASFIELD Justin, 6. HARTAS David, 26. EVERY Mark, 5. KEATING Jack, 18. BALDACCHINO James, 50. LAVELLE Joe, 22. MATIAS Keegan, 4. CARLI James, 9. HASEGAWA Yu, 10. MARTINOSKI John, 23. HORI Kojiro

Substitutes: 8. CARRASCO Oliver (CARLI), 11. HAINES-GROSE Corey (BALDACCHINO), 28. CHAPMAN Timothy, 54. HAWKER Josh, 22. MIYAMOTO Seiya

Date: 15 August 2020

Venue: Balls Paddock

Referee: Bobby Mazevski

Assistant Referees: Graeme Charker and Helmut Lux

Report by Dylan Arvela, on Twitter @dylanarvela

Photo by Dana Walker

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