UNITED GO TOP AFTER SMASH-AND-GRAB WIN
Wollongong United jumped to the top of the Illawarra Premier League with a 1-0 win over Woonona at Macedonia Park on Tuesday night.
Mitsuo Yamada’s second-half strike was the difference between the two sides in the round three catch-up match, however, the Sharks could consider themselves unlucky to leave empty-handed with Jordan Nikolovski in fine form between the sticks for United.
It was hard to split the sides in the opening half with the first and only shot on target coming in the 39th minute when Hikaru Kawasakiya touched the ball off to Zac McLaren whose shot was easily dealt with by Jair Fernandez.
Woonona had their first genuine chance of the match a couple of minutes into the second half when Jesse French broke through the backline. The forward played a bumbling pass to Luke McCosker which forced him wide of Nikolovski, however, he managed to dink a cross back into French with his header cleared off the line by Ben Brooks.
The decisive moment of the match came in the 59th minute when the usually dependable Cameron Besgrove, as the last defender, lost control of the ball and allowed Yamada to break through on goal. The Japanese sized up the one-on-one situation before picking out the bottom left corner.
Woonona worked for an equaliser and it nearly came through skipper Tyler Bromham-Fuller with 15 minutes remaining. French laid the ball off to Bromham-Fuller just inside the box with his lashing shot forcing Nikolovski into a strong save low to his right.
Three minutes later, some tidy linkup play led to a shot on goal from French, however, the strike produced another terrific one-handed save from Nikolovski, this time to his left.
The Sharks continued to probe but apart from a spooned effort by French late in the piece, the visitors weren’t able to test Nikolovski again with United holding on for the three points.
The victory moves United ahead of Bellambi who drew 1-1 with Cringila on Tuesday night, however, the Rosellas have a game against Woonona in hand.
United coach Oli Vrtkovski admitted his side were perhaps fortunate to come away with all three points, however, he credited his defence who have now kept four straight clean sheets in the league after shipping three to Wollongong Olympic on the opening day of the season.
“They were fantastic Woonona, very well structured,” Vrtkovski said.
“They’re one of the toughest oppositions I’ve ever faced and to come away with a 1-0 victory, Woonona definitely deserved more out of tonight.
“Jordan [Nikolovski] tonight pulled off two fantastic saves and like I said Woonona were very unlucky to walk away with nothing.
“After the Olympic game, we made a change in our defence and since we have made that change in defence the boys have been rock solid… I can’t fault them at the moment, clean sheet after clean sheet.”
United host Port Kembla in round six on Saturday while Woonona will be in action on Sunday away to Olympic.
Wollongong United 1 (Mitsuo Yamada 59’)
Wollongong United: 60. NIKOLOVSKI Jordan, 19. BROOKS Ben, 3. DIAS Andre, 11. KAWASAKIYA Hikaru, 26. KAWAKAMI Seiji, 42. LAZAREVSKI Danny, 44. MCLAREN Zac, 41. THOMAS Sean, 20. TSOVOLOS Billy, 23. YAMADA Mitsuo, 10. VERSI Mason
Substitutes: 38. SEKUTKOSKI Kristian (MCLAREN), 17. TERZIC Dinko (VERSI), 7. MENDES Michael (YAMADA), 8. CORREIA Josh, 14. FLANAGAN Jeremy
Woonona: 1. FERNANDEZ Jair, 2. LOPEZ Jeremy, 3. BESGROVE Cameron, 4. REGAN-WILLIAMS Taro, 5. ISHII Tomohiro, 6. TOOHEY Luke, 7. PATTMAN Brendan, 8. Bromham-Fuller Tyler, 9. FRENCH Jesse, 10. Gaudiosi Robbie, 11. MCCOSKER Luke
Substitutes: 12. MELLOR Jai (PATTMAN), 13. BURKE (TOOHEY), 21. CHURCHWARD Jack, 14. MCCALL Edan (BESGROVE)
Date: 25 August 2020
Venue: Macedonia Park
Referee: Caleb Blanch
Assistant Referees: Gareth Jenkins and Nathan Alterator
Report by Dylan Arvela, on Twitter @dylanarvela
Photo by Richie Wagner