Wollongong United have moved one step closer to the grand final with a 3-2 victory over Bulli in an absorbing semi-final encounter at Memorial Park. Despite Bulli taking an early lead through Dylan Lewis, United drew level on the stroke of half time through Billy Tsovolos before scoring two goals in the first 15 minutes of the second half. A second goal in the 77th minute for Lewis was not enough for Bulli to draw back into the contest as United held on for victory in the remaining minutes.
The contest began as a tight tussle until Bulli found their groove around the quarter of the hour mark. After a few promising attacks, they won a corner in the 20th minute. The resulting in swinging cross was won by Bulli and headed past Jordan Nikolovski in the United goal, only for the gloveman to be saved by his defence who cleared the ball off the line. Alas, they did not clear it far enough as Bulli fired back another shot which was parried by Nikolovski straight into the path of Lewis who tapped in the opening goal of the afternoon.
Half an hour into the match, United had their first promising chance when Seiji Kawakami jinked his way through Bulli’s defence to the by-line before cutting the ball back to Hikaru Kawasakiya whose shot was saved by Ben McGinnes with a magnificent out-stretched leg.
Three minutes before the end of the half United had another chance when Andre Dias stood over a free-kick ten metres outside the penalty area. His curling effort lacked the power to give McGinnes any trouble getting to the ball, however, in an attempt to catch it he fumbled it straight into the path of Kawakami who remarkably missed the target as his shot dribbled across the face of goal before being cleared for a corner. Fortunately for Kawakami, he didn’t have time to regret his miss as Billy Tsovolos poked the ball into the back of the net from amongst a goal mouth scramble from the resulting corner.
Tsovolos was at the centre of the action once more in the tenth minute of the second half when he hit an exquisite 35-metre cross straight onto the head of Jeremy Flanagan looming on the edge of the six-yard box who emphatically placed the ball into the back of the net.
In the 59th minute, Bulli had a great chance to equalise when Luke Van Zyl intercepted a poorly hit back pass and attempted to round Nikolovski. The keeper would not be beaten though, diving to his left and the punching the ball out from Van Zyl’s feet.
Following Nikolovski’s save, United would make their way into Bulli’s penalty area which resulted in Kawakami winning a penalty after being felled. Dias stood up the spot and coolly passed the ball into the net as McGinnes went the wrong way.
Down 3-1, Bulli were on the hunt for two quick goals to have any chance of avoiding a sudden death match next week and in the 76th minute Lewis gave his side hope when he was played in behind and placed the ball past Nikolovski who was attempting to shut him down.
Bulli’s chances of equalising were significantly slimmed in the 90th minute when Aaron Baker received his second yellow following a desperate tackle on United’s Anthony Krsteski.
Six minutes of stoppage time followed before the final whistle blew with Wollongong United holding on for victory. The win means that United will face Woonona, the side they lost the league title to in the final minutes of the regular season, in bid to secure a spot in the grand final. Meanwhile, Bulli now face Albion Park in an elimination match with the winner facing the loser of Woonona vs United.
Wollongong United: 3 (Tsovolos 43’, Flanagan 55’, Dias 61’)
Bulli: 2 (Lewis 20’ 76’)
Wollongong United: 60. NIKOLOVSKI Jordan, 19. BROOKS Ben, 3. DIAS Andre, 11. KAWASAKIYA Hikaru, 26. KAWAKAMI Seiji, 42. LAZAREVSKI Danny, 44. MCLAREN Zac, 7. MENDES Michael, 14. FLANAGAN Jeremy, 32. STOJANOVSKI James.
Substitutes: 30. SEKUTKOSKI Klime (Mendes), 17. TERZIC Dinko (Flanagan), 22. AKHURST Ryan, 49. KRSTESKI Anthony (Kawaskiya), 62. BEDELOVSKI Zak.
Bulli: 1. MCGINNES Ben, 3. HARRIS Jack, 4. BAKER Aaron, 27. CLARINO Ian, 5. FOSTER Luke, 2. JACKSON Kyle, 6. DAVIS Sam, 14. LEWIS Dylan, 26. TSUJIMURA Takumu, 9. MCDONALD Ben, 7. VAN ZYL Luke.
Substitutes: 8. HEWSON Blake (Harris), 31. EMERTON Ryan (Foster), 11. ENGLISH Edward, 16. FARINA Daniel, 23. DELLA VEDOVA Jordyn.
Date: 11 October 2020
Venue: Memorial Park
Referee: Andrew Naylor
Assistant Referees: Greg Reid and Demi Goddard
Fourth Official: Peter Ilcevski
Report by Nic Wilson, on Twitter @_nicwilson
Photo by Richie Wagner