Wollongong United have booked their spot in the 2020 Illawarra Premier League Grand Final in a thrilling 1-0 win over Woonona on a wet Sunday afternoon at Macedonia Park.
After a quiet first half for both teams, Wollongong piled on the pressure on in the second half and forced Jair Fernandez and his defence and multiple extraordinary saves as they kept their side in it until United finally broke the deadlock in the 90th minute through Zac McLaren, sending United to the final to face the winner of Albion Park and Woonona.
United had the only real chance of the first half in the 35th minute in a wild pinball sequence which saw five consecutive shots all deflected away by the Sharks defence.
Wollongong continued their pursuit in the second half and came agonisingly close to scoring the opener in the 57th minute when Kawasakiya Hikory paced through the Woonona defence and found himself one-on-one with Fernandez who made an incredible tackle to deny Hikory an open goal.
In the 71st minute United gave Woonona their biggest test of the game when Billy Tsovolos spotted an open Jeremy Flanagan at the back post who attempted an audacious scissor kick from close range but was denied Cameron Besgrove who lunged himself in front of the ball to maintain the clean sheet.
Wollongong continued their constant press on the Sharks defence and were rewarded with free-kick from close range in the 72nd minute, Ben Brooks was on the receiving end of the set-piece but his header from the six-yard box went inches wide of the post.
Woonona began to turn the momentum around during the latter stages of the game and had their best chance of the game in the 78th minute when Tomohiro Ishii played a perfect ball into the box and found Robbie Guadiosi who was one-on-one with Jordan Nikolovski, Gaudiosi narrowly missed the front post, hitting the side netting much to the relief of United’s defence
It wasn’t until the 90th minute when United finally cracked the Sharks defence, Tsovolos chipped a perfect through ball into McLaren who chested the ball down and riffled his shot into the back of the net sending his team into through to the Grand Final.
Woonona were left heartbroken at the final whistle after conceding the last minute goal, if not for the goal Jair Fernandez could have been the man of the match after a phenomenal display under immense amounts of pressure from United’s front-line.
Dan McGoldrick wasn’t shy in expressing his displeasure with his side’s performance on the day.
“I was very disappointed with our first half, I thought United were the better team”.
“They had a header on the far post there that should of gone in, so I think on balance I’ve got to be honest and say that they shaded us today and deserved to go through”.
“We’ve got our hands full next week with Albion Park, they’re a good footballing side, they play good football, so we can’t afford to play like that next week otherwise they’ll give us a lesson in football”.
Wollongong United 1 (MCLAREN 90’)
Wollongong United: 60. NIKOLOVSKI Jordan, 19. BROOKS Ben, 3. DIAS Andre, 11. HIKORY Kawasakiya, 26. KAWAKOMI Seiji, 42. LAZAREVSKI Danny, 44. MCLAREN Zac, 20. TSOVOLOS Billy, 10. VERSI Mason, 14. FLANAGAN Jeremy, 32. STOJANOVSKI James
Substitutes: 7. MENDES Michael, 23. YAMADA Mitsuo, 17. TERZIC Dinko, 30. KLIME Sekytkoski, 80. BEDELOVSKI Zak.
Woonona: 20. FERNANDEZ Jair, 2. LOPEZ Jeremy, 3. BESGROVE Cameron, 4. WILLIAMS Taro Regan, 5. ISHII Tomohiro, 6. TOOHEY Luke, 7. PATTMAN Brendan, 8. BROMHAM-FULLER Tyler, 9. FRENCH Jesse, 10. MELLOR Jai, 11. GAUDIOSI Robbie.
Substitutes: 12. BURKE Thomas, 13. GREW Damien, 14. MCCALL Eden, 15. MCCOSKER Luke, 1. CHURCHWARD Jack.
Date: 18th October 2020
Venue: Macedonia Park
Referee: Peter Ilcevski
Assistant Referees: Nick Ryan, Reece Edward
Fourth Official: Bobby Mazevski
Report by Dominic Criniti, on Twitter @DCriniti
Photo by Richie Wagner