Bellambi and Wollongong Olympic looked set to walk away from Elizabeth Park with a point apiece until Ben Zucco popped up on the edge of the 18-yard box in the 87th minute to fire home a late winner for the visitors.

Both teams contended with a strong crosswind during the 90 minutes which benefitted Olympic in the opening moments as Chris Price whipped in a ball across the face of goal that caught out Bellambi’s goalkeeper Seiya Miyamoto but was missed by Olympic duo, Hikaru Kawasakiya and Josh Hawker who were both outstretched but failed to poke the ball into the goal.

This would be one of the few clear-cut chances in the first half as the match descended into a tight and niggly tussle that culminated in Hawker being fouled in the box and Olympic being awarded a penalty in the 35th minute.

The man who scored the grand-final winner for Wollongong United last season, Kawasakiya, stood up to the spot but crashed his shot into the crossbar to leave the game goalless.

Chances remained few and far between until the 65th minute when Bellambi’s Chris Gomez found himself on the end of a cross from the right with a free header but he failed to hit the target.

Immediately Olympic went down the other end where Kawasakiya found himself on the ball in the penalty area.

The Japanese swivelled and shot but his effort went wide of the mark.

In the 85th minute, Kawasakiya couldn’t believe that he had failed to put his side in front after connecting with a low cross from the left when Miyamoto, formerly of Olympc, pulled off a stunning save at the near post from point-blank range.

Just as it seemed that the game would remain in a deadlock, a Bellambi handball on the edge of the box gifted Olympic a great opportunity to secure an elusive winner with only three minutes left on the clock.

The opportunity looked to be squandered when the free-kick was struck into the wall but a looping rebound was pounced on by Zucco on the edge of the area; the midfielder volleying the ball with conviction past Miyamoto to put Olympic ahead.

Moments after Zucco celebrated his sensational strike with the Olympic faithful, the referee ended proceedings to confirm that the away side had earned all three points.

Olympic will be relieved to have snatched the points late on after controlling the majority of the game’s possession.

The win continues George Antoniou’s 100 per cent winning record for the season, while Bellambi will be disappointed to walk away without a result after an impressive defensive performance.

After failing to conjure many chances, both sides will hope to improve their cutting edge in the front-third next round with Bellambi to face Tarrawanna and Olympic to play Port Kembla.

Before that, Wollongong Olympic have a FFA Cup match where they will travel to Sydney’s north to face Berowra FC.

Bellambi: 0

Wollongong Olympic: 1 (Ben Zucco 87’)

Bellambi: 1. MIYAMOTO Seiya, 2. KOLIOPOULOS Daniel, 3. FALZON Samuel, 4. AVELLO Adrian, 5. BEATTIE Ryan, 6. FRIEDRICH Blake, 9. WILSON Brett, 10. GOMEZ Chris, 11. MOLLOY Sean, 12. GRINHAM Jordan, 15. WILTON Wade.

Substitutes: 7. VICOROSKI Johnny (MOLLOY), 8. KOTEVSKI Kayne (GOMEZ), 13. BUZINKI Aaron, 14. LAWAL Abdulsamiu, 15. CUPITT Nathan

Wollongong Olympic: 1. PASFIELD Justin, 6. HARTAS David, 4. O’ROURKE James, 5. KEATING Jack, 19. PRICE Chris, 16. ZUCCO Ben, 18. PAPPAS Jason, 31. LAVALLE Joey, 12. HAWKER Josh, 17. MACDONALD Josh, 11. KAWASAKIYA Hikaru.

Substitutes: 33. D’ALMEIDA Ekoue, 21. MENDES Michael (LAVELLE), 9. MUSUMECI Tory (PAPPAS), 7. FLORO Matt (HAWKER), 77. GENUA Luke. 

Date: 11 April 2021

Venue: Elizabeth Park

Referee: Bobby Mazevski

Assistant Referees: Brendan Fotheringham and Tim Gibson

Report by Nic Wilson, on Twitter @_nicwilson

Photo by WOFC

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