Cringila’s 14-year hiatus from Illawarra Premier League finals football is over after a stoic 1-0 against Wollongong United in a fiery derby on Friday night.
A passionate crowd piled in Macedonia Park for the last-round match with Michael Mendes’ first-half penalty securing the victory to dampen United’s league title celebrations.
Both sides had strikes deflected out for corners in the opening exchanges with Mason Versi for United and Cringila’s Stefan Dimoski getting shots away in the first 15 minutes.
Dimoski thought he had put the Lions ahead in the 30th minute when he nodded a cross past Jacob Madden, however, the visiting forward was ruled offside.
The only goal of the match came from the penalty spot after wideman Michael Mendes was brought down by Ben Brooks.
Mendes confidently dispatched the penalty into the left of the goal.
The final piece of action of the first half was a solid shot from Kyah Jovanovski from the edge of the box, but Nikola Ristevski produced a fine low save.
Tension rose in the second half, but genuine chances were at a premium with the best effort coming from distance.
In the 62nd minute, Lions midfielder Keegan Matias lined up a vicious shot from 20 metres out which forced Madden into a top-notch save to keep his side in the contest.
Cringila midfielder Ben Zucco entered the match in the final half hour and with one curling free kick he nearly found the head of Andrew Krsteski, but the forward couldn’t make contact with the ball.
The Lions were reduced to 10 players in the 84th minute after Ryan Akhurst pocketed his second yellow card of the match and only two minutes later United nearly equalised when substitute Jeremy Flanagan spurred a close-range shot over the bar.
United scrambled in the dying stages, with Madden spending much of added-on time in Cringila’s half of the field, however, the Lions held on for a famous derby victory.
Tempers flared following the full-time whistle with United’s Rene Vescio and Cringila substitute Jordan Prentoski both shown a red card following a scuffle between the two sets of players.
The hosts were awarded the league championship trophy after the match, with the side now getting two weeks off before facing the winner of Wollongong Olympic and Bulli for a spot in the grand final.
Cringila will take on Coniston in a fortnight’s time in a do-or-die clash.
The game will be the Lions’ first in the finals for more than 5000 days with the side’s last appearance coming in 2008 when they lost 3-1 to Fernhill.
Wollongong United 0
Cringila Lions 1 (Michael Mendes 39′ PEN)
Wollongong United: 62. MADDEN Jacob, 27. BARBAROVSKI Bailey, 19. BROOKS Ben, 26. KAWKAMI Seiji, 29. SEKUTKOSKI Klime, 32. STOJANOVSKI James, 10. TERZIC Dinko, 2. THOMAS Sean, 4. VESCIO Rene, 11. VERSI Marson, 8. JOVANOVSKI Kyah
Substitutes: 14. FLANAGAN Jeremy (JOVANOVSKI), 5. LAZAREVSKI Danny, 7. CORREIA Josh (BARBAROVSKI), 25. GUTIERREZ Jaime (STOJANOVSKI), 9. DARJANI Thomas
Yellow cards: STOJANOVSKI, TERZIC, VESCIO
Red cards: VESCIO
Cringila Lions: 1. RISTEVSKI Nikola, 6. KOTEVSKI Kayne, 33. HONDROUDAKIS Emanual, 5. RALSTON James, 3. DIAS Andre, 8. MATIAS Keegan, 24. AKHURST Ryan, 10. UGRINOVSKI Steven, 7. MENDES Michael, 17. DIMOSKI Stefan, 47. KRSTESKI Anthony
Substitutes: 9. SIMONOSKI Peter (UGRINOVSK), 16. ZUCCO Ben (DIMOSKI), 19. PRENTOSKI Jordan, 22. KALMANIDIS Jonah, 20. TOLNAY Kurtis
Yellow cards: RISTEVSKI
Red cards: AKHURST, PRENTOSKi
Venue: Macedonia Park, Berkeley
Date: Friday, 16 September 2022
Referee: Bobby Mazevski
Assistant Referees: Reece Edwards and Casey Flemming
Report by Dylan Arvela, on Twitter @dylanarvela
Photos by Richie Wagner