Cringila Lions have overcome Coniston FC 3-2 at JJ Kelly Park on a sunny Monday afternoon to book a tie against Bulli FC this weekend in the minor semi-final.
Spectators were treated to a spectacular first half with Anthony Krsteski giving Cringila an early lead before the side missed the chance to score again as Michael Mendes’ penalty was saved. Two quickfire goals around half an hour in saw Coniston briefly restore parity, but a few minutes later Krsteski has his second. Peter Simonoski added a third to round out an exhilarating first half.
Van Elia’s converted penalty for Coniston midway through the second half left a nervy closing quarter of the match for Cringila; however, the side held on to advance deeper into the final series.
Within four minutes, Krsteski latched onto a high ball into the left channel – nodding it beyond the onrushing Coniston goalkeeper Kaydin Harrison before rolling a composed finish into the now vacant net. However, Coniston nearly pulled level over the next ten or so minutes with Matthew Floro and Lukas Sergiou both going close to scoring.
Stefan Dimoski had a great chance to double the Cringila lead as Andre Dias’ deep cross from the left found the forward at the back post, but his header was straight at Harrison. Coniston immediately went down the other end with Floro driving into the left of the box and firing a shot narrowly over the bar. Dimoski had another headed opportunity three minutes later, rising highest from Ben Zucco’s right-sided corner – glancing the ball over the crossbar.
Cringila were awarded a penalty in the 27th minute and with it a chance to add a second goal. Mendes took responsibility having only last month buried a late spot-kick against Coniston. The winger on this occasion saw his side-footed strike saved by Harrison – the shot-stopper diving to his right and eventually holding onto the ball.
Just three minutes later, a neat nutmeg from Tobias Norval on the edge of the box set up the Coniston midfielder to power an effort into the right side of the net and set the scores level.
It looked like Cringila would rue the missed penalty moments earlier; however, only three minutes after the equaliser, the side pulled back in front. Some clever hold-up play from Simonoski allowed the striker to lay the ball off for Krsteski on the left who stroked a right-footed shot into the top right corner clipping the post on its way in. It was now a brace for the former Coniston winger on his old turf.
The action didn’t stop there as both sides sort further goals before the break. Coniston’s Elia received the ball in the left of the box in the 36th minute, finding Samuel Matthews on the edge of the box. From there, he shifted the ball onto his left foot; his shot requiring Cringila keeper Nikola Ristevski to acrobatically divert the ball over the bar.
Mendes was denied by Harrison again 39 minutes in as his looping effort from the edge of the box was tipped over the bar. However, the keeper could do nothing to prevent Cringila’s third goal with two minutes to go in the first half – Simonoski converting Dimoski’s right-sided cross along the ground, in off the right post. The same duo for Cringila’s third almost combined again two minutes into stoppage time, but this time, Simonoski didn’t make sufficient contact with the ball.
Coniston nearly went into the break just a goal down as Matthew Tschentscher’s header in the box was cleared off the line by Emanuel Hondroudakis on the stroke of halftime. As a result of the defender’s late intervention, Cringila’s two-goal buffer remained intact as the teams headed into the sheds. This was the first Illawarra Premier League finals series either side had competed in, in over a decade.
The home side set the tone in the second half pursuing a swift goal after halftime with Elia at the heart of things seeing his acrobatic shot from the middle of the box sail over just seven minutes in. The midfielder came close again just after the hour mark with his lobbed effort from range skimming onto the crossbar. However, in the 67th minute, the 2019 George Naylor medalist got his goal – tucking away a penalty into the left side of the net to set up a grand-stand finish to the elimination final.
Elia had his sights set on a second goal eight minutes later with his effort from the left edge of the box punched away by Ristevski.
As the game entered the final 15 minutes of regular time, Cringila conjured up several opportunities to put the game to bed. Simonoski and Dimoski both fired shots at goal but were unable to find the net. Keegan Matias’ left-footed curler with three minutes to go bounced just past the left post – the side now tasked with protecting a one-goal advantage for the six minutes of stoppage time to follow.
Deep into this additional time, Coniston worked the ball into the right of the box for substitute Adam Voloder – the attacker prodding a shot towards goal but Ristevski repelled. With the resulting corner cleared, referee Greg Reid blew the final whistle as Cringila prevailed against rivals Coniston 3-2.
Cringila had won only four matches before the reformat of the competition, but a remarkable resurgence in form has propelled the side to victories in six of their last seven matches. Coach Icko Atanasoski highlighted the importance of the results the side have been picking up.
“Over the last eight weeks, each game for us has been a grand final. Each game we’ve had to win or get a result to get to fifth,” Atanasoski explained.
“The fact that we got to fifth, everything hereon is a bonus for us, and we’re not looking back.
“We’ve worked, and we deserve to be here, and we’ll keep pushing as far as it goes.”
For Coniston, the result means they are out of the running for the Illawarra Premier League title and finish their season with one win from their final five matches.
Coniston FC 2 (Tobias Norval 30’, Van Elia 67’ penalty)
Cringila Lions 3 (Anthony Krsteski 4’ 33’, Peter Simonoski 43’)
Coniston FC: 1. HARRISON Kaydin, 2. MATTHEWS Samuel, 3. KAYANO Takayuki, 6. STERGIOU Lukas, 9. TSCHENTSCHER Matthew, 10. ELIA Van, 11. MORLANDO Jake, 17. ZUFIC Jason, 19. NORVAL Tobias, 34. D’ALMEIDA Ekoue, 77. FLORO Matthew
Substitutes: 7. VOLODER Adam (FLORO 64’), 14. SACCO Gian (MORLANDO 59’), 15. DUCKINOSKI Aleksandar (TSCHENTSCHER 57’), 35. STERN Daniel, 20. MATIAS Harrison
Yellow Cards: Samuel Matthews 20’, Aleksandar Duckinoski 71’
Red Cards: Nil
Cringila Lions: 1. RISTEVSKI Nikola, 6. KOTEVSKI Kayne, 33. HONDROUDAKIS Emanuel, 22. KALMANIDIS Jonah, 3. DIAS Andre, 16. ZUCCO Ben, 8. MATIAS Keegan, 47. KRSTESKI Anthony, 17. DIMOSKI Stefan, 9. SIMONOSKI Peter, 7. MENDES Michael
Substitutes: 88. SITNIKOSKI Stiven (DIMOSKI 83’), 36. LEE Brandon, 66. FAKHOURY Jacob (MENDES 90+6’), 20. TOLNAY Kurtis
Yellow Cards: Keegan Matias 41’, Peter Simonoski 74’, Anthony Krsteski 85’
Red Cards: Nil
Date: Monday, 3 October 2022
Venue: JJ Kelly Park, Coniston
Referee: Greg Reid
Assistant Referees: Brendon Fotheringham and Hayden Michlmayr
Fourth Official: Ethan Zvargulis
Report by Timothy Gibson, on Twitter @Timg123_
Photos courtesy of Edmund Esterbauer