Wollongong United won the most highly-anticipated Macedonia derby in years to secure a spot in the grand final and set up a blockbuster encounter with Wollongong Olympic.
Klime Sekutkoski scored the only goal of the first half before Cringila forward Anthony Krsteski netted a freak equaliser midway through the second period.
However, United wouldn’t be denied with impact substitute Jeremy Flanagan popping up to score the matchwinner.
We are underway! There’s a bumper crowd packed into Macedonia Park. pic.twitter.com/iwFRFqWlQb
— Football South Coast (@FSC_Official) October 16, 2022
There was a record crowd at Macedonia Park for the preliminary final, but the crowd had little to get excited about for the first half hour.
The opening goal came with about 10 minutes to play in the half when Sekutkoski fired a shot from the edge of the area with the ball diverting off a Cringila leg and out of reach of goalkeeper Nikola Ristevski – the ball nestling in the bottom left corner.
The second half opened up with United pair James Stojanovski and Josh Correira lining up shots in the first three minutes.
Former Wollongong United fullback Andre Dias had a half chance in the 60th minute when he found himself high up the left flank, however, his effort could only find the side netting.
Lions captain Peter Simonoski was being kept quiet and resorted to a tame shot from 20 metres out which was easily dealt with by United no.1 Jacob Madden.
The United goalkeeper had an error of judgement in the 77th minute which led to Krsteski levelling the match.
The Cringila attacker played in a looping cross from the right which Madden gauged was going over the bar only for it to sneak under the post and in.
The Lions faithful were in raptures, but only for a brief moment because a minute later they were once again behind with substitutes Thomas Darjani and Flanagan linking up – the former cutting to the latter to fire past Ristevski.
In the 79th minute, Cringila Emanual Handroudakis and Dias stood over a free kick from 25 metres out with the stand-in centre-half striking the ball which was saved by Madden low to his right.
Ristevski kept Cringila in the contest as the seconds ticked away with the goalkeeper pulling off two one-on-one saves against Darjani.
United managed to hold Cringila at arm’s length throughout added-on time with referee Peter Ilcevski’s full-time whistle met by jubilant celebrations by the home crowd.
Olympic await United in the decider after the two met in last weekend’s major semi-final where two extra-time goals saw the North Wollongong-based side progress to the grand final.
The defeat marks the end of Cringila’s best campaign in well over a decade with the preliminary final the deepest they’ve gone since reaching the 1997 grand final.
Wollongong United 2 (Klime Sekutkoski 36′, Jeremy Flanagan 78′)
Cringila Lions 1 (Anthony Krsteski 77′)
Wollongong United: 1. MADDEN Jacob, 27. BARBAROVSKI Bailey, 19. BROOKS Ben, 7. CORREIA Josh, 26. KAWAKAMI Seiji, 5. LAZAREVSKI Danny, 29. SEKUTKOSKI Klime, 32. STOJANOVSKI James, 10. TERZIC Dinko, 2. THOMAS Sean, 8. JOVENOVSKI Kyah
Substitutes: FLANAGAN Jeremy (CORREIRA), VERSI Mason (SEKUTKOSKI), 23. YAMADA Mitsuo, 9. DARJANI Thomas, 61. CHARLSTON Jake
Yellow Cards: 6 (Seiji Kawakami, Danny Lazerevski, James Stojanovski, Sean Thomas, Mason Versi, Thomas Darjani)
Red Cards: 0
Cringila Lions: 1. RISTEVSKI Nikola, 6. KOTOVSKI Kayne, 33. HANDROUDAKIS Emanual, 22. KALMANIDIS Jonah, 3. DIAS Andre, 16. ZUCCO Ben, 34. AKHURST Ryan, 47. KRSTESKI Anthony, 17. DIMOSKI Stefan, 9. SIMONOSKI Peter, 7. MENDES Michael
Substitutes: 14. PRENTOSKI Jordan, 66. FAKHOURY Jacob (DIMOSKI), 10. URGRINOVSKI Steven (AKHURST), 8. MATIAS Keegan (MENDES), 20. TOHAY Kurtis
Yellow Cards: 1 (Ben Zucco)
Red Cards: 0
Date: Sunday, 15 October 2022
Venue: Macedonia Park, Berkeley
Referee: Peter Ilcevski
Assistant Referees: Steve Bozic and Jay Wapole
Fourth Official: Bobby Mazevski
Report by Dylan Arvela, on Twitter @dylanarvela
Photos courtesy of Richie Wagner