Coniston may have been crowned league champions, but it was a determined Wollongong United who came out on top in the Premier League Youth Grade grand final after an epic 5-4 penalty shootout at Ian McLennan Park on Friday night.
At the end of the 90 minutes, as well as 20 minutes of extra time, the sides were locked at 1-1 after goals from Wollongong United’s Fabian Zapata and Coniston’s Jackson Nolan.
The action began early with the crowd going wild in the second minute after a defensive error from Coniston open up a chance for Zapata who finished with aplomb.
In the 11th minute, a smart ball from Nolan found the feet of Innocent Rubibi who charged towards the byline, before cutting back and sending the ball into Sami Benten whose strike was well saved by United goalkeeper Jake Charlston.
United’s Riley Simpson came close to scoring their second goal of the match in the 21st minute after beating the Coniston defence only to be kept out by goalkeeper Michael Brdar.
A close chance for Coniston came in the 30th minute when midfielder Payton Skurtevski managed to find Ashton Vozza who played a one-two wth Benten before shooting wide of the post.
Zapata was able to slip a ball behind the defence for Venus Mutuka, however, the United player fire his shot over the crossbar.
Just minutes later, Mutuka was involved once more as he broke down the line and into a foot race with his defender before being denied at goal once again.
Coniston were able to find an equaliser deep into added-on time in the first half with Vozza picking out Nolan in the box who executed a well-placed strike to finish past Charlston.
The second half kicked off between the two quality young sides with the first chance falling for the head of Benten who forced Charlston into a cracking save.
In the 72nd minute, United had an opportunity through Jayden Makowski’s long-range free-kick that looked to be heading over the top, only to dip down and make Brdar produce an outstanding save.
With just six minutes remaining, United were reduced to 10 players after Brent McCance received a second yellow for a challenge that broke up a promising attack.
Consiton couldn’t capitalise on the numerical advantage, though they nearly had a winner from a Dane Mathews free kick with Charlston once again pulling off an excellent save.
Both teams fought hard into extra time, however, neither could secure the vital second goal with the match forced into a penalty shootout.
The first four penalties for each side were successful before Charlston produced two top-notch saves to give Wollongong United the edge.
Makowski had the deciding penalty for United, and he made no mistake with the converted penalty seeing his side secure back-to-back Youth Grade grand finals.
Coniston FC 1 (4) (Nolan 45+2’)
Wollongong United 1 (5) (Zapata 2’)
Player of the match: Jake Charlston
Coniston FC: 40. BRDAR Michael, 43. LEWIS-DUNKLEY Josiah, 44. NOLAN Jackson, 45. MATHEWS Dane, 46. RUBIBI Innocent, 48. CHRYSSOSTOMIDIS Alex, 50. RISTEVSKI Kyle, 51. BLACKMORE Jesse, 53. SKURTEVSKI Payton, 54. BENTEN Sami, 41. NUNN Ky
Substitutes: 42. ABOELELA Omar, 47. BRADFORD Ash, 49. VOZZA Ashton, 56. SHALALA Nicholas, 12. ZUFIC David, 73. MASTERS Brodie
Wollongong United: 97. CHARLSTON Jake, 5. DEJKOVSKI James, 6. NATTRASS Will, 16. POEKHAM Panupong, 18. MCCANCE Brent, 20. MAKOWSKI Jayden, 21. THOMAS Curtis, 28. SIMPSON Riley, 35. ZAPATA Fabian, 43. DESANTIS Alex, 54. NOURIE Nixon
Substitutes: 31. BOGESKI Cameron, 43. MUTUKA Venus, 47. LASALA Jarrod, 49. CARLSEN Deegan, 53. GREEN Seth, 98. SOUSA Andrew
Date: Friday, 21 October 2022
Venue: Ian McLennan Park, Kembla Grange
Referee: Ethan Zvargulis
Assistant Referees: Casey Fleming and Nathan Alterator
Fourth Official: Stuart Bell
Report by Alison Dinh, on Twitter @alisondinh_
Photos by Pedro Garcia