A Tatsuki Nagatsuki-inspired Unanderra Hearts have defied the odds to claim the District League grand final crown 2-0 against league winners Helensburgh.

The sides couldn’t be split after 90 minutes with prolific goalscorer Mark Picciolini coming off the bench to score at the start of extra time before Nagatsuki sealed the title with a superb strike from the edge of the box.

Unanderra started the better of the two teams with Valentino Merxhushi, Scott Bridge, Nagatsuki, Robbie Delbanco and Christian Plakias all having shots on goal inside the opening 25 minutes.

The Thistle’s first chance came on the counter from Kade Kinsella who tried to lob Blake Coad from distance half an hour into the contest.

In the 38th minute, Helensburgh had an exceptional opportunity through Charlie Jones, however, Coad produced a top save before Luke Debrot blocked the follow-up strike from Kinsella.

Unanderra midfielder Tatsuki Nagatsuki.

Kinsella had another chance in the 40th minute when the striker thumped the ball against the underside of the bar.

Unanderra nearly had the advantage going into the sheds when the ball was cut back for Jonathan Liddle who blasted it well over the bar.

Bridge came close to scoring the opener in the 58th minute after he received a cut back only for his shot to be saved between the legs of Helensburgh goalkeeper Jordan Paul.

Helensburgh had tow great chances in the 65th and 68th minute through Vaughan Patterson and Brad Watts.

Patterson’s effort was a header that trialed to the left of the goal, while the second saw Watts jink around Coad before a retreating Jason Goldsmith blocked his shot.

Unanderra finished regular time on top with Liddle’s cross leading to a scramble in the box with Bridge eventually getting a shot away only for it to be blocked by Jarrod Benham.

Helensburgh co-captain Luke Van Zyl.

It didn’t take long in extra time for the first goal of the match to be scored with Liddle picking out Picciolini with a cross with the diminutive striker finishing a volley into the bottom left corner.

Unanderra pushed for a second to kill the game with Bridge forcing a save out of Paull, who also denied Picciolini in a one-on-one.

The match was put to bed in the 106th minute, however, through midfield maestro Nagatsuki who picked up the ball just outside Helensburgh’s area before rifling it into the top right corner.

The Thistle had the final effort of the match through Caleb Browne, however, Coad produced a solid save to retain his clean sheet and see the outfit who finished third in the regular season claim the grand final trophy.

Helensburgh Thistle 0

Unanderra Hearts 2 (Mark Picciolini 90′, Tatsuki Nagatsuki 106′)

Matt Horsley Medallist: Tatsuki Nagatsuki

Helensburgh Thistle: 1. PAULL Jordan, 2. WATSON Rob, 3. BENHAM Jarrod, 4. HOPE Ryan, 5. TURRALL Peter, 8. PATTERSON Vaughan, 10. WATTS Brad, 6. HEWSON Blake, 9. KINSELLA Kade, 13. JONES Charlie, 14. WATTS Ben

Substitutes: 11. MUCCI Joel (HEWSON), 7. VAN ZYL Luke (Ben WATTS), 12. LENH Ethan, 15. BROWNE Caleb (WATSON, 86. BROWN Connor

Unanderra Hearts: 20. COAD Blake, 4. GOLDSMITH Jason, 5. DEBROT Luke, 2. KYRAKOUDES Peter, 6. DELBANCO Robbie, 7. PLAKIAS Christian, 9. BRIDGE Scott, 12. MERXHUSHI Valentino, 10. NAGATSUKI Tatsuki, 8. LIDDLE Jonathan, 14. MARTIN Lachlan

Substitutes: 3. BELSITO Nathan (NAGATSUKI), 23. MOREIRA Brad, 13. PICCIOLINI Mark (MARTIN), 17. MCGILL Domenic (PLAKIAS), 1. SAWADA Kenji

Date: Sunday, 23 October 2022

Venue: WIN Stadium, Wollongong

Referee: Jay Walpole

Assistant Referees: Greg Reid and Reece Edwards

Fourth Official: Peter Ilcevski

Report by Dylan Arvela, on Twitter @dylanarvela

Photos courtesy of Pedro Garcia

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