The opening match of the 2023 Illawarra Premier League season did not disappoint with Cringila Lions claiming a 4-2 victory over Coniston FC at Crehan Park in a wild Friday night encounter.
It was a drama-filled first half as tempers boiled over twice with four red cards shown and the scores locked at 1-1 as the teams went into the sheds.
Cringila pulled away in the second half against an eight-man Coniston side as Harrison Taranto’s long-range strike and Takayuki Kayano’s own goal secured the 4-2 result.
Within nine minutes, Cringila had a fantastic opportunity to get their season off to a flyer being awarded a penalty. Captain Peter Simonoski stepped up and fired an effort into the bottom left corner with Coniston goalkeeper Kaydin Harrison diving in the other direction.
Simonoski almost had his second just a couple of minutes later as Stefan Dimoski played a first-time ball across the box from the right that Simonoski latched onto. However, Harrison smothered the ball.
The visitors responded to this early pressure in the 11th minute as Van Elia’s side-footed shot was held onto comfortably by Nikola Ristevski in the Lions’ net.
It went from bad to worse for Coniston after conceding that early goal with the side reduced to ten men. Defender Daniel Loe sent off after a scuffle between the two sets of players.
Despite the red card, the side continued to create opportunities with Jordan Prentoski going close midway through the half.
The game continued to boil over with another melee half an hour in seeing Cringila winger Anthony Krsteski and Coniston’s Samuel Matthews sent off.
Just four minutes later, Coniston restored parity in the match courtesy of Elia bundling home from close range.
The Lions almost went into halftime in the lead with two great chances. Michael Mendes’ right-sided driven cross sliced wide from inside the box by Simonoski with four minutes to go. Later into stoppage time, Stefan Dimoski powered his shot straight at Harrison.
In the fifth minute of stoppage time, Coniston saw another player sent off. Prentoski receiving his second yellow card of the match following a second miss-timed challenge and was consequently sent off.
The first half ended with the scores level at 1-1 after a crazy first 45 minutes of the 2023 Illawarra Premier League.
It was a fast-paced start to the second half as both sides sought to make early inroads and grab a goal to take the lead.
However, just like in the first period, the Lions picked up an early – this time just six minutes into the second half. Midfielder Ryan Akhurst driving a right-footed strike from outside the box that nestled in the bottom-right corner to give Cringila the lead once more.
In spite of the uphill battle Coniston were now facing in the match, the side fought back to snatch an equaliser just after the hour mark. A fast breakaway through the middle of the pitch allowing Tobias Norval to bear down on goal and delicately chip the ball over an onrushing Ristevski.
The elation was short-lived for the away side though, as Cringila bagged another goal in the 67th minute. Taranto taking aim from outside the box, seeing his effort squeeze under Harrison and roll into the net to make it a debut goal for the former Wollongong Wolves playmaker.
The Lions stepped up the ascendancy from here, creating several opportunities to put the game to bed. The best of which came a couple of minutes after their third goal. Dimoski missing from point-blank range before Simonoski’s follow-up was held onto by Harrison.
Cringila picked up another goal in the 72nd minute with Coniston defender Kayano diverting Andre Dias’ left-sided cross into his own net.
The numerical disadvantage began to take its toll on Coniston as Cringila sought to maintain possession preventing their opponents from getting a touch on the ball. The Lions saw out the match to take a valuable three points in an entertaining opening fixture at Crehan Park.
Coniston will likely have to do a significant reshuffle to their side ahead of next Friday night’s home clash with Corrimal Rangers. While Cringila face a tough task facing reigning champions Wollongong Olympic away from home next Sunday.
Cringila Lions FC 4 (Peter Simonoski PENALTY 9’, Ryan Akhurst 52’, Harrison Taranto 68’, Takayuki Kayano OWN GOAL 72’)
Coniston FC 2 (Van Elia 33’, Tobias Norval 62’)
Cringila Lions FC: 1. Nikola RISTEVSKI, 24. Ryan AKHURST, 2. James CARLI, 34. Ekoue D’ALMEIDA, 3. Andre DIAS, Stefan DIMOSKI, 22. Jonah KALMANIDIS, 47. Anthony KRSTESKI, 7. Michael MENDES, 99. Peter SIMONOSKI, 6. Harrison TARANTO
Substitutes: 39. Dean DIMOSKI, 28. Cassander GRUJEVSKI (MENDES 86’), 4. Kayne KOTEVSKI (TARANTO 86’), 11. Benjamin MANEVSKI, 77. James SEKULOSKI (DIMOSKI 78’), 16. Ben ZUCCO (CARLI 59’)
Yellow Cards: Nikola Ristevski 14’, Stefan Dimoski 14’, Jonah Kalmanidis 54’
Red Cards: Anthony Krsteski 31’
Coniston FC: 1. Kaydin HARRISON, 4. Tyson BLACK, 10. Van ELIA, 3. Takayuki KAYANO, 5. Daniel LOE, 2. Samuel MATTHEWS, 19. Tobias NORVAL, 23. Jordan PRENTOSKI, 6. Lukas STERGIOU, 13. Cassidy TANDDO, 17. Jason ZUFIC
Substitutes: 15. Innocent RUBIBI, 18. Payton SKURTEVSKI, 14. Daniel STERN (STERGIOU 83’), 9. Nic TOMASIELLO (BLACK 71’), 12. David ZUFIC
Yellow Cards: Daniel Loe 8’, Jordan Prentoski 14’ 45+5’, Samuel Matthews 25’ 31’
Red Cards: Daniel Loe 15’, Samuel Matthews 31’, Jordan Prentoski 45+5’
Date: Friday 3 March 2023
Venue: Crehan Park, Cringila
Referee: Matthew Staples
Assistant Referees: Nick Ryan and Hayden Michlmayr
Report by Timothy Gibson, on Twitter @Timg123_
Photos courtesy of Inner Visions Photography / Denis Ivaneza