Wollongong Olympic snatched a narrow 1-0 win against Bulli FC in an Illawarra Premier League round-four encounter on Saturday afternoon at Balls Paddock.
It was a tight game that could’ve gone either way with both sides having key chances to win. However, Yuto Sugiura’s goal in the final four minutes secured the victory for Olympic.
The home side had a purposeful opening to the match putting Olympic under pressure – the side firing off an early warning shot six minutes in. They had another opportunity four minutes later, as Sam Davies drove down the right, but saw his effort roll into the gloves of Cristofer Fuentez.
Bulli continued to threaten and almost scored midway through the half as Lewis Grimshaw’s first-time shot from inside the box sailed just over the bar.
The visitors began to hold possession better after an early onslaught from Bulli and went close to opening the scoring in the 25th minute. Sugiura making room for a shot on the edge of the box that narrowly missed the top-left corner.
Olympic finished the first half strongly with two opportunities to take a lead into the break from set pieces.
With two minutes to go, a left-sided corner dropped to Joshua Alcorn in the box, the midfielder scuffing the ball wide of the left post. Just seconds later, Guy Knight’s left-sided free-kick met the head of Sugiura in the middle; Bulli goalkeeper Braeden Kludass reacting well to hold onto the ball.
Despite a strong opening 25 minutes from Bulli, Wollongong Olympic worked their way into the half as it progressed, but the scores were still locked at the break.
Olympic were out early onto the pitch for the second half and made a fast start with a couple of dangerous shots within seven minutes.
In the 50th minute, Sugiura raced through on goal sliding in to edge the ball beyond an onrushing Kludass, however, it was cleared from the line as it rolled goalwards. Two minutes later, a looping left-sided cross found Jonathon Michalopoulos at the back post; his header narrowly missing the goal.
After Bulli weathered this storm, they conjured up two shots of their own before the hour mark. In the 54th minute, Kyle Jackson’s free-kick from the edge of the box bounced wide of the right post and Ben McDonald headed off-target following a free-kick a couple of minutes later.
The hosts carried on this momentum almost bagging the opening goal in the next few minutes with a series of close chances, however, the game remained scoreless.
In the 76th minute, Olympic went down the other end with substitute Daniel Starr getting in behind down the right one-on-one with Kludass, but he skied his shot over the bar. With five minutes to play, Brendan Low’s sliced effort from the left edge of the box flew wide.
Olympic’s persistence finally paid off in the 86th minute as Sugiura was played into space inside the box and deftly lobbed the ball over Kludass – it bouncing into the vacant net.
Wollongong Olympic saw out the final few minutes to claim a 1-0 win over Bulli.
Matt Bailey’s team remain unbeaten in the competition following two wins and two draws to start the season. Bailey praised the showing of his side, especially considering key absences including 2022 George Naylor Medallist Chris Price and star all-rounder Tynan Diaz.
“It was a good contest – two sides that like to play football who respect the ball and are difficult to break down,” Bailey said.
“We’re relying on our squad players which is really important throughout the course of the season.
“When the boys are called upon and asked to do a job – they’ve done it today.”
Olympic have a crunch clash with Albion Park White Eagles in round five who are the only team with a perfect record in the competition after four rounds.
After a competitive showing from Bulli throughout the match, it was a cruel way to lose it so late on. Coach Julio Miranda will look for his team to get their form back on track travelling to Ian McLennan Park to face South Coast United in round five.
Bulli FC 0
Wollongong Olympic 1 (Yuto Sugiura 86’)
Bulli FC: 1. KLUDASS Braeden, 5. MATHIE Logan, 9. MCDONALD Ben, 7. PATERSON Jarvis, 11. BROWNLEE Deakin, 22. BRYCE Lachlan, 12. CLARINO Miguel, 6. DAVIES Sam, 10. GRIMSHAW Lewis, 27. HASHIMOTO Yuki, 2. JACKSON Kyle
Substitutes: 25. ADNUM Samuel, 19. CLARINO Julian, 34. EMERTON Ryan, 15. MANSUETO Alexander (PATERSON 80’), 17. ROOKE Alexander (M. CLARINO 67’)
Yellow Cards: Miguel Clarino 2’, Deakin Brownlee 40′, Alexander Mansueto 81’
Red Cards: Nil
Wollongong Olympic: 1. FUENTEZ Cristofer, 6. HARTAS David, 15. LITTLER Nick, 16. KNIGHT Guy, 54. ALCORN Joshua, 8. CALLAHAN Harry, 10. GOODCHILD Rick, 23. MICHALOPOULOS Jonathon, 17. O’ROURKE James, 9. SUGIURA Yuto, 11. LOW Brendan
Substitutes: 21. CHAPMAN Ryan, 77. PASFIELD Justin, 14. SINCLAIR Bailey, 2. SITNIKOSKI Michael, 19. STARR Daniel (MICHALOPOULOS 67’)
Yellow Cards: Rick Goodchild 58’, Jonathon Michalopoulos 60’
Red Cards: Nil
Date: Saturday 25 March 2023
Venue: Balls Paddock, Woonona
Referee: Peter Ilcevski
Assistant Referees: Stuart Bell and Aidan Vardy
Report by Timothy Gibson, on Twitter @Timg123_
Photos courtesy of Richie Wagner