Cringila Lions jagged an incredible late 1-0 victory over Wollongong Olympic on Friday night at Crehan Park.
Reo Hirose played the role of super-sub, coming off the bench to score in the 96th minute of the game.
It was a scrappy start to the match with both teams hastily searching for the opening goal.
Five minutes in, a hosts’ corner fell to Harrison Taranto whose volley spun out to Michael Mendes on right who found the net from close in but was flagged offside.
In the 18th minute, Cringila went forwards again with Anthony Krsteski driving through the middle pitch, hurdling a couple of challenges before his consequent effort deflected wide.
Five minutes later, Olympic returned fire as Rick Goodchild’s powerful strike from range on the left soared just over the crossbar.
The side had another shot in the 27th minute when Tynan Diaz saw his attempt from the edge of the box roll to Lions’ goalkeeper Nikola Ristevski.
Cringila went close only a couple of minutes later as a ball from the right corner of the box found Mendes at the back post who tapped home again but was offside once more.
The Lions had been a persistent threat in the first half, however, they just couldn’t find the finishing touches to take the lead.
The game heated up in the final five minutes of the first half with great chances for either team to score.
With three minutes to go, Olympic had a double chance as Harry Callahan’s shot rolled into Ristevski before Goodchild rifled over narrowly again.
Cringila came even closer a couple of minutes later. Mendes’ teasing left-sided delivery went all the way to the far post for Peter Simonoski who was denied by an exceptional block from Olympic defender Nick Littler on the line.
Despite plenty of goalmouth action, the teams went into the sheds unable to be separated, locked at 0-0.
There was drama only three minutes after the break with Wollongong Olympic reduced to 10 players after Mark Every received a yellow card and then a red card in the space of a few seconds.
It was the visitors, though who created the first chance of the second half as Diaz latched onto a ball into the right channel of the box. The forward drilled a shot from a tight angle goalward that Ristevski repelled for a corner.
The player-deficit seemed to have invigorated the away side as chances continued to trickle through with the team creating two big opportunities to score just after the hour mark.
Firstly, Diaz’s right-sided cross found an unmarked Goodchild in the box who nodded onto the crossbar. Before the ball was swung in again from the left, this time finding Diaz at the far post, whose volley flashed back across the face of goal.
The home side withstood a barrage of Olympic shots 74 minutes in. Chris Price’s original effort in the left of the box was sensationally blocked by Ekoue D’Almedia at close quarters. Then, Price picked the ball up in a similar area and shot, seeing it bounce off the right post.
Price lined up yet again a couple of minutes later as his curler from the right edge of the box was acrobatically palmed over the bar by Ristevski.
The final 10 minutes of the game were tense as a goal either way was likely to win the points.
Deep into stoppage time, with only a few seconds left to play, Ben Zucco lofted a hopeful ball into the box Olympic box. It was flicked on and found Hirose in the left of the box who converted into a vacant net, earning a huge victory for the Lions.
Wollongong Olympic will look to respond to this defeat away at Helensburgh next week, while the Lions host Wollongong United.
Report by Timothy Gibson, on Twitter @Timg123_
Photos courtesy of Edmund Esterbauer