Unanderra somewhat spoiled Shellharbour’s League Championship party as both teams played out an entertaining 1-1 draw at Unanderra Oval on Saturday.

It was a cold and windy afternoon at Unanderra Oval with the home side having a significant breeze on their backs in the first half.

They capitalised on it as early as the eighth minute albeit rather fortuitously, when a speculative free kick from Daniel Jorge on the halfway line was floated into the penalty area however, Blake Coad misjudged the flight of the ball as it sailed over his head and into an unguarded net.

Shellharbour almost hit back just minutes later when Nicolas Rouco was slipped in behind the defence however Kenji Sawada smothered his shot.

On 19 minutes, Shellharbour sent a long ball into a crowded penalty area. The ball was flicked on by Oscar Mari up and over the advancing Sawada however Jorge managed to clear the ball off the line to spare their defensive blushes.

Shellharbour were dominating possession since the opening goal and on 32 minutes Michael Trajkovski found some space in behind the Unanderra defence however, he appeared to lose his balance just as he shot, sending the ball over the bar from close range.

Just before the break, Jorge powered a mid-range free kick that had Coad scrambling as he was relieved to see it just go narrowly wide.

Right on the stroke of halftime, a neat link up between Rouco and Trajkovski saw the latter through on goal however Sawada was strong and blocked the one on one save as the half ended.

Shellharbour were determined not to finish their strong season off on a sour note and they turned up the heat early in the second half with more sustained pressure.

Just a few minutes into the second half, some neat combination play between Lachlan Martin and a delightful flick pass from Rouco found Trajkovski who once again found Sawada in sparkling form between the sticks as he denied the Shellharbour marksman with a fine save.

On the hour mark, a long range freekick from Dylan Perlowski was driven hard and Sawada was forced to scramble to his right to deflect it wide.

With Shellharbour pushing players forward, they were vulnerable to the counter attack and on 67 minutes a swift break starting with the speed of Byron Chaplain saw him play across the box to Jorge who cut inside. His shot was covered though by Coad as Unanderra looked to extend their lead.

Just seconds later, Chaplain tried an ambitious chip from a very tight angle that grazed the cross bar and bounced away.

With just ten minutes left, Robbie Del Banco skipped past several defenders with an amazing run into the box before unleashing a firm shot to the far post that once again brought out a top draw save from Sawada who despite his small stature was putting on some show.

Just two minutes later, a cross from the right found Trajkovski unmarked on the far post and from close range, he headed down but Sawada had cat-like reflexes to get down and smother the header. It bounced around in the box and Unanderra failed to clear the ball. It fell neatly to substitute Kyle Kirkland who from 8 yards out finally beat Sawada to level the scores.

In the dying minutes of the game, Sawada came up big again to deny Trajkovski from close range. The goalkeeper virtually single handedly keeping the Hearts in the game.

Incredibly and into stoppage time, Rhys Chaplain broke free and found substitute Luke Bussoletti on the edge of the box however he shot straight at Coad with the goal at his mercy.

The game finished 1-1 and Shellharbour now look to rest up before setting their sights on the Grand Final whilst for Unanderra, the point against the League Champions will be used as a positive as they look to rebuild for 2024.


Report by Bobby Mazevski

Photos by Gragrapix

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