In an enthralling PlayStation®4 National Premier Leagues NSW Men’s clash on Sunday, Wollongong Wolves came from behind to steal a 3-2 victory against newly promoted Hakoah Sydney City East at WIN Stadium.
In a match that see-sawed throughout, it was a last-gasp effort by striker Peter Simonoski that decided the outcome.
In a sensational opening to the match, fans had barely taken their seats before Wolves midfielder Chris Price rasped home a screamer from 35 yards with a miserly 45 seconds on the clock.
But the home side had no time to celebrate their lead as Hakoah Sydney City East equalised through striker Neil Jablonski in the third minute.
The match then settled down, with Wollongong slowly beginning to dominate.
The home side’s accurate passing and ability to hold possession keeping the Sydneysiders at bay.
Wolves youngster Blake McGinn caused plenty of problems for the Hakoah defence in what was his PlayStation®4 National Premier Leagues NSW Men’s debut.
His trickery down the right flank and uncanny ability to provide a cross, caused a few heart palpitations along the way.
Meanwhile, Price and Brendan Griffin also showed their value in the middle of the park, keeping Hakoah on the back foot with their industry and skill.
Griffin chipped a free kick from the right-hand side of the box towards Kota Kowase, only to see the fullback miss a golden opportunity to head home from close range. This was the first of many opportunities that the Wolves failed to convert.
Hakoah then suffered a mix-up at the back and with the ball falling to Griffen, the trusty No. 8 fluffed his lines and again the visitors escaped unpunished.
McGinn continued to harass the Hakoah defence, while Nicholas Bernal put on the afterburners to get past Hakoah defender Nathan Bowden-Haase, only to see his effort well saved by goalkeeper Anthony Costa.
McGinn then stole the ball off Deklan Gilmartin and released Bernal, whose shot went astray.disappointed
Despite their dominance, Wollongong’s inability to score and Hakoah’s spirit in the face of adversity resulted in some unnecessary aggression, leaving visiting duo Bradley Walker and Neil Jablonski with yellow cards, the latter for a crunching tackle on McGinn.
In the 35th minute, Price weaved his way past a couple of Hakoah defenders but again the finish was poor, his speculator flying wide of the far post.
In the final 10 minutes of the half, Hakoah managed to achieve some ascendancy, with Kevin Lopes blowing a chance to put his side into an unlikely lead. On this effort, it wasn’t just Wollongong who struggled in front of goal.
The sides went to the break level at one-all, but Wollongong would have been disappointed with their inability to convert opportunities into goals.
The second half began with Hakoah looking dangerous and in control, especially Lopes, whose deception and guile proved to be tough for the Wolves’ defence to handle. In a delightful buildup, Lopes crossed for the robust Steven Abbott, only to see his backward header fly just over the bar.
The visitor’s mounted another attack but Deklan Gilmartin’s shot hit the post, squandering yet another golden opportunity.
Great buildup work from Lopes led to a screamer from outside the box by Gavin Rae, clearing the crossbar by inches.
Hakoah managed to settle into a rhythm, with Lopes causing plenty of trouble down the left wing, while Rae and Abbott caused their own form of mayhem with their robust and direct play. Griffin sent in a dangerous low cross from the right but Hakoah Keeper Costa made a low save just in the nick of time.
Then in the 72nd minute, the visitor’s claimed a 2-1 lead through Lopes, who volleyed home an Abbott cross.
But again, the tide turned and seven minutes later, Wollongong’s Nicholas Bernal glanced home a header past a despairing Costa. With his first touch of the ball, feisty substitute Ben Zucco had made an immediate impact, delivering an inch perfect cross for Bernal to nod home.
As if this wasn’t enough drama for one day, striker Peter Simonoski then sent local fans into raptures as he struck home the winner in the 82nd minute. Three goals in 10 minutes? After the goal-scoring woes by both sides, who would’ve believed they could’ve turned on a five-goal thriller?
Sensing an even more extraordinary end to the match, Lopes received the perfect chance to steal a point for his side but he lost his nerve in a one-on-one duel with Pasfield.
Game, set, match, Wollongong, 3-2.
“We got off to a flyer with Pricey’s great goal, then fell asleep,” Wolves coach Jacob Timpano told Football NSW.
“I thought we dominated the first half but obviously didn’t have a lead to show for it at half time.
“We gave away two of the more sloppier goals in the sense of headers. Especially when we’re such a big unit across the back. Our back two are big and our left back’s good in the air. I’m disappointed in the match in a way but that’s premier league football for you.”
Meanwhile, Hakoah Sydney City East coach Mark Robertson, said he was happy despite the result.
“I’ll be happy once I know the boys are at their peak fitness, we were a couple of bodies down,” he said.
“I’ll take the boys back to training paddock, work on the same structure as we did today. I thought in terms of our structure and formation, we were quite sound.
“At the end of the day I know a lot of the boys that I’ve got haven’t played at this level, so I’m calling on the experience of myself and my coaching staff to get the players heads around what we’re trying to achieve.
“I can’t fault any of my players. I’ll go home a disappointed man but I won’t lose any sleep over it.”
Wollongong Wolves 3 (Chris Price 1’, Nicholas Bernal 79’, Peter Simonoski 82’)
Hakoah Sydney City East 2 (Neil Jablonski 3’, Kevin Lopes 72’)
Sunday March 13
WIN Stadium, Wollongong
Referee: A. Susz
Assistant Referees: J. Park, N. Wotton
Fourth Official: M. McOrist
Wollongong Wolves: 1. PASFIELD Justin, 2. KAWASE Kota, 5. BALDACCHIONO James, 6. MCKENZIE Zac (16. Ben Zucco 78’), 7. PRICE Chris, 8. GRIFFIN Brendan, 9. SIMONOSKI Peter (13. Stefan Dimovski), 11. WILSON Brett, 18. BERNAL Nicholas (17. Ricky Zucco 85’), 19. MCGINN Blake 23 MATTHEWS Sam
Unused Substitutes: CHRISTOVSKI Steve
Yellow Cards: Sam Matthews (43’), Justin Pasfield (69’)
Hakoah Sydney City East: 1. COSTA Anthony, 4. WALKER Bradley 5. BOWDEN-HAASE Nathan, 8. ORGAD Paul, 9. JABKLONSKI Neil, 10. GILMARTIN Deklan (Mundell 81’), 11. RAE Gavin, 12. ABBOTT Steven (Andricopoulos 90’), 13. RANDALL Michael (D’Mello 46’), 14. JONES Lee, 31. LOPES Kevin,
Unused substitutes: 15. BANDUR Jacob, 20. MCKENZIE Matthew
Yellow Cards: Bradley Walker (31’), Neil Jablonski (33’), Anthony Costa (86’)
3 – Chris Price (Wollongong Wolves)
2 – Brendan Griffin (Wollongong Wolves)
1 – Kevin Lopes (Hakoah Sydney City East)
-By Derek Royal