MANLY United has moved up to third spot in the PlayStation®4 NPL NSW Men’s competition after beating Wollongong Wolves 3-1 on Sunday at Cromer Park.
With Rockdale City Suns and Bonnyrigg White Eagles both losing on Saturday, United knew three points was paramount.
It was a cagey opening 20 minutes, with both teams happy to let the contest develop into an old fashioned arm wrestle.
Nicolas Bernal should have given the away side the lead with 22 minutes played.
The striker found himself with only United keeper Dylan Mitchell to beat, but he hurried his shot and smashed it over the crossbar.
His teammate Brendan Griffin had his own chance a minute later, but he volleyed well over the target.
On 37 minutes United’s Richie Cardozo saw his header cleared off the line and it should have been a warning signal for Wollongong.
Because three minutes later Manly did open the scoring.
Adam Parkhouse, who is in career best form, chased down a weighted ball down the left flank.
He then squared a brilliant ball into the path of Brendan Cholakian, who fired past Wolves gloveman Justin Pasfield.
Wollongong made a game of it when they equalised on 48 minutes.
Bernal squeezed a shot in at the near post from the edge of the box and it was game on.
Manly then had Mitchell to thank for not falling behind.
The gloveman made himself big, denying Chris Price from point blank range with 53 minutes played.
It proved to be pivotal when the hosts took a 2-1 lead in spectacular fashion.
Cholakian rattled the crossbar following a counter attack and the rebound fell to Cardozo, who produced an unforgettable overhead kick to send the fans in the Lucas Neill Grandstand into raptures.
Cardozo almost scored again after 61 and 64 minutes and for each Manly miss, you got the feeling Wollongong were going to get something from the game.
United’s Sam Gallagher provided a twist when he was sent off with 68 minutes on the clock after his second yellow card for a clumsy late challenge.
With nerves building on the United bench, Cholakian and Cardozo combined to seal the result for Paul Dee’s men.
The captain whipped in a great corner to the near post and after Pasfield spilt the ball, the striker couldn’t miss from three yards.
Wolves refused to give in, and should have scored via Josh Macdonald and Nicolas Bernal after 76 and 77 minutes.
On 89 minutes, Parkhouse was inches away from the goal of the year.
Pasfield made the baffling decision to come up for a free kick and ended up nowhere the ball.
Manly’s dynamic left winger shot into an empty goal from 55 yards only to see a retreating Wollongong defender clear the audacious shot off the line at the final moment.
United can now look forward to the Waratah Cup final versus Sydney United 58 FC next Sunday at Lambert Park (3pm), while the Wolves were left pondering what may have been.
Cholakian felt the end result was a just one.
"I thought we were on fire at times today,” the Manly skipper said.
"We had a bit of luck (from the corner for the third goal) but we will take it.
"We should have scored a few more goals but I felt we were the better team in all areas on the pitch."
His opposite Jacob Timpano felt the result sums up Wolves 2016 season to date.
"We were very unfortunate to get nothing from the game,” he said.
"They (Manly) are the form team of the comp and clinical in front of goal, that was the difference.
"I don’t think we deserved to lose, but that’s football."
Manly United 3 (Brendan Cholakian 40′, Richie Cardozo 54′, 71′)
Wollongong Wolves 1 (Nicolas Bernal 48′)
Sunday July 3, 2016
Referee: Kurt Ams
Assistant referees: K.Robinson, R.Osborne
Fourth official: A.Mansour
Manly United: 1.MITCHELL Dylan, 9.CARDOZO Richie, 10.CHOLAKIAN Brendan, 8.FERGUSON Dom,(21,FOX Joseph 71′) 6.GALLAGHER Sam, 22.GIVERIN Luke, 3.LOBB Jamie, 4.OUGHTRED Travis, 14.PANDUREVIC Dejan, (18.BRAGG Daniel 71′) 11.PARKHOUSE Adam, 2.PAULL Kieren (23.GALBRAITH Hamish 81′)
Substitutes not used: 20.CATLIN Shaun, 7.COOPER Travis
Yellow cards: Gallagher 23′, Cholakian 88′
Red cards: Gallagher 68′
Wollongong Wolves: 1.PASFIELD Justin, 8.GRIFFIN Brendan, 2.KAWASE Kota, 19.MACDONALD Josh, 6.MACKENZIE Zac, (17.ZUCCO Ricky 79′) 3.MADDEN Darcy, 23.MATTHEWS Samuel, 7.PRICE Chris, 16.ZUCCO Ben, 18.BERNAL Nicholas, 11.WILSON Brett
Substitutes not used: 4.DIMOSKI Stefan, 12.COLLISON Daniel, 15.LAZAREVSKI Danny
Yellow cards: B Zucco 32′, Matthews 81′
Red cards: Matthews 88′