Sydney United 58 FC has put an end to Wollongong Wolves winning start to the season as they fought back to snatch a 2-2 draw in their National Premier Leagues NSW Men’s clash at Edensor Park on Sunday.
It was a determined performance from United 58 who twice fought back from a goal behind to deny the Wolves a third win on the trot.
Englishman Thomas James added to his incredible scoring run to break the deadlock after 38 minutes to give the visitors a 1-0 lead at the break – it was his fifth of the NPL NSW Men’s season and already the ace marksman has set his sights in clinching that coveted Golden Boot award.
The game exploded into action in the second half as Jordan Roberts equalised for the home side 58 minutes in, before Nikola Djordjevic hit back for Wollongong moments later to return the South Coast side to the lead.
However, United 58 would have the last laugh with Tariq Maia finding the back of the net with only seven minutes left on the clock to secure a vital point for the Miro Vlastelica coached side.
The opening chance of the game belonged to Sydney United when a cross by Roberts in the 5th minute was met by Patrick Antelmi but his final touch finished just wide.
It could have been the opening goal of the game but for a few centimetres of wrong direction.
The rain then started tumbling down sending the home crowd scattering into the grandstand and, as such, the next real chance didn’t arrive until the 20th minute. A perfectly weighted ball by Thomas James reached Lachlan Scott unmarked in the middle but his header was just over the intended target.
There was almost an immediate reply by Antelmi for the home side but his shot, after coming inside, was well handled by Justin Pasfield.
As the rain then eased the game really started flowing with end-to-end action. Wollongong came very close indeed when a James drive was well saved by Manos but only as far as McDonald, who with powerful diagonal drive from the right, only just shaved the post.
In the 26th minute Scott, well served by James, forced Manos into a nice save to prevent the Wolves from taking the lead.
There was hardly time to draw breath when long ball from Sam Perre from the right at the other end of the park only just missed the head of Antelmi.
The Wolves eventually took the lead in the 37th minute when Scott teed the ball up for James who, with a screamer of a shot from just inside the area, belted the ball straight into the back of the net.
It was little more than those close to James would have expected given his 80 goals in 83 appearances in Canberra’s premier football competition.
Just prior to the break Takeru Okada from close range found Manos who cleverly punched away the danger.
Sydney United made a double change at the interval sending on the experienced Glen Trifiro and also Adrian Vlastelica for Yianni Fragogiannis and Christian Gonzalez as mentor Miro Vlastelica tried to change things around and catch the Wolves off guard.
In the 48th minute he might have done just that as a diagonal drive from Antelmi was only just wide and the intentions of the home side were now very clear.
In the 57th minute the hosts equalised deservedly when Perre fed the ball across to Jordan Roberts who from close range made no mistake.
It was game on now again at Edensor Park with both sides equal on the ledger.
Two minutes later a majestic ball by Perre was flicked in by Antelmi but he was judged to be offside and the home side’s bench showed their despair.
However, it was the Wollongong Wolves who took the lead once more in the 60th minute when Nikola Djordjevic with a precise header from unmarked position met the free-kick of Okada and steered the ball into the net past Manos.
Okada himself tried to sneak the ball in at the near post in the 75th minute when he brought down a beautiful long ball from the left, but in the end it was his finish that let him down as the sphere struck the side netting.
Sydney United 58 struck back in the 82nd minute when Maia on the far side forced the ball in even though it appeared to be helped by a deflection off a Wollongong defender.
A late free-kick from the left from James only just sailed over Manos’s crossbar and after 94 minutes of exhilarating play the game was over.
Sydney United 58 FC mentor Miro Vlastelica said he was somewhat happy with the point even though games like these give all coaches heart palpitations.
“Look, we changed a few things in the second half and we had to adjust,” he said.
“There was some nice combination play there that we obviously worked on, but in the end you can’t concede a cheap goal from a set piece as we did for their second goal.
“We’ll take the point but we are still building and we will move on and work hard as usual during the week to preparae for APIA next week.”
Wollongong Wolves coach, former Socceroo Luke Wilkshire, though was somewhat disappointed with only a point.
“Sometimes our final ball and execution is not quite what it should be,” he stated.
“We need to put games away or we’ll get punished. We didn’t put the game to bed and they managed to stay within one goal of us, so they were always in the game.
“We come away from here with a point, but we are disappointed it’s not more. However, I have a great group of boys and I have been very happy with the side and we are very hungry.”
SYDNEY UNITED 58 FC: 2 (Roberts 57’, Maia 82’)
WOLLONGONG WOLVES: 2 (James 37’, Djordjevic 60’)
Sydney United Sports Centre, Edensor Park
Sunday, 24th March 2019
Referee: Toby Plasto
Assistant Referees: Nick Backo, Janush Ababjou
Fourth Official: Sebastian Brennan
SYDNEY UNITED 58 FC: 21.Thomas Manos, 3.Jordan Roberts, 5.Anthony Tomelic, 6.Petar Markovic, 9.Patrick Antelmi, 11.Yianni Perkatis, 13.Sam Perre (12.Liam Rose 71’), 15.Tariq Maia, 19.Joshua Macdonald, 20.Christian Gonzalez (4.Adrian Vlastelica 46’), 22.Yianni Fragogiannis (18.Glen Trifiro 46’).
Substitutes not used: 1.Daniel Sadaka, 14.Nick Stavroulakis.
Yellow Cards: Antelmi 83’. Perkatis 86’, Tomelic 87’
Red Cards: Nil
WOLLONGONG WOLVES: 1.Justin Pasfield, 2.Taylor McDonald, 4.Nikola Djordjevic, 6.Benjamin Tosi (8.James Markovic 73’), 9.Thomas James, 11.Takeru Okada, 14.Harry Callahan (23.Jordan Nikolovski 73’), 15.Nick Littler, 16.Guy Knight, 17.James Stojcevski, 24.Lachlan Scott (13.Stefan Dimoski 66’).
Substitutes not used: 7.Christopher Price, 12.Luke Kairies.
Yellow Cards: 52’ Callahan, 54’ McDonald, 60’ Djordjevic, 75’ Dimoski, 80’ Stojcevski
Red Card: Nil
3 – Thomas James (WW)
2 – Patrick Antelmi (SU58)
1 – Takeru Okada (WW)
-By National Premier Leagues NSW Men’s reporter Joe Russo