A stoppage-time equaliser from Wollongong Wolves, who played the remaining ten minutes with ten-men, saw the side take a point in a 2-2 draw against APIA Leichhardt on Sunday afternoon at Albert Butler Memorial Park.
The away side took the lead half-an-hour through Yianni Nicolaou before Lachlan Scott equalised for the Wolves later in the half from the penalty spot.
A goal from Themba Muata-Marlow with 20 minutes to go put APIA back in front and Nikola Djodjevic was sent off Wollongong in the 83rd minute.
Banri Kanaizumi scored in the fourth minute of second-half additional time to grab a point for the home side.
It was a herculean effort by the hosts as they backed up from a heart-breaking Australia Cup Round 7 exit at the hands of NWS Spirit on Thursday where Luke Wilkshire’s men lost out in penalties after playing 120 minutes of football with scores locked at 1-1.
APIA had a fast start to the match creating a couple of chances in the first 10 minutes.
Nine minutes in, Sean Symons drove into the left channel of the box and got to the by-line finding Jack Armson centrally whose poked effort was batted away by Hayden Durose in the Wolves’ goal.
A minute later, Armson had another shot this time he dragged it wide of the left post from the right of the box.
Midway through the half, the Wolves had a couple of opportunities of their own.
In the 22nd minute, Nav Darjani picked up the ball on the left and ran into the box before powering an effort just wide of the near post.
Two minutes after this, Nick Littler got on the end of a corner from the right, but glanced his header just past the far post.
However, the visitors took the lead half-an-hour in, with Nicolaou being slipped into the right of the box and sending a composed finish into the far corner to score his maiden goal for the club.
Wollongong almost responded 33 minutes in, with Lachlan Scott’s deflected shot centrally just outside the box spinning narrowly wide of the right post.
A couple of minutes later, APIA looked to double their lead with Symons’ cross from the left finding Celis who headed wide of the near post.
With seven minutes to go in the half, the home side was awarded a penalty that captain Scott took responsibility for shooting into the middle of the goal with Ivan Necevski diving to his left.
There was a late surge of chances for the away side as Nicolaou had an effort tipped over the bar before a corner fell to Celis inside the box who skewed his shot narrowly over the top as well.
In the final moments of the half, Jason Romero shifted the ball inside from the right with his left-footed shot flying past the right post.
APIA was lively again at the start of the second half with Celis and Romero both seeing shots saved by Durose within the first six minutes.
In the 54th minute, a ball in from the left found Symons at the back post who shovelled his sliding shot over the bar from close range.
The hosts carved a couple of openings over the next 15 minutes with Macdonald’s first-time shot from the edge of the box being held by Necevski.
Two minutes later, Scott was unable to convert a one-on-one with the keeper who tipped the ball round for a corner.
Despite this positive spell for the Wolves, APIA retook the lead in the 70th minute as a corner from the left found Muata-Marlow whose bouncing header at the back post went into the goal for his first goal of the 2022 NPL NSW Men’s season.
Five minutes later, APIA almost added a third as Celis’ header following a left-sided cross looped over the crossbar.
Wollongong’s pursuit of an equaliser was made harder when defender Djordjevic was sent off in the 83rd minute leaving the side to play the remaining time a player down.
At the death of the match, the side was awarded a corner on the right.
The ball was swung into the area and eventually fell to Kanaizumi at the back post who moved the ball onto his left foot and lashed a strike into the roof of the net to sent the home fans into raptures.
It was despair for the visitors who would have felt the draw felt like a loss.
The Wollongong Wolves had nicked a point with the latest of the goals to share the points with APIA Leichhardt in a 2-2 draw.
Wollongong Wolves coach Luke Wilkshire was pleased with the attitude of his players especially given the circumstances.
“It’s great character from the boys again. We’ve had a massive week; 120 minutes on Thursday night for the Australia Cup match. The pitch here [Albert Butler Memorial Park] is not in great condition, I felt like we dealt with it well and I can’t fault the efforts of the boys today,” he said.
Wilkshire also praised Kanaizumi whose late goal was his third of the 2022 campaign.
“I think he’s been fantastic for us. I think he deserved that [the late goal] as well personally on his performance and the team in general I think the attitude was spot on. I’m proud them today,” he said.
APIA Leichhardt coach Danial Cummins reflected on a plethora of chances in the opening part of the match that were not converted.
“I think the first half hour we dominated, probably should have had two or three goals there and I think that’s what’s cost us here,” he said.
“It’s a bit of a lottery on this pitch. Full credit to Wollongong and we knew, we said ‘you’ve got to play for the full 96 minutes’ – Wollongong are never going to give up.”
Wollongong Wolves 2 (Lachlan Scott 38’, Banri Kanaizumi 90+4’)
APIA Leichhardt 2 (Yianni Nicolaou 29’, Themba Muata-Marlow 70’)
Sunday 19 June 2022
Albert Butler Memorial Park, Primbee
Referee: Craig Fisher
Assistant Referees: Bradley Wright and Brodie Merchant
Fourth Official: Jake Rose
Wollongong Wolves: 1. Hayden Durose, 3. Darcy Madden, 4. Nikola Djordjevic, Banri Kanaizumi, 6. Senna Stevenson, 10. Takumu Tsujimura (16. Guy Knight 60’), 11. Josh Macdonald (Jake Lavalle 75’), 15. Nick Littler, 22. Leroy Jennings, 24. Lachlan Scott, 25. Nav Darjani (14. Nicholas Duarte 46’)
Substitutes Not Used: 2. Daniel Goni, 12. Harrison Taranto, 13. Tomas Butkovic,
Yellow Cards: Nikola Djordjevic 67’ 83’
Red Cards: Nikola Djordjevic 83’
APIA Leichhardt: 1. Ivan Necevski, 5. Nicholas Azzone, 8. Deigo Celis (20. Nathanael Blair 81’), 9. Jason Romero, 14. Jack Armson, 15. Themba Muata-Marlow, 16. Sean Symons (7. Matthew Cahill 88’), 18. Adrian Ucchino, 21. Michael Kouta, 23. Walter Scott, 38. Yianni Nicolaou
Substitutes Not Used: 3. Paul Galimi, 4. Joshua Symons, 10. Franco Parisi, 22. Luke Turnbull
Yellow Cards: Sean Symons 84’
Red Cards: Nil
By National Premier Leagues NSW Reporter Timothy Gibson