A ten-man Sydney United 58 has clung on for a point in a 0-0 draw with Wollongong Wolves at Sydney United Sports Centre on Sunday.
Forced to play a man down for close to an hour after Chris Payne was sent off, United held out a sloppy Wolves outfit as both sides played out a scoreless stalemate.
The home side had their chances early in the match but was forced to sit back and defend after Payne’s dismissal.
Wollongong had chances to win it in the dying stages but could not get the job done against a resolute United 58 defence.
Sydney United 58 started strongest in a tense and gritty opening to the match, but the visitors had the first real opportunity of the contest.
A long ball out from Wolves’ ‘keeper Hayden Durose found Taylor McDonald wide on the right, and his teasing cross into the box allowed skipper Lachlan Scott to fashion the first half-chance of the match when volleying wide of the mark.
Payne curled one agonisingly wide of the upright in reply as United 58 maintained the attacking philosophy, which has been a feature of their matches this season.
Wollongong was compact, a tight unit utilising rapid passing and quick footwork to hit on the break and implement their pacey strikers’ speed.
Glen Trifiro nearly opened the scoring when firing in a shot from the edge of the box in the 22nd minute after latching on to a pass.
From nowhere, an unsightly scuffle over the ball on the sidelines led to United defender Yainni Fragogiannis and Wollongong’s Van Elia entering the Referees book.
It was more for petulance than violent conduct as a mini melee ensued. If there was any doubt as to what this match meant to both sides, it was very quickly dispelled.
Antelmi was replaced by Devante Clut after receiving a knock in the area, and the news was to worsen shortly after.
Fletcher McFarlane could perhaps count himself lucky only to be cautioned for a challenge moments later near the touchline with the home support baying for the advantage to be played.
The match was heated and threatening to boil over, and it wasn’t long before Payne received his marching orders for ‘violent conduct’ after his involvement in an off the ball incident.
Scott thought he had broken the deadlock when he fired home the rebound from a Daniel Nizic save, but the strike was ruled out for offside.
With their numerical superiority, Wollongong looked to up the ante and push the Reds to their limit with the high press and mobility.
In stoppage time, Marcus Beattie fired in a ball past the oncoming goalkeeper to Scott, whose shot was blocked as the scores remained locked at 0-0 going into the interval.
McFarlane was replaced after the break by Harrison Taranto who slotted into the Wolves’ midfield as the visitors applied the pressure from the whistle to push United 58 back into their own half.
Trifiro flighted in a delightful curling free-kick in the 49th minute that both Anthony Tomelic and Jackson Khoury went close to heading home but couldn’t connect, the pair striding through the Wolves’ defence unchallenged.
Elia headed straight at Nizic from a McDonald cross, but United 58 held out. Durose needed to be sharp when tipping over a stinging Trifiro shot.
Scott then lashed another wide that was always curling away from the sticks, the visitors unable to work nor beat Nizic to break the deadlock, and when Clut dinked the ball over the top for Trifiro at the other end, the ever-reliable striker fluffed his lines, and the chance went begging.
Despite playing two-thirds of the game a man down, the Reds were putting up stern resistance and creating a few chances of their own as Wollongong bombed forward in search of the opener.
But it was substituted Mat Sim, who could have sealed it for United 58 in the games death throes when firing wide.
It proved to be the games last real chance, with the final whistle ensuring both teams would have to settle for a point.
United 58 coach Tomi Vidovic praised the resilience of his side in what was a determined performance.
“I felt it was a tremendous performance today by the boys. And we could have taken all three points,” Vidovic said.
“it’s always difficult to play a man down for almost fifty minutes, and we were called back when clean through for the foul.
“We created chances and bounced back from last week, but it’s a game we could have won. Credit to the players, they battled hard and got something from the game.”
Wolves coach Luke Wilkshire was disappointed with the result, pointing to his side’s inability to capitalise on their chances.
“Naturally, when you go a man down, you sit in, and United did that very well today,” Wilkshire said.
“But we were just not good enough today; we lacked the quality in the final third, our decision making, giving balls away and not enough desperation to defend and to score.
“Given the circumstances, I would definitely say it’s two points dropped for sure.”
Sydney United 58 0
Wollongong Wolves 0
Sydney Utd Sports Centre, Edensor Park
Sunday, 11th April 2021
Referee: Tim Danaskos
Assistant Referees: Janush Adabjou & Cameron Wright
Fourth Official: Mujtaba Ebrahimi
Sydney United 58: 1.Daniel NIZIC, 2.Christian GONZALEZ, 4.Adrian VLASTELICA, 5.Anthony TOMELIC (15.Tariq MAIA 81’), 6.Chris PAYNE, 7.Jackson KHOURY (8.Matthew SIM 77’), 9.Patrick ANTELMI (10.Devante CLUT 32’), 14.Andrea AGAMEMNONOS, 16.Jacob POSCILEIRO, 18.Glen TRIFIRO, 22.Yianni FRAGOGIANNIS
Substitutes not used: 3.Jordan ROBERTS, 21.Josip ORLOVIC, 23.Luke VLASTELICA
Yellow Cards: Fagogiannis 25’
Red Cards: Payne 35’
Wollongong Wolves: 23.Hayden DUROSE, 2.Taylor McDONALD, 3.Darcy MADDEN (14.Brendan LOW 67’), 4.Nicola DJORDEVIC, 6.Ethan KAMBISIOS (20.Liam WILLE 62’), 7.Marcus BEATTIE, 10.Van ELIA, 11.Leroy JENNINGS (13.Stefan DIMOSKI 62’), 16.Fletcher McFARLANE (12.Harrison TARANTO 46’), 19.Evan BALL, 24.Lachlan SCOTT
Substitutes not used: 1.Aidan MUNFORD, McFarlane 29, Kambisios 59’, 13.Dimoski 81’
Yellow Cards: Elia 25’, Kambisios 61’
Red Cards: Nil
3 – Trifiro (SU58)
2 – McDonald (WW)
1 – Beattie (WW)
By National Premier Leagues NSW reporter Micky Brock