A brilliant brace from Japanese midfield maestro Takeru Okada has inspired Wollongong Wolves to an incredible second half comeback to defeat Marconi Stallions 3-1 at Marconi Stadium on Saturday.
With the Wolves looking down the barrel at a second defeat in as many weeks as the Stallions took a 1-0 lead, Okada netted a pair of delightful finishes along side a rare Darcy Madden goal to claim all three points for the visitors.
For the Stallions, it was a game of what ‘ifs’ as Peter Tsekinis’ star studded side squandered their chances after taking the lead just after half-time courtesy of hot-shot Marko Jesic.
Jesic would go from hero to zero later in the match when the experienced campaigner missed a critical penalty which would’ve put Marconi in the box seat to win.
The result meant that Luke Wilkshire’s men stretch their lead at the top of the table while Marconi remain in the middle of the fight for a finals spot.
Marconi made a fast start as tricky Stallions defender Giorgio Speranza had a shot on goal inside the opening 60 seconds.
Wolves were dangerous on the set piece as Bul Juach shot high from a right-side free-kick before big defender Nick Littler nodded wide from a similar spot soon after.
A mazy run and shot from Liam Youlley was Marconi’s best chance of the first half but it still was not enough to beat Wolves shot stopper Justin Pasfield.
The visitors found joy on the counter, as they tried to get service to star striker Thomas James and Juach up top.
Both found space between the lines but were kept off the scoresheet as the game went to the break locked at 0-0.
Wollongong tested their opponents not long after the restart as James fired wide.
Marconi broke open the contest on the cusp of the hour mark when Jesic hit the back of then to open the scoring.
It was a moment of magic from the Stallions captain who brought the crowd to their feet at Marconi Stadium as he nestled the ball into the corner of the net.
Just as the fans settled back into their seats, the Wolves were level.
A superb cross from the right found a wide open Okada who tapped home and levelled the score.
Okada’s goal flipped the game on it’s head and it didn’t take long for the visitors to double their tally.
Substitute Darcy Madden reacted first to the corner swung into the box before he flung his foot at the ball to send it flying past the keeper and Wollongong into the lead.
The Stallions were given a prime opportunity to get themselves back on terms when they were awarded a penalty.
Jesic stepped up to take the spot kick but Pasfield was up to the challenge diving low to make a crucial save.
The visitors made the home side pay for their wastefulness making it 3-1 in the 71st minute as Okada claimed his brace with a well timed finish.
The game opened up in the dying stages as the Stallions threw everything forward in an attempt to snatch an unlikely draw.
It was the Wolves who had the best of the late opportunities with Marconi keeper Nenad Vekic forced to make some clutch saves.
There were no more goals despite the late flurry with Wollongong securing a big win on the roar.
Wollongong Wolves boss Luke Wilkshire praised his side for the way they bounced back after their defeat seven days earlier.
“There is no doubt in the spirit and character in these boys.
“I think they got what they deserved tonight. It’s been a big week at training.”
The former Socceroos star also had a few kind words for Okada’s two goal performance.
“I’ve been waiting for him (Okada) to score those (goals),” Wilkshire said.
“He has been doing that in training and hopefully, keeps on doing that in the weeks to come.”
Stallions coach Peter Tsekenis was disappointed with how his side lost their way after being in control of the contest.
“We have a problem where we switch off once we score. It has happened multiple times this season you get punished for that.
“Wollongong are a good side but i felt we were deservedly in front for most of the match. “
Marconi Stallions 1 (Jesic 57′)
Wollongong Wolves 3 (Okada 61′ 71′, Madden 64′)
Saturday 18 May 2019
Marconi Stadium, Bossley Park
Referee: Daniel Stack
Assistant Referees: Lance Greenshields & Sarah Ho
Fourth Official: Harrison Sappey
Marconi Stallions: 1. VEKIC Nenad, 2. MILLGATE Nathan, 3. SPERANZA Giorgio, 4. SPERANZA Roberto, 10. JESIC Marko, 11. MALLIA Mitchell (9. FRANGIE ‘77), 13. NICOLAOU Yianni, 16. YOULLEY Liam, 19. CAIRNCROSS Zach (12. ANDREW ‘32), 21. PAVLOVIC Mirjan (20. CARDOZO ‘71), 23. VELLA Brandon
Substitutes not used: 7. O’CONNELL Sean, 17. SEKUTKOSKI Kristian
Yellow cards: Youlley G Speranza Cardozo
Red cards: nil
Wollongong Wolves: 1. PASFIELD Justin, 2. MCDONALD Taylor (3. MADDEN ‘63), 4. DJORDJEVIC Nikola, 7. PRICE Christopher, 9. JAMES Thomas, 11. OKADA Takeru, 14. CALLAHAN Harry (19. MUSUMECI ‘83), 15. LITTLER Nick, 16. KNIGHT Guy (8. MARKOVIC ‘66), 17. STOJCEVSKI James, 23. JUACH Bul
Substitutes not used: 12. KAIRIES Luke, 13. DIMOSKI Sean
Yellow cards: Knight Stojcevski
Red cards: nil
3: Takeru Okada (WW)
2: Bul Juach (WW)
1: Marko Jesic (MS)
-By Justin Davies