2019 NPL FINALS SERIES - ELIMINATION FINAL
WOLLONGONG WOLVES v CANBERRA OLYMPIC
For the Wolves initial foray in this competition, Canberra Olympic FC, representing Capital Football, provided the opposition for this match played on Saturday 21stSeptember. Both teams went into this match as Premiership holders but not Championship winners. However, despite having the majority of possession in the first twenty-five minutes or so, Canberra Olympic crashed out this series with the Wolves ultimately winning with a massive five goals to one and progress to the next level.
With the home team defending the southern end, Canberra Olympic began with their players moving up to harass the Wolves players and not give them time to settle and stifle their attempts to get into a rhythm.
Canberra’s Tim Bobolas and Jay Kelly had early opportunities to score but could not produce the cutting edge. The away team had a glut of possession and territorial advantage for much of the first half hour. During the match, Nik Popovich provided a bit of a handful with his industrious play and Stephen Domenici proved to be a dangerous player.
However, the Wolves then began to keep more of their possession and space was appearing as the Canberra push waned slightly.
The Wolves’ Harry Callahan made a ground breaking run eluding players in the twenty-first minute but his enterprise was brought to standstill when he inconvenienced. Five minutes later, Taylor McDonald produced a pinpoint cross for Lachlan Scott but Canberra thwarted his header. Thomas James looked on his way to opening the scoring four minutes shy of the half hour mark, only for a strong Lasse Oirik tackle to deny. McDonald had a goal bound effort kept out by custodian Rory Larkin just after the half hour and Larkin repeated the effort when Scott shot.
A cross from Kofi Danning, the former A-League player with Sydney FC and Brisbane Roar and an integral performer in these proceedings (plus being a former teammate of Thomas James), provided an incisive cross for Popovich. However being close the goal line, he could not make it work.
However, the Wolves broke the deadlock and went into the lead in the thirty-sixth minute following enterprising Wolves play. Nikola Djordjevic passed out to Chris Price on the left side. He in turn played a short pass to James as he ran the opposite way than his team. From James, the ball traversed to Guy Knight. He subsequently played a lifted pass over the defence to release Callahan. He motored forward on the left before delivering the ball inward to Lachlan Scott. The striker subsequently dragged the ball back then about faced to project the ball into the goal. Scott had drawn first blood.
Canberra despite this setback, did not give up the ghost. Danning got in behind the Wolves defence from a throw in and cut back the ball for Stephen Domenici. He then played a one two pass to Popovich. On regaining possession, he let fly with his left foot shot, which was blocked by Knight. From the rebound off Knight, he then produced another shot and McDonald prevented the ball from causing any harm by chesting it down with Wolves’ custodian Justin Pasfield cleaning up afterwards.
Six minutes later, the Wolves doubled their advantage. It began with Djordjevic placing the ball into Price’s vicinity. He subsequently moved the ball inward and back a little to Brendan Griffin who played a short pass back. Price then lifted the ball and Canberra’s Tim Bobolas lunged with Thomas James in attendance. Bobolas got a touch but the ball fell into Scott’s path. On pushing the ball into the penalty area he chased it down. As he collected the ball, Michael Reeve, unfortunately for him and his team, impeded and Scott went down. James stepped up to the spot. His ensuing shot zoomed into the left side of the goal eluding the diving Larkin.
The Wolves had a further opportunity to extend their advantage when McDonald played a deft cross into the box for James. He jumped and connected but his header flew over.
At half time it was 2-0.
After the break, Canberra came out with their intentions still intact when Reeve brought the ball forward. Jay Kelly gained possession and from distance produced a shot that however, did not bring up pay dirt. A subsequent cross from Danning saw intervention by Knight.
The Wolves third goal emanated from a free kick after an Olympic played was caught offside. Pasfield kicked the ball up field. Scott went for a header but central defender Oirik beat him to the ball and headed out. Callahan gained possession before moving the ball onto Griffin. He ultimately crossed to the far post to where James was lurking. He, with one touch, played a pass to his left into James Stojcevski’s direction where he slotted the easiest of chances home.
On fifty minutes, a Danning free kick on the right side travelled to Nathen Megic. He produced a powerful effort that went narrowly wide.
Three minutes later, a Stojcevski free kick was swung into the goal area. Littler chested the ball down but it ran across the face of goal with Scott in hot pursuit to the right of goal. Moving around Reeve and then leaving Andre Jancevski in his wake, he pushed the ball to Littler in the middle. Littler had no trouble with the second easy conversion of the match.
Canberra Olympic pulled a deserved goal back when Larkin sent the ball forward. The ball went towards the left sideline and Reeve just kept it in. The ball ran away from him and a retreating Callahan slotted a pass, intended for McDonald. However, it reached Danning. Following, he rode Callahan’s attempted tackle, nearly going to ground. He went back and passed to Popovich who returned favour. Danning eluded Callahan and McDonald on his forward run before rolling the ball to the right for Popovich. He then pushed it onto Domenici before he gave it back. Popovich ran strongly towards the goal and as Littler and Price converged, the Canberra striker reigned supreme by powering the ball into the goal.
Danning produced a shot on target just after the hour but Pasfield went low to deny and later Pasfield thwarted a Reeve shot. Canberra should have brought the score to 4-2 when substitute Michael Piccolo rushed in and found himself with only Pasfield to beat. Unfortunately for his team, this gilt-edged chance was unfulfilled as Piccolo’s effort went high. Following this, Price set up Stojcevski. Alas, the Wolves’ playmaker effort was skied.
Knight floated the ball across from the left to the right. It was headed forward by a Canberra player and Littler won the header over Danning to project the ball to McDonald. He headed and before the ball hit the ground he moved it on and James flicked it to Wille, who then collided with Stephan Dimoski, as each vied for the ball. Wille had the first shot that struck Dimoski and rebounded across the goal. Dimoski gained possession and struck the ball in for his teams number five with two minutes left on the clock.
The Wolves took a little time to settle into the match and were strong in the their endeavours to score five goals and the defence held out except for one instance. The team now progresses to the next round. Canberra Olympic gave it their all and were impressive in the first half hour and kept at it and got a deserved consolation goal to deny the Wolves a clean sheet.
Wolves’ coach Luke Wilkshire - ‘in the first twenty minutes or so we did not hit our straps like we would have liked and it was disappointing from our point of view but once we got into out stride and obviously with the quality in the team we came through in the end. … We had a few weeks break and had to get back into the rhythm of things… I am happy with some of the football we played especially in the second half.’
Wolves’ central defender Nikola Djordjevic - ‘It was a tough start. We did not come out firing like they did…but we put them to the sword later on. We got a bit sloppy but we got there in the end.’
Canberra Olympic coach Frank Cachia - ‘to be honest fitness found us out a little bit. In the first twenty-five minutes we were at them. We lost a bit after that. It comes down to the competitions. We don’t play teams that play at a level for ninety minutes and that found us out. If we were exposed to competitions like the Wolves we would not run out of legs…. We kept on trying to create and kept going forward and did not just set up shop and have damage control. We could have brought it back to 4-2 with Michael Piccolo and we had little opportunities.’
Canberra playmaker Kofi Danning - ‘I think they were not familiar with how we played. So it is always difficult to play against any team that you have not had any experience before … yes I played with him (James), We played together at Canberra FC together and we ended up winning the treble there. I was setting him up! .. I know what it is like to have him in your team, he’s a very good player. …. You give 100 per cent for your team whatever game you play. Let the outcome be the outcome… It was nice to get one back and it would have been good to get a few more. It is what it is.’
WOLLONGONG WOLVES …………………5
Lachlan Scott 36’, Thomas James 42’ penalty, James Stojcevski 49’, Nick Littler 54’, Stephan Dimoski 88’
Nik Popovich 56’
@ ALBERT BUTLER PARK
SATURDAY 21stSEPTEMBER 2019
3.00 p.m. Kick Off
Coach: Luke Wilkshire
1.Justin Pasfield (GK) (Capt.) 2.Taylor McDonald 4.Nikola Djordjevic 7.Chris Price 16.Guy Knight 9.Thomas James 10.Brendan Griffin (11.Takeru Okada49’) 14.Harry Callahan (6.Liam Wille 61’) 24.Lachlan Scott (13.Stefan Dimoski 72’) 15.NickLittler 17.James Stojcevski
Substitutes not used: 12.Luke Kairies 8.Bul Juach
Yellow Cards: 24. Lachlan Scott 58’
Red Cards: Nil
1.Rory Larkin GK 2.Timothy Bobolas 4.Andre Jancevski 5.Lasse Oirik 7. Nick Faust 9.Nik Popovich (3.Sean Pateman 82’)10.Kofi Danning 11.Michael Reeve (14.Michael Piccolo 68’)23.Nathen Megic Capt. 32.Stephen Domenici (13.Elie Darwich 76’) 33.Jay Kelly
Substitutes not used: 20.James Christis 12.Amir Adam.
Yellow Cards: Lasse Oirik 18’ Jay Kelly 65’
Red Cards: Nil
Referee: Adrian Arndt
Assistant Referees: Janush Adabjou, Cameron Wright
Fourth Official: Toby Plasto
By Malcolm Rowney