2019 NPL FINALS SERIES - SEMI-FINAL 2
WOLLONGONG WOLVES F.C. v PERTH S.C.
WOLVES PROGRESS TO NPL FINAL AFTER TENSE BATTLE WITH PERTH S.C.
The NSW NPL Premiers, Wollongong Wolves took on Perth S.C., the NPL WA Premiership and Championship double winners from NPL WA in this semi final at Albert Butler Memorial Park and came away with a hard fought, though fully deserved victory to progress to the NPL Final. The WA team had qualified after defeating Heidelberg United 3-2 in extra time, following their victory winning the league competition by nine points. Sunday’s match was a tense and at times torrid affair as each team strived for supremacy. However, it was the Wolves with their hardline defence holding sway, limiting Perth’s shots on target and with the top men converting two of their opportunities. Thomas James and Takeru Okada managed to get the ball with well-taken efforts past the influential Perth custodian Francis Soale, with the goals coming in each half. Incidently, one commonality between the two teams was that each team’s custodian was the team captain.
It was in the twenty-ninth minute when the Wolves’ top and potent sharp shooter James, put his team ahead. Guy Knight, who had a huge impact on the game with his midfield play, had won the ball in a scrap with Matthew Milenkovic and Okada got his foot to project the ball forward to play maker and fulcrum of attacking moves, James Stojcevski. His pass was however, unfortunately intercepted. Harry Callahan, another player who was impressive with his speed and guile went for the ball the precise time as Perth player. The ball looped into air and came down just inside the Wolves’ half. James threw his leg out to the ball to gain control. He then moved quickly in between two defenders with one giving chase neck and neck. On entering the penalty area his first shot took a deflection off the chasing defender with Soale coming off his line to narrow the angle to get a touch also. He saved but could not hold. James followed through and with his second bite of the cherry, and from an acute angle, powered the ball home. James had achieved his second goal in the FFA NPL final series.
The second goal had to wait until time added on and until this, it was anybody’s game. Soale had come out his area to take a free kick on the left side and he pumped it forward. Taylor McDonald rose to win the header and the ball was headed back. However, second half substitute Brendan Griffin subsequently hooked the ball forward. Following, Milenkovic was dispossessed by Darcy Madden (who had missed the previous week’s match due to illness). He had come on as substitute and immediately made his presence felt with an attack. Though in this instance, with James and Okada on the left, Madden put a high ball to James. He then worked a short pass to Okada, who had progressed forward. The mercurial Japanese midfielder’s ensuing left footed shot flew in past defenders and custodian from a sharp angle to bulge the far post inside netting to sure up the Wolves’ victory and to immediately ease the tension around the ground.
The proceedings began with the home team running towards their favoured northern end. Not before long, Knight and Okada got things moving with an early attacking foray. It was not long for a first free kick as Kieran Colwell was adjudged to have pushed Thomas James. For the away team, Milenkovic produced a targeted shot, which Pasfield went down to smother. Perth with this effort had showed that they meant business and the Wolves would have to work for their what they wanted out of this match. They had the justifiable confidence however, to back this up. Taylor McDonald chimed into the attack with James as an attempt to breach the Perth defensive line but their defence coped to shut out this threat.
Ten minutes in, Okada and James had forged an opportunity for Callahan which flew narrowly over and two minutes later, Nick Littler cleared under pressure and Knight closed down Kristian Santich, who was looking to cause consternation with Chris Price winning a header over Milenkovic. Scant time later, Michael Domfeh, the club’s top goal scorer, found himself in space and as defenders chased him, he still coped with producing a shot that Pasfield went down to thwart.
As the half progressed, it continued being a tight affair with neither team gaining the upper hand. Perth’s right defender Alex Silla made many forays down the right and was integral in Perth’s attacks and defence. Perth kept harassing the Wolves and prior to the Wolves’ first goal, a Milenkovic cross saw intervention by Nikola Djordjevic who together with Littler, provided an impregnable defence.
The Wolves could have scored their second goal earlier than it happened when Stojcevski dragged the ball back and shot. However, much to his chagrin, the ball traversed over the goal a minute after the half hour mark.
Lachlan Scott and Callahan rush into the box in order the create something and Callahan went down. Appeals for a penalty rang out but the referee was not to be swayed. Scott was unrelenting in his efforts up front and kept central defenders Radinovic and Colwell on their toes. Domfeh shot on the turn but his effort went wide and with the close attention from Littler during the match, the Perth striker could not add to his season tally. Silla put a pass up for Paul Zimarino, who was having a fine performance. Before Zimarino could make the Wolves pay, Pasfield was there to rebuff the chance.
At half time a home team led 1-0 score line but could not rest on their laurels as Perth would throw everything they had at the opposition following the break.
Domfeh received an overhead pass and was in a good position to score the equaliser. However, he could not muster the power needed to trouble Pasfield with the ball ultimately travelling wide. The striker was always looking for a chance and he had the striker’s instinct.
A Knight pass found James up front. However, on this occasion, Bojan Radinovic and Jordan de Leo kept him in check. Santich applied pressure on Pasfield by running the ball down as it went to the custodian. Later, Santich produced a shot, which was deflected with desired outcome not to be.
Andreas Theodosiades crossed from the left for Domfeh. On gaining possession, he turned and shot but an opposition touch sent the ball for a corner kick. Theodosiades had a subsequent header, which Pasfield kept it out of his domain.
Perth kept probing and the Wolves were placed under pressure but kept their taut defence in tact.
A Knight shot on seventy-one minutes took a deflection, but Soale was ever vigilant and grasped the ball with confidence. A James cross was blocked by De Leo and Littler robbed Gustavo Catarcione before Stojcevski shot over with fifteen minutes to go.
As frustrations brewed, a couple of flash points erupted and there was a lack of composure from some in the final ten minutes. Domfeh and Catarcione looked to plunge the game into extra time but neither could pull the trigger as firstly Price headed away and Littler cleared.
Silla drove the across the face of goal in time added on after Domfeh and Catarcione’s involvement. The latter had then released the ball to his right. It was a dangerous ball in but before Perth could not take advantage McDonald intervened in the nick of time to concede a corner. The corner kick came in and Domfeh got his head to the ball in a crowded box but could not get the direction.
Following this the Wolves broke out quickly and Okada swept to ball to James on the left. He motored forward and substitute Stefan Dimoski also moved swiftly sensing something was on. As a defender came to him, he passed across the rampaging Dimoski. With Soale in his way, flapping his arms to make more of his presence, Dimoski shot and Soale got his hands to the ball make a top save to deny the striker and deflect over.
After this, the Wolves achieved their second goal, late in time added on.
The Wolves had won the game with persistence, a will to win and sterling defence to achieve a clean sheet against a strong Perth side, which certainly had their moments to provide a stern test.
Coach Luke Wilkshire - ‘they are a good side and they came here and were desperate to win. We knew that was going to be the case and we played some really good stuff, especially in the first half. As the game went they had to throw things at us and we dealt with that… It was a one off game and I would have liked the second goal to be a bit earlier… We did not keep the ball in the second half as much as I would have wanted…. The boys have been fantastic all year and we have one to go.
Captain Justin Pasfield - ‘it was a good effort. I know it’s hard at this time of the year. It has been a long season. You did not know what to expect from these teams, but they are a good team. We defended well and probably should have scored three or four. At the end of the day, we have another one to go.’
Consummate defender Nick Littler - ‘I think in the second half they dominated us and they put a lot of pressure on us. Credit to the defence and all the boys we held up shop…. We kept pressing and pressing and eventually we eventually got the second… He’s a big boy (Domfeh) and we tried to limit the ball to him and then we forced him to play a little bit in behind and things did not go his way fortunately.’
Perth captain and impressive goalkeeper Francis Soale - ‘it took us a little while to get going in the first half. But in the second half, we changed things and we put three strikers on, I think we really gave it to them. Over the ninety, I thought we might have had them. They took their chance in the first half and are a quality team. It shows where we are at and we beat the Melbourne team last week. I’m proud of our group. Good luck in the final.’
WOLLONGONG WOLVES …………………2
Thomas James 29’ Takeru Okada 90+4
@ ALBERT BUTLER PARK
SUNDAY 29thSEPTEMBER 2019
2.30 p.m. Kick Off
Coach: Luke Wilkshire
1.Justin Pasfield (GK) (Capt.) 2.Taylor McDonald 4.Nikola Djordjevic 7.Chris Price 9.Thomas James 11.Takeru Okada 14.Harry Callahan (3.Darcy Madden 68’) 16.Guy Knight 24.Lachlan Scott (13.Stefan Dimoski 76’) 15.NickLittler 17.James Stojcevski (10.Brendan Griffin 83’)
Substitutes not used: 12.Luke Kairies 6.Liam Wille
Yellow Cards: 3.Darcy Madden 84’
Red Cards: Nil
GK: Francis Soale 2.Alex Silla 3.Andreas Theodosiades (9.Gustavo Cartarcione 60’) 5. 6.Harley Orr 11.Matthew Milenkovic (17.Frank Furfaro 70’) 12.Jordan De Leo 14.Kristian Santich 16. Kieran Colwell 18.Michael Domfeh 19.Bojan Radinovic 20.Paul Zimarino
Substitutes not used: RGK 23.Dejan Aleksic 4.Thomas Southgate 7.Aleksander Jovic
Yellow Cards: 19.Bojan Radinovic 82’
Red Cards: Nil
Referee: Craig Fisher
Assistant Referees: Nathan Wotton, Ray Osborne
Fourth Official: Hassan Jomaa
By Malcolm Rowney