Wollongong show finals credentials with important win


The Wolves had it all to play for but the big question remained could they continue their red hot form over the past few weeks which saw them demolish Macarthur 7-0 and then a deserved 1-0 away win over Manly FC. The other question that remained was whether or not the week spell that the Wolves had with their round 17 fixture with Sydney United being postponed – would it affect the team?s rhythm?
Firstly, the Wollongong FC club have showed their hand of intention when they unveiled a new recruit to the first grade line up in the form of former Socceroo goalkeeper Michael Turnbull to replace the regular shot-stopper Justin Pasfield who is away with the Olyroos team in preparation for the 2008 Olympic Games.
To say that the Wolves were affected by the week off was clear to see in the opening stanza but the Berries would be determined to prove throughout the match that they didn’t come down to Wollongong to return home empty handed and that their performance alone would be detrimental to the rhythm that the Wolves would be allowed to play.
After the first 10 minutes of midfield ?arm-wrestling?, it was the Berries who clearly had the better chance first up when Ryan Jones received a corner on the near post to half-volley only to find the side netting.
Soon after ?live wire? midfielder Matthew Bailey for Wollongong FC made two telling passes that created great chances in the hope for his side to open the scoring. Firstly, a perfectly weighted cross after a speedy solo run down the right found the head of Chris Price on the far post but Price’s header sailed just inches over the bar, and then Bailey’s second, was a sublime lob from just over half-way that found the bounding Prenzoski who found himself through beyond the last man and one-on-one with the approaching goalkeeper Hamish McLean for the Berries who did enough to force Prenzoski to shoot well over the West Sydney cross bar.
In the 24? minute a rocket of a shot was sent off on the edge of Wollongong’s area by  West Sydney’s John Tsironis in what was arguably the best shot of the first-half but his shot hit the junction of the cross bar and post and flew off to safety for the Wolves.
Just a couple of minutes later a nasty challenge by Kosta Lagoudakis on Wollongong’s Michael West saw referee Peter Vrtkovski hand out a straight red card.
The Berries battled on for a further five minutes following the lengthy delay for treatment on West, but he succumbed to the injury and had to be replaced in the 36? minute by Lachlin Cahill.
To West Sydney’s credit they grew a few feet taller following their teams reduction to 10-men and for most of the remainder of the half it was in fact the visitors who showed the most enterprise in attack, in-fact a Ryan Jones shot in the 39? minute looked goal bound but Turnbull made his save look rather easy as the teams took the 0-0 scoreline to the break.
The second-half started similar to the first with both teams ?arm-wrestling? for midfield domination.
The turning point for the match would arguably be in the 55? minute when a close-range shot by Tsironis looked a certainty for the Berries but Turnbull pulled off a great diving save to his right to block the shot away in what was clearly the save of the match.
In a cruel twist of fate for the Berries, just seconds later the Wolves tore up-field to pressure their goal and a cross into the area from Chris Price found his striker Dez Giraldi with a perfectly timed header and he made no mistake in burying it past the helpless McLean to send the Wolves faithful into raptures.
To West Sydney’s credit their spirited fight never dwindled and they could have levelled the scores in the 69? minute when a scrambled effort in-front of the Wolves goal saw Angelo Petratos shoot at Turnbull, but he muscled his way to block the shot and grab the ball from his attackers feet.
A minute later it was the Wolves turn to pressure and another enterprising run and cross by Man of the Match Chris Price this time found the head of Prenzoski who couldn’t repeat his strike partners result and McLean easily saved for the Berries.
Prenzoski did however force his way onto the scoresheet in the 85? minute when it was Price again who delivered another perfect cross and the ball found Prenzoski with his back to goal who shielded it from the Berries defender and Prenzoski swivelled before putting the result beyond doubt.
It was the Berries who had the best chance of the final few minutes when Turnbull again combined to keep the Berries scoreless when a Scott Thomas shot was rocketed at Turnbull who did brilliantly to parry away. Kotsopoulos? follow-up looked also goal-bound after beating the fingertips of Turnbull?s second save but the ever reliant Danial Cummins was perfectly positioned on the line for the Wolves to preserve the 2-0 win.
Wollongong FC’s coach John Turner said after the match:
?My boys really struggled to get into their normal rhythm at times during the match and the week off probably didn’t do us any favours in the end.
?I was pleased with the performance of Captain Ben Blake who really rallied in defence and the form of Chris Price has continued, which is good to see? he said.
The extent of Michael West?s injury remains unknown:
?It is too soon to tell how serious the knee injury is but I will go for scans in the next day or so to see the extent of the damage?.
For the West Sydney Berries a despondent Coach in Ramsin Shamon said:
?I thought the 10-men really played out of their skins and they didn’t let us down.
?That is the story of our season, where at times we had every one of the top 4 sides on the ropes but we failed to put them to the sword.
?At times it feels like we as a club are still doing our apprenticeship and this game can be real cruel at times but I am so proud of the way we fought for everything today.?
Match Stats
Wollongong FC 2 (Dez Giraldi 56′, Ilija Prenzoski 85′)
West Sydney Berries 0

Venue: John Crehan Park, CRINGILA
Referee: Peter Vrtkovski           
Assistant Referees: Lance Greenshields, Adrian Stark
Fourth Official: Michael Clisdell
Crowd: 896
Wollongong FC: 1. Michael TURNBULL, 4. Michael WEST (3. Lachlin CAHILL 36′), 5. Steve HAYES , 6. Ilija PRENZOSKI, 9. Dez GIRALDI (8. Mitchell LONG 76′), 10. Balla CONDE (2. Alfredo ESTEVES 73′), 12. Chris PRICE, 13. Tynan DIAZ, 14. Danial CUMMINS, 17. Ben BLAKE (Capt),  19. Matt BAILEY
Substitutes Not Used: 7. Michael HAWRYSIUK, 20. Adam RODRIGUEZ (GK),

Yellow Cards: 4. Michael WEST 26′, 9. Dez GIRALDI 45′
Red Cards: Nil
West Sydney Berries: 1. Hamish MCLEAN, 3. Omar SAADI (18. Giosue SAMA), 6. Jack SOBCZYK, 7. Scott THOMAS, 8. Johnny FOTIADIS, 10. John TSIRONIS (14. Craig JACOB 65′), 11. Aheleas KOTSOPOULOS, 15. Ryan JONES, 16. Kosta LAGOUDAKIS, 17. Sash TIROVSKI (13. Neil PHILLIPOU 76′), 20. Angelo PETRATOS
Substitutes Not Used: James WEBB (GK), 5. Michael CUNICO

Yellow Cards: 11. Aheleas KOTSOPOULOS 90′

Red Cards: 16. Kosta LAGOUDAKIS 26′
Player Ratings:
3 ? Chris PRICE (WFC)
2? Michael TURNBULL (WFC)
1? Ryan JONES (WSB)
-By Andrew Byron