In a game that lacked much goal mouth incident, only the cruellest of ill fortune separated these two teams after 90? minutes of intriguing football which at times was more like a game of chess between two grand masters.
The game started slowly. It took a full 11? minutes before the first clear-cut chance of the game fell to Sydney United’s marksman of the moment, Luka Glavas. His snapshot on the turn was easily dealt with by Alex Augusto in the Wollongong goal.
United probed for openings playing long balls out into wide areas but the two Wollongong fullbacks, Kieran Deane and 17-year old Chris Nathaniel dealt with these threats easily.
The home side opted for a different style of play and although they held possession for long periods of time their neat passing movements failed to get them in behind United’s backline.
Wollongong came close to breaking the deadlock when a crisp passing movement between five Wollongong players, that started with Nathaniel and ended up with the 17-year old getting on the end of a cross to the back post to launch a rasping volley which Janjetovic had to parry away for a corner.
Sam Munro was busy for United linking up well with Glen Trifiro and Dominic Rossi. They were working hard to release Glavas into the central channels but the former A-League striker was getting little change out of Alfredo Esteves.
On the half hour, following nice build up work from Davor Bajsic, Glavas did manage to get a yard of space only to head over the bar from point-blank range.
This miss seemed to spur Wollongong on and they had a glorious chance to take the lead after an outrageous dummy and step over by Samet Kaynak saw him through on goal with only the goalkeeper to beat. The young striker hit his shot low and hard; Vedran Janjetovic in the United goal made an outstanding save to keep the ball out of his net.
Ilija Prenzoski saw his cross-turn-shot have Janjetovic back pedalling to claw it from under the bar and out for a corner.
At the other end David Zdrillic headed wide on 35? minutes when he really should have done better.
Half-time saw the score deadlocked at 0-0, with neither side having been able to stamp their authority on the game.
The second-half started with more of the same. Wollongong opting for patient possession football and United playing more and more long balls.
For all the technical qualities of both teams, the game was increasingly looking like it would remain deadlocked at full-time.
A number of half chances fell to both sides, but neither seemed to be able to unlock two very strong and well organised defences.
Ante Milicic was first to try and change things. In the 57? minute he replaced Davor Bajsic with Elsid Barkhousir and the gamble nearly paid immediate dividends when the substitute broke down the right and got to the byline only for his cross to be easily cleared by Esteves.
Tony Pace responded almost immediately and replaced Balla Conde with Steven Dimitrievski in the middle of the Wollongong midfield.
A minute later Kaynak almost scored for the home side with a subtle chip that again had Janjetovic scrambling to claw the ball out from under his crossbar to concede a corner.
Trifiro was withdrawn on 70? minutes and replaced by Ricky Perinich. A couple of minutes later the deadlock was broken.
Dominic Rossi looked to have been forced wide but instead of squaring the ball he tried his luck. Augusto looked to have the shot covered until it took a vicious deflection off Esteves and somehow ended up in the Wollongong net. 1-0 United.
Wollongong looked stunned and nearly went further behind two minutes later when Rossi’s cross evaded everyone and the unmarked Barkhousir hit the post from 6 yards out and Glavas somehow manage to lift the rebound high over the bar from point blank range.
This woke Wollongong up and they started to string their passes together and were unlucky not to equalise when Prenzoski broke down the right and sent in a fine ball to the near post which Kaynak could only get the faintest of touches on following some fine defensive work by Vrkic and the ball squirted through to Janjetkovic.
Milicic introduced himself in place of a tiring and ineffectual David Zdrillic in the 76? minute and Tony Pace countered by replacing his fullback Nathaniel with a striker Daniel Cortez.
The final drama came in the last minute of the match. A crude challenge on the edge of the United box lead to a Wollongong free kick. Although Janjetovic had a five man wall, Kieran Deane manage to swerve and dip the ball viciously forcing Janjetovic to make an exceptional save to deny Wollongong a point.
Following the game, Ante Milicic was most complimentary to the Wollongong team:
?I am pleased to leave here with three points. Very few teams this year will leave Wollongong with any points at all. They are a very good young team with a great group of older players.
?My team is an experienced one, we stuck to our game plan and leave with the points, but we also leave with great respect for what Wollongong have achieved in such a short time and under such difficult circumstances.?
Tony Pace spoke of his side?s efforts:
?There wasn’t anything in that game. We deserved at least a point, if not all three. It was like a repeat of Bankstown where we could and should have won it.?
Wollongong Community FC 0
Sydney United 1 (Esteves o.g. 72?)
Sunday, 15th March, 2009
Ground: John Crehan Park
Referee: Peter Vrtkovski
Assistant Referees: Alex Glasgow and Steve Nguyen
Fourth Official: Michael Seaborn
Wollongong Community FC: 1.Alex Augusto; 2.Kieran Deane, 15.Jimmy Lawrence, 4.Alfredo Esteves, 6.Ilia Prenzoski, 8.Samet Kaynak, 9.Steve Hayes, 10.Balla Conde (18.Steve Dimitrievski), 13.Dave Able, 3.Jamie Pitt, 17.Chris Nathaniel (14.Daniel Cortez), 12.Brendan Kearns.
Substitutes Not Used: 3.Jamie Pitt, 16.Corey Gameiro, 20.Matteo Brandalise (gk)
Yellow Cards: Nil
Red Cards: Nil
Sydney United: 1.Vedran Janjetovic; 5.Damon Collina, 4.Milan Bosnar, 6.Joe Vrkic, 21.Dominic Rossi, 45.Sam Munro, 9.David Zdrillic (10.Ante Milicic) c, 18.Glen Trifiro (2.Ricky Perinich), 12.Davor Bajsic (16.Elsid Barkhousir), 19.Mitchell Thompson, , 11.Luka Glavas.
Substitutes Not Used: 25. Dennis Cutura, 20 Michael Frost.
Yellow Cards: Nil
Red Cards: Nil
3 ? Steve Hayes (WCFC)
2 ? Sam Munro (SU)
1 ? Alex Augusto (WCFC)
-By David Wallace