Wollongong Olympic asserted their dominance at the top of the Illawarra Premier League, smashing seven past the Woonona Sharks.
The game started in an intense manner with both teams finding themselves in their own attacking third’s on multiple occasions against the backdrop of a plethora of fouls and tough challenges, but it wasn’t until the 28th minute that the first goal was scored, with Woonona drawing first blood.
Following a free kick swung in from the right, the ball bounced around the box before landing at the feet of Khalid Alali who slotted the ball into the bottom left corner to give the Sharks an unexpected lead.
In the 33rd minute, Woonona had a chance to double advantage as Toya Hidaka strode down the left wing. With Wollongong Olympic caught out in defence, Hikada had a chance to cross the ball into the box where his team outnumbered the defendce three players to two, however, he opted to shoot and missed the target. A decision that went on to haunt Woonona as this was their last meaningful attack before they relinquished their lead in the 39th minute.
Similar to Woonona’s opener, Olympic’s equaliser came via a goalmouth scramble as a result of a mis-queued Yusuke Ueda header that ballooned in the air. Julian Minutillo was the first to react, who ran onto the ball and calmly placed the ball into the back of the net – beginning a golden minute for the striker, scoring his second moments after kick-off.
With Olympic having won a corner, Minutillo made a perfect run to the front post, flicking the ball off the top of his head and past the keeper. Two goals in a minute changed the course of the game, with Woonona startled and Olympic revving in top gear.
In the 44th minute, Olympic should have scored their third having been awarded a penalty after Minutillo was dragged down in the area. Despite the calls from the crowd to give Minutillo the opportunity to score a five-minute hattrick, the ever-confident Jonny Martinovski stepped up to the spot. Martinovski struck his penalty into the side of the left upright which rebounded straight back to him. Subsequently, Woonona won a free kick as a result of Martinovski having touched the ball twice in an arrow. Alas, Martinovski’s miss would only offer a short amount of relief for Woonona, who would concede a third a mere three minutes later.
It was a stoppage-time stunner from fullback, Ikumi Saito, that gave Olympic a two-goal lead going into the break. Stepping up to a free-kick roughly 20 meters out from the goal and slightly to the right, Saito hit a superb shot that sunk into the top-right corner.
With Saito having potentially scored the goal of the season, Olympic came out of sheds hungry for more goals which they had no trouble scoring throughout the period.
In the 52nd minute, the ever-prolific Ueda scored his first of the afternoon, and his 13th of the season, when he was put through on goal by a booming defensive header from halfway. On the edge of the 18-yard box, Ueda released his shot which found its way into the bottom left corner with the aid of a deflection.
In the 55th minute, Martinovski made up for his penalty gaff, as he danced his way around two defenders in the box before curling his shot into the top left corner.
Despite the 3 points being all but sewed up for Olympic, Woonona continued to fight and play good football which they rewarded for on the hour mark when Hikada finished a simple tap in, following a free-kick crossed in from the right which reared up off the surface into the underside of the crossbar that rebounded to the striker’s feet.
However, Woonona’s goal relit the fire in the belly of the Olympic players as they ramped up their quest for more goals.
In the 61st minute, Ueda had a golden chance to score his second when a perfect cross was played to him but was expertly denied by Sharks goalkeeper, Alex Baird.
In the 66th minute though, Olympic would score their 6th goal when Martinovksi was played a through ball on a platter that cut the Woonona defence in two. Martinovski would make no mistake and expertly slotted the ball past Baird from the edge of the six-yard box.
In the 73rd minute, brimming with confidence, Ueda made an exquisite run down the middle on the pitch. Striding past four defenders (most of whom were left bamboozled on the ground), Ueda ultimately held onto the ball for too long when he played the ball to Jack Balmforth who had ran into an offside position.
Ueda would have two more chances to snatch a second when he headed the ball over the bar in the 78th minute and smashed a shot across the face of the goal in the 82nd.
However, it would be substitute, Jamie Wakeling, who would seal the deal for Olympic, when he got on the end of a free kick crossed in from the right and hammered a home a header in the 85th minute.
The final whistle blew with the players, referees and fans all left exhausted following a thrilling match of football. A match in which Wollongong Olympic truly proved that they are the team to beat in the competition. They’ll go into next weeks clash against South Coast United confident of further extending their lead at the summit of the ladder, despite Greg Valic’s men going five matches undefeated.
Woonona will be understandably disappointed by the thrashing but can take a lot of positives from the opening forty minutes. Ultimately, they lost the match in the final five minutes of the first half, a capitulation they will need to avoid if they are to be serious top five contender. They’ll look to put this result behind them when they take on Coniston next week – a match where they will be confident that they can get back to their winning ways.
6th July 2019 @ Ocean Park
Woonona – 2 (Alali 28’, Hidaka 60’)
Wollongong Olympic – 7 (Munitillo 39’,40’, Saiko 45 + 3’, Ueda 52’, Martinovski 55’, 70’, Wakeling 85’)
Woonona – Alex BAIRD, Tyren MACLOU, Tyler BROMHAM-FULLER, Christopher GIBSON, Khalid ALALI, Kota ODAKURA, Jesse FRENCH, Dylan CATON, Luke McCOSKER, Jarred MORLEY, Toya HIDAKA.
Substitutes – Jai MELLOR (on for McCosker), Trent WORTHINGTON (on for Morley), Tyler SNELGROVE (on for Alali), Chris WEARINS.
Olympic – Hayden DUROSE, Kojiro HORI, Jack KEATING, Ikumi SAITO, James KERR, Vaughan PATTERSON, Joey LAVALLE, Julian MINUTILLO, Mark EVERY, John MARTINOVSKI, Yusuke UEDA.
Substitutes – Jack BALMFORTH (on for Minutillo), Peter PRANDALOS (on for Kerr), Ekoue D’ALMEDIA, Jamie WAKELING (on for Lavalle), Christian PRETTO.
Report by Nic Wilson, on Twitter @_nicwilson
Photo courtesy of Noel Wynn