Bonnyrigg White Eagles sealed its place in the 2013 NSW IGA Mens 1 Grand Final courtesy of a penalty shootout victory over rivals Sydney United 58 FC on Sunday morning at Sydney United Sports Centre.
Robbie Younis’ goal in the second-half looked to have secured Bonnyrigg’s passage until a late Luka Glavas penalty sent the match into extra time with the scores locked at 1-1.
Extra time couldn’t separate the sides so the dreaded penalty shooutout was required to decide the contest; Matthew Nash’s save to deny Mitch Stamatellis’ attempt was enough to see Bonnyrigg through as they prevailed 5-3 with Tynan Diaz sinking the decisive final penalty.
The win puts Bonnyrigg straight into the Grand Final in a fortnight’s time while United will face Rockdale City Suns next weekend to decide who will contest Bonnyrigg for the title.
There was a buzz around the stadium right from the start as Mark Rudan’s Premiership winners faced off against their local rivals who had twice beaten them in 2013 already by a 2-0 score line in Bonnyrigg, followed by a 4-2 score line at this very ground.
The match kicked off with early intensity as United charged down Bonnyrigg right from the kick off while both the home and away fans were in good voice as chants flooded the stadium in the opening minutes.
United saw an early shout for a penalty rightly waved away by referee Stephen Lucas as Nikola Zonjic denied Robbie Mileski with an all-or-nothing last ditch challenge in the box.
Bonnyrigg then quickly pressed forward with Younis holding the ball up well before switching for Bo Hyun Chun; the midfielder then fed Adrian Ucchino who saw his shot from the edge of the box deflected wide for a corner.
The visitors quickly grew in confidence and perhaps should have grabbed an early advantage on their next attack as Mitch Long released Diaz on the right wing who in turn found Younis with a perfectly weighted cross; last weekend’s hat-trick hero failed to take full advantage as he powered his header straight into Liam Reddy’s capable hands.
United looked to exploit the offside trap soon after as Glen Trifiro slid Glavas through on goal; the crafty striker’s well-timed run saw him dart clear of his markers however Matthew Nash was quickest to react as he darted off his line to beat Glavas to the ball and clear to safety.
Nash came to the rescue once again soon after to deny Mileski from a narrow angle after the striker had evaded the challenges of Vuko Tomasevic and Zonjic in the lead up.
Chun came within inches of breaking the deadlock in Bonnyrigg’s favour from 25-yards out with a shot that bounced agonisingly past the far post while Mitchell Speer tried his luck from a similar range at the other end soon after only to see it flash well wide of goal.
The hosts grew in confidence as the half progressed and began to create the clearer chances, the closest of which fell to Glavas when he met Stamatellis’ brilliant ball on the fly only to see his deft touch beat both the keeper and the far post.
Daniel Barac and Stamatellis then both tried their luck from range with their efforts blazing wide and drawing a fine save respectively before Trifiro drew another brilliant diving save from Nash with a dangerous free kick following Zonjic’s foul on Glavas on the edge of the box.
While United increased their stranglehold on the match Long called Reddy into action at the other end with a powerful strike from the edge of the box that saw the keeper initially fumble before recovering quickly to dive on the ball and deny the onrushing Younis.
The match was begging for a goal before the break and only a matter of inches denied United just that as Speer struck the frame of the goal with wonderful strike; the rebound wreaked havoc in the box before the ball was eventually cleared for a corner.
Bonnyrigg did manage to craft one final attack before the interval and Long played a smart one-two with Ucchino to slip into United’s box; Jurman was on hand to make a crucial challenge to ensure his side remained on level terms going into the sheds.
The visitors survived a scare soon after the restart when Nash spilt Barac’s cross to Trifiro, however the playmaker only had a split second to react before poking the ball harmlessly wide of goal.
Bonnyrigg soon had the ball in the back of the net when Long’s strike deflected to Alex Canak who calmly stroked it home only for a raised flag from the linesman to correctly rule the effort out for offside.
Ibrahim Haydar spurned a golden chance to put his side ahead moments later when he met Trifiro’s corner only to send his header straight into Nash’s arms; the missed chance was immediately punished as Bonnyrigg then launched forward to open the scoring from their next attack.
With the hour mark looming Chun sent a marvellous cross in to pick out Long in the box who calmly cushioned a header to Younis on the edge of the 6-yard box; the poacher took full advantage to place the ball past Reddy to break the deadlock and draw wild celebrations from the travelling fans.
Glavas looked to sculpt an immediate equaliser as he glided past his marker at the other end however Chris Tadrosse was on hand to make a last ditch sliding tackle to deny Glavas and maintain his side’s advantage.
Things then took a sharp turn from bad to worse for United as Jurman saw his second booking of the afternoon for an ill-timed challenge on Younis; Glavas also saw yellow for his heated protests as Jurman trudged down the tunnel, leaving the remaining ten men with a mountain to climb.
Despite their numerical disadvantage United were fired up for the challenge and came close to crafting an equaliser when Speer slid Mileski into the box, however Diaz was on hand to pressure the striker into sending a weak shot straight at Nash who easily held the finish.
Younis soon had the ball in the net for Bonnyrigg once again only for his strike to be rightly ruled out for offside after the striker moved a moment too early to run onto Howard Fondyke’s threaded pass.
As the match rolled into the final few minutes of normal time there was a dramatic twist United pressed forward in search of an equaliser and were handed their chance when Zonjic brought down Mileski in the box to concede a late penalty.
Glavas stepped up to the spot and held his nerve to send Nash the wrong way and calmly stroke the ball into the bottom right corner to send the home fans into raptures and the match into extra time.
Both sides went close in the opening minutes of extra time as Haydar’s header was tipped over by Nash before Tadrosse crossed for Canak who bounced his strong header into the turf and over the crossbar.
Ucchino then showed just how vital it is to put players on the posts while defending corners when the midfielder reacted sharply to deny United the lead with a goal-line clearance; Glavas rose gracefully to guide another Trifiro corner goalward only for Ucchino to save the day for Bonnyrigg by blocking the ball on the line.
There was still time for a couple more dramatic twists in the second period of extra time; the first came early when Glavas looked to have found a route to goal when he left Nash stranded only to uncharacteristically fire over the crossbar with the goal at his mercy.
The latter saw Bonnyrigg also reduced to ten men when Zonjic saw his second of the game in the dying minutes to leave both sides with ten men as the match rolled toward full-time and the dreaded penalty shootout.
Nash’s save to deny Stamatellis in United’s second penalty attempt proved decisive in the shootout as Bonnyrigg went on to net all five attempts with Diaz taking the final spot kick to send his side into the grand final in a fortnight’s time.
Bonnyrigg White Eagles coach Brian Brown was delighted for everyone involved in the club after they booked their place in the Grand Final, yet also took time to sympathise for Nikola Zonjic who will miss out through suspension after his late dismissal today:
“I’m delighted for the team; the players, the club, and the supporters,” said Brown.
“We’ve worked hard all year to get to where we are now and now there’s just one game to go.
“I do feel bad for Nik (Zonjic), he’s been one of our best players all season and words can’t describe what he feels right now.
“It’s back to business as usual on Monday as we get back into training to focus on the big game in two weeks.
“I’m not looking at who we are playing; we’ll be focussing on getting our structure and performance right on the day.”
Tynan Diaz is no stranger to what Zonjic is currently experiencing having missed last year’s Grand Final due to suspension after he too was sent off in the 2012 Major Semi Final, however 2013 brings a brighter end to the season for Diaz after his final spot kick sealed their place in the big game:
“It was a heartbreaker to miss the Grand Final,” said Diaz.
“This time around I’m much happier as I’ll not only be playing but I was given the opportunity to score the winning penalty after being sent off in the same fixture last year.”
Sydney United 58 FC coach Mark Rudan was disappointed by the loss yet felt his side could hold their heads high after the effort his squad showed today:
“It was a close game,” said Rudan.
“When it goes to penalties it can go either way but I thought we created the better of the opportunities throughout the game over the course of the 120’ minutes.
“Their first real chance was a goal they scored in the second half.
“We had some good chances in the first-half and again in the second-half, particularly in extra time as well.
“It’s just one of those things where it didn’t go our way I suppose in extra time but I couldn’t be more proud of the boys to be honest.”
Calum O’Connell was keen for United to put the loss behind them as their focus now turns to next weekend’s clash against Rockdale City Suns.
“It’s not going to be an easy game,” said O’Connell.
“This has obviously been a tough one for us so we’ve got to recover well.
“We’ll go back into training this week and get another positive week under our belt and we’ll look forward to Rockdale.”
Sydney United 58 FC 1 (Luka Glavas 87’ (pen) )
Bonnyrigg White Eagles 1 (Robbie Younis 58’)
Bonnyrigg White Eagles 5 (Vuko Tomasevic scored, Aaron Peterson scored, Robbie Younis scored, Bo Hyun Chun scored, Tynan Diaz scored)
Sydney United 58 FC 3 (Luka Glavas scored, Mitch Stamatellis saved, Glen Trifiro scored, Calum O’Connell scored)
Sunday September 1st, 2013
Sydney United Sports Centre, Edensor Park
Referee: Stephen Lucas
Assistant Referees: Andrej Giev and Lance Greenshields
Fourth Official: Kurt Ams
Sydney United 58 FC: 29.Liam Reddy; 2.Mitchell Speer (15.Anthony Tomelic 82’), 3.Ben Jurman, 4.Nathan Sherlock, 5.Calum O’Connell, 6.Mitchell Stamatellis, 9.Robert Mileski (7.Mirjan Pavlovic 120’), 11.Luka Glavas, 18.Glen Trifiro, 20.Ibrahim Haydar, 22.Daniel Barac (8.Yuchi Yamauchi 63’)
Substitutes Not Used: 19.Matthew Bilic, 41.Jordan Jennings
Yellow Cards: Ben Jurman 40’, Luka Glavas 72’
Red Cards: Ben Jurman 72’
Bonnyrigg White Eagles: 1.Matthew Nash; 4.Vuko Tomasevic, 5.Chris Tadrosse, 6.Nikola Zonjic, 7.Tynan Diaz, 8.Alex Canak, 9.Robert Younis, 10.Mitchell Long (14.Jordan Crighton 115’), 16.Howard Fondyke, 18.Adrian Ucchino (19.Aaron Peterson 108’), 21.Bo Hyun Chun
Substitutes Not Used: 15.Steven Hesketh, 25.Liam Gobbo, 33.Nikodin Matic
Yellow Cards: Mitch Long 36’, Nikola Zonjic 44’, Tynan Diaz 49’
Red Cards: Nikola Zonjic 119’
-By Michael Shoolman