16/04/2024

Wollongong United players celebrate after scoring a goal. Photo Credit: Izhar Khan

It was a David vs Goliath contest in the Illawarra as Illawarra Premier League side Wollongong United hosted Victorian NPL outfit Green Gully in the Australia Cup on Wednesday night. 

The Cupset was on the cards very early on as a penalty was awarded to the home side in the 19th minute after Kyah Jovanovski was taken down inside the box. It was converted by Mitsuo Yamada, with Liam Driscoll receiving a yellow card for the challenge.

The run of play would very much be on Wollongong’s side, and despite peppering Green Gully with chance after chance, would be unable to score a second. It would be made to pay after an equaliser from Alex Salmon in the 41st minute.

Tensions would boil over late in the first half, with referee Stephen Lucas being forced to show five yellow cards in the first half. The half time whistle could not come soon enough to ease the tensions brewing between the two sides.

A number of halftime substitutes settled the match down, before tensions heated up, forcing Lucas to go back into the pocket again for the sixth yellow card of the match.

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Green Gully thought it had found the lead through Nahuel Bonada in the 55th minute, but the flag went up from the assistant referee for offside. Wollongong would capitalise at the other end, taking the lead at 2-1 through Bailey Babarovski in the 58th.

A stunner just two minutes later from halftime substitute Gianluca Ianucci would see the visitors equalise in what might go down as a candidate for goal of the Cup, showing that neither side was going to go down without a fight.

Describing the goal and Ianucci after the game, Green Gully captain Jeremy Walker said,

“I think it started like 15 meters to the left and just swung into the top corner. He’s very good, a very good footballer. He should be having a sniff elsewhere with a couple of them as well. A real bit of quality from him.”

The home side would be made to rue all the missed chances it had created as the visitors went up 3-2 with Josh Hope in the 65th minute. This was despite some appeals for hand ball in the lead-up from the home side.

Green Gully poses for a photo after advancing to the Australia Cup Round of 16. (Photo: Izhar Khan)

Despite some late drama and chances for Wollongong United, it would be unable to come up with an equaliser, as Green Gully advanced to the Round of 16.

Speaking after the game, Wollongong United coach Billy Tsovolos was full of praise for his side.

“[I’m] unbelievably proud. Just for us to get this far is an exceptional achievement for us. We worked so hard. We pushed them hard today,” he said.

“It was a genuine team effort from us today. Everyone worked so hard. I’m proud of everyone.”

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