- By Mitchell Grima, Waratah Cup Reporter, at Melita Stadium
SOUTH Coast Wolves returned to the national fore after sealing progression to the Waratah Cup semi-finals and Westfield FFA Cup round of 32 with a 5-2 extra time win over Parramatta FC on Wednesday night.
The SUPA IGA NPL NSW Mens 1 outfit took the lead twice at Melita Stadium through Jordan Murray and a Blake Brooker own goal but were pegged back on both occasions, the most crucial of which came in the 90' minute when Daniel Rezo struck to send the match into extra time.
Wolves made no mistake from there though, sealing a resounding victory with another three goals, capped off by Ricky Zucco's spectacular bicycle kick to give the two-time NSL champions (as Wollongong Wolves) a chance to once again show their mettle to the country.
Parramatta began the match on the defensive, remaining compact in the opening exchanges as they looked to bide their time and wait for the chance to attack.
Wolves maintained much of the early possession but the hosts registered the first shot on target when Blake Brooker tried his luck from well outside the area, only for his shot to dribble into the hands of Tom Hamilton.
Less than a minute later, the visitors found a breakthrough via Jordan Murray. The striker was fed through the line, took a couple of close touches and buried his shot past a helpess Luke Turnbull in the Parramatta goal.
The Eagles refused to hit the panic button with just ten minutes gone on the clock, but found themselves in some great positions to nab an equaliser, all via corners.
The pick of the bunch came when Mathew Clowes whipped in a ball to the penalty spot which Wolves failed to clear, allowing Joshua Symons to control and shoot at the far post. His effort looked destined for goal, but the defender was denied by a brilliant goal line save from a desperate Wolves body.
Parramatta turned up the heat from there and carved out a chance on goal in the 29' minute when Daniel Gullo made a mazy run through the middle of the park and opted not to shoot when he reached the edge of the box, instead feeding Frank Martey to his left.
The winger composed himself and got his shot away but Hamilton was equal to the task, producing a superb diving save to send the ball out for a corner.
The raids on goal paid dividends shortly after when Joshua Symons headed home a Martey corner to make it 1-1, despite suggestions from Wolves they they had cleared the ball before it crossed the line.
That prompted a shift in tactics from visiting coach Nahuel Arrarte who thrust men forward in attack, attempting to restore the lead before the break. Despite Wolves asserting control for the remainder of the half, both sides headed into the sheds level.
It seemed like we'd switched stadiums in the second stanza, with tempo amplified significantly and the true significance of the fixture coming to light.
It was the Wolves who started on the front foot and the first opportunity of the half fell their way, with Ben Zucco's cross to the far post evading a packed box to find James Baldacchino two metres out from the goal line. Baldacchino looked certain to restore Wolves' advantage but Luke Turnbull pulled off a spectacular save from pinpoint range to keep the ball out.
The Eagles almost made their opponents pay not long after as Joshua Gersbach received the ball 25 metres out, spotted Daniel Collison off his line and attempted an audacious curling chip, which rebounded off the crossbar.
Parramatta went even closer in the 56' minute when Blake Brooker fed Joshua Gersbach through after a brilliant series of passing. Gersbach rounded Collison and had the goal at his mercy for a moment but Wolves got men back in time to dispel any danger.
South Coast were prodding and had another attempt on goal on the 65th minute when substitutes Jack Keating and Sam Matthews combined for the latter to get his shot away from a tight angle, but Turnbull made his presence felt and sent the ball out for a corner.
Ben Zucco whipped in the resulting set piece and Wolves hit the lead in fortuitous circumstances as what looked like an easy clearance header for Eagles attacker Brooker was misdirected and snuck in for an own goal.
Deflated but determined to keep themselves in contention, Parramatta went on the offensive and had the crowd off their seats when Wandi Jajaw's powerful shot hit the side netting.
Possession changed hands as the full time whistle loomed and just as Wolves looked to be heading through to the semi-finals, Parramatta secured a dramatic equaliser with the last kick of the game. Jajaw picked up a through ball on the corner of the box, held off his marker and fed a ball across for Rezo who tucked his effort away and force the match into extra time.
The first additional period looked anyone's game with Rezo looking eager to bury the match as he sent a powerful shot towards goal, which goalkeeper Collison had covered all the way.
Zucco then went close up the other end for Wolves, but his attempt inside the box blasted over. It wouldn't come back to haunt the NSW NPL Mens 1 side though, with Murray grabbing his second goal of the match in the 102nd minute, tucking away a nice cross from captain Bailey.
Any chance Parramatta had of clawing their way back took a beating when Zucco handed his side a two-goal buffer almost immediately from the restart. Bailey's cross to the near post was met by a glancing header from the number 10, which cleaned out the cobwebs in the top right corner.
The match appeared a foregone conclusion by that point but Zucco put the icing on the cake, scoring an absolutely stunning bicycle kick to make it 5-2. Bailey was again the provider with his deep free kick from the right finding Zucco, who turned on the theatrics.
The remainder of extra time was a mere formality as Wolves held on to secure their place in the Waratah Cup semi-finals and assure themselves of a place in the FFA Cup round of 32.
Wolves coach Nahuel Arrarte admitted his disappointment in the method of his side's win but believes the club has a great opportunity to assert themselves as a force on the local and national arena.
"We're obviously happy with the fact that we got through to the next round and the opportunity to play in the FFA Cup is massive for the club and for the region," Arrarte said.
"Unfortunately we did it the hard way and we've only got ourselves to blame. We had a lapse in concentration and we didn't stick to our game plan at the end and we paid for it.
"Full credit to Parramatta, they pushed us right to the end and we were very fortunate. I think they just ran out of legs in extra time but it's important that if we're going to continue to grow as a football team then make sure we are disciplined throughout the whole game, we played in patches tonight."
Parramatta coach Frank Cosentino took a philosophical approach to the defeat, commending his side's determination as they look towards a crucial league encounter with Bankstown City on Saturday night.
"We competed with them for 90 minutes, they played good football and held possession more than us," Cosentino said.
"It comes down to chances, they took their chances and they deserved to win.
"In a game like this, you're not going to wonder what could have happened so you have a go and at the end of the day what happens, happens.
"I know my side well and they always fight to the end so nothing is over until the final whistle.
"We were unlucky with a couple of things, keepers made some good saves but my side never give up."
Parramatta FC 2 (Joshua Symons 32', Daniel Rezo 90')
South Coast Wolves 5 (Jordan Murray 10' 102', Own Goal 65', Ricky Zucco 106' 114')