ILLAWARRA PREMIER LEAGUE FOOTBALL
Two late goals have helped Tarrawanna to a 3-2 win over 10-man Wollongong Olympic on a frantic afternoon at Dandaloo Sports Ground.
Despite having the numbers advantage for most of the second half, the Blueys had to claw their way back from a goal down to keep their finals campaign alive.
Ricky Goodchild got Tarrawanna off to a dream start in fortunate circumstances when his corner curled its way into the top corner.
The lead didn't last for long, as Julian Minutillo stamped his mark on the match, latching on to an innocuous through ball before rounding Tarrawanna gloveman Christian Pretto to slot home with poise.
Fans could have been excused for feeling a sense of deja vu in the 30th minute, when Minutillo skipped by Pretto again, only to have his shot slide across the face of goal.
With scores level at 1-1 at the break, the match reached its boiling point five minutes into the second half when Olympic's Jake Duczynski was handed a red card.
Despite a plethora of fouls and yellow cards for both sides throughout, Duczynski's late challenge was adjudged to be reckless enough to warrant a dismissal, much to the dismay of Olympic gaffer Wayne Farnsworth.
The sending off was a bit harsh, Farnsworth said. "How many of those [challenges] did we see throughout the game, from both sides? It probably just spoilt a really good game."
Nevertheless, Olympic were determined not to be halted by the sending off, fighting on to find the lead.
With 15 minutes remaining, Minutillo put Olympic on track for an unlikely victory with a classy finish after turning the Tarrawanna defence.
Unfortunately for Farnsworth's men, the goal sparked the Blueys into action and they came up with an equaliser four minutes later.
Darren Stone found himself in acres of space on the right side of the box and played a ball across to Ilija Prezonski to square the ledger at 2-2.
With extra time looming, Samet Kaynak managed to avoid the assistant referee's flag, pulling down a bouncing ball to slot home and hand Tarrawanna a 3-2 lead.
Minutillo came within a whisker of hauling Olympic back on level terms again with two minutes remaining, but was denied by a smart save, giving the Blueys a nail-biting victory.
"It wasn't pretty I don't think, but we just battled hard and got the result," Tarrawanna coach Luke McGuire said.
"That is my first win in a normal game against them so it was a strange feeling because right up until the final whistle, I didn't think it was going to happen.
"The [sending off] definitely helped us, I will be honest. I think it was a late challenge but in an elimination final, it is always a tough decision."
In the changing rooms, Farnsworth was in awe of the spirit showed by his troops.
"You can't play 40 minutes in finals football down a man and expect to get something out of it.
"They weren't entitled to stay in that game as long as they did but to their credit and the guts they have shown all year long, they did," Farnsworth said.