FOOTBALL - ILLAWARRA PREMIER LEAGUE
Port Kembla ended South Coast United's season and kept their title defence on track with 3-1 win at Elizabeth Park on Sunday.
A second half brace from Nuno Pires guided the Zebras into a minor semi-final clash against Wollongong United next weekend.
Returning from an ankle injury that looked to have ended his season, Pires propelled Port to a 2-0 lead before laying on the assist for Matthew Floro to seal the win with the last kick of the match.
"We certainly took our chances. I think Nuno, coming back from the injury, was outstanding," Port coach Stuart Beedie said.
"The second goal was classy. It shows you the good strikers will miss them but he goes, again and again and he got his reward for it with two goals.
"It was a good all-round team performance. Solid at the back, so I am more than happy."
Despite his dominant role, Pires missed a golden opportunity to open the scoring in the first half when but he put a header wide of the mark with the goalmouth beckoning.
But the 2013 Golden Boot winner would quickly atone.
Shortly after the interval, he latched on to a pinpoint cross from Matthew Tesoriero to give Port a hard-earned lead.
And only 10-minutes later he scored again.
Moments after Daniel Aliffi had hit the crossbar, Pires received the ball in the box and made space, before burying it in the bottom corner.
South Coast ensured the final 15-minutes would be a nervous when Jack Lombo pulled a goal back in the 75th minute.
But Matthew Floro put the result beyond doubt in the final stageswhen he finished off a break on goal after being put through by Pires.
"We got caught on the break at 2-0 up which obviously gave them an opportunity to put a bit of pressure on us, but I thought we handled it pretty well," Beedie said.
"The only other chance they made after that was the free-kick at the end.
"I thought we handled the pressure well and we always looked likely to make it three."
Eliminated coach Alan Paine said he wasn't disappointed by the result and was pleased with the strength of his squad's season.
"We put in everything we had and it just didn't fall our way," he said.
"I thought we had the majority of the game in the first half and in the second half they got into it a bit but they got three goals and we only got one.
"They never gave in. They fought right to the end."
DAPTO Dandaloo Fury player-coach Noel Spencer said Sunday’s 2-1 qualifying final win over Wollongong United
was the ‘‘gutsiest’’ he has been involved in during his stint at the club.
Handed the unlucky draw of having to play their final at their rivals’ home ground, the Fury came from a goal down early in the second half to snatch a memorable win at the death.
Robbie Shields had opened the scoring for the Reds from the penalty spot, but his 28th goal in the league this season was cancelled out by two headers from former A-League veterans Alvin Ceccoli and Spencer.
The result moved the Fury into next week’s major semi-final against League Championship winners Bulli.
‘It was a very even game. ‘‘I was probably a little bit disappointed that we didn’t go in after the first half with a little bit more than zero on the scoreboard,’’ Spencer said.
‘‘But it was just one of those days where it was a real good dog fight.
‘‘I actually said to the boys after the game that it was probably the gutsiest result I have been involved in at the last six years at the club.
‘‘1-0 down in heavy conditions, at their home ground, the boys fought hard and worked our tails off to get the result.’’
The Fury fell a goal down when United were awarded a penalty for a contentious hand ball in the box which Shields comfortably dispatched.
But Dapto Dandaloo would finally make the most of chances throughout the match with an equaliser in the 73rd minute.
Spencer rose highest from a Ceccoli free-kick .Shields went close to immediately putting the Reds back in front when he found the post with 10 minutes remaining, but the Fury got the last laugh with extra time looming.
Ceccoli was given way too much space from a corner in the 91st minute to head home and secure the Fury a 2-1 win - and set up a heavyweight clash with Bulli.