Wolves claim national title with thrilling win

Party starters: The Wolves celebrate their national title on Saturday afternoon. Picture: Pedro Garcia.
Party starters: The Wolves celebrate their national title on Saturday afternoon. Picture: Pedro Garcia.

Go and win us the game.

That was the message Wollongong Wolves coach Luke Wilkshire gave to substitute Bul Juach as he prepared to enter Saturday's National Premier Leagues final against Lions FC at Albert Butler Park.

And win the game Juach did.

After being injected into the match in the 95th minute, Juach broke a 2-2 deadlock early in the second period of extra time.

The 109th minute goal put the Wolves in front and it was a lead they would not relinquish, Thomas James adding a fourth before a late Lions goal saw the scores finish 4-3.

Juach has largely played a substitute role for the Wolves this season and Wilkshire praised the 18-year-old for making an impact in the biggest game of the year.

"I told him to go and give us fresh legs, go and win us the game," Wilkshire said. "They were a man down and I just said to use your energy and win us the game.

"We've had players all year who have made an impact late, Stefan Dimoski has done it, now Bul's done it. There's a time and place for everyone."

The extra-time victory came after a thrilling match, with the lead changing hands on numerous occasions.

I told him to go and give us fresh legs, go and win us the game.

Luke Wilkshire

The Lions entered the game hoping to avenge for a defeat in last year's NPL final and it took them just 13 minutes to open the scoring.

The Wolves worked their way back into the match and had numerous attacking chances throughout the first half, however they were unable to break down their opponent's organised defence.

Wollongong remained patient after the halftime break as space to run started to open up. The Wolves eventually hit back in the 52nd minute, James levelling the scores from the penalty spot after John Kosmina Medal winner Harry Callahan was brought down inside the box.

With Wollongong pushing for the go-ahead goal, the Lions defended valiantly throughout the second half.

Ultimately the pressure proved too much, Takeru Okada putting the Wolves in front in the 80th minute.

Just as Wollongong looked set to secure their first NPL national title, the visitors hit back.

Marek Madle made the key play, the substitute locking things up at 2-2.

The Lions cause was dealt a blow two minutes into injury time, Mitch Hore handed his second yellow card after a challenge on James.

With the scores still level, the game entered extra time, where Juach would make the match-winning play.

While there were ultimately two more goals in the contest, Juach's was the decisive strike, his header handing the Wolves their first national title since their 2001 National Soccer League championship.

With the Wolves pushed all the way by a quality opponent, Wilkshire said the win was the culmination of 12 months of hard work.

"Ending the season on a victory is what the boys deserve," Wilkshire said.

"The guys worked unbelievably hard all year, they were fantastic again on Saturday. I can't ask anything more of them."

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