Academy Wrap: U20s lose Grand Final in extra time

The Wanderers Academy's U20s suffered a heartbreaking loss in Saturday's Grand Final at Valentine Sports Park, losing 3-2 to Northern Tigers. 

After going down 2-0, the Red & Black scored two late goals to force extra time, however it a painful finish it was not to be the Wanderers day as the Tigers scored a 109th-minute winner. 

The game began in the worst possible way when the Red & Black fell behind in the tenth minute with Nicholas Drummond finding the net from close range. 

The Wanderers began to control possession and Stefan Nikolic had a good opportunity seven minutes later after beating two defenders, but his shot was saved by Tigers goalkeeper Elliott Wheeler. 

Nicolas Milanovic was the next Wanderers player to test Wheeler with the goalkeeper tipping his curling 30-yard free kick over the crossbar. 

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At the other end of the field, Red & Black goalkeeper Elliot Carwardine saved a couple of shots from distance and while in first-half stoppage time Dean Pelekanos volleyed the ball towards goal, only for a defender to get in the way. 

The Wanderers had a couple of great chances early in the second half. 

On 55 minutes, Yousef Sawalha did brilliantly to beat a defender and set up Jake Trew, who sent the ball inches wide of the post. 

A couple minutes later, Evan Tsakos was released behind the defence, forcing a one on one save from Wheeler. 

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As the Red & Black pushed for an equaliser, Tsakos continued to threaten. On 78 minutes, he dribbled around two opponents, with Wheeler pushing his shot wide of the goal. The Tigers then went close to a second when Finn Harricks hit the post, Thomas McPherson and Carwardine combining to clear the danger.

Northern Tigers made it 2-0 in the 83rd minute when Dominic O’Brien scored from long range, but that was only the start of the drama.

Less than 60 seconds later, Tsakos raced clear of the defence and tucked the ball away to halve the deficit.

Incredibly, the Wanderers equalised on 88 minutes after a fantastic run and cross from Sawalha provided the simplest of finishes for Issac Hovar.

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Both teams were now pushing for a winner. Carwardine pulled off a wonderful save in the final minute of time added on and the game was set for two ten minute periods of extra time.

The U20s best chance in the first half of extra time came when a 25-yard shot from Peter Grozos was saved by Wheeler.

The Tigers shotstopper would be our nemesis again in the 106th minute, rushing out to save from Tsakos after he combined with Trew.

In a heartbreaking finish, Tigers forward Karim Moursi struck the decisive blow on the 109th minute and the Wanderers threw everything at the Tigers goal in the dying seconds but were unable to find another equaliser. 

Despite the defeat, it has still be an excellent season for the Wanderers Academy's U20s as they clinched the club's first U20s Premiership and qualified for their fourth consecutive Grand Final. 

Western Sydney Wanderers 2 (Evan Tsakos 84’, Isaac Hovar 88’)
Northern Tigers 3 (Nicholas Drummond 10’, Dominic O’Brien 83’, Karim Moursi 109’)

Western Sydney Wanderers: Elliot Carwardine, Jack Hutchings, Callum Watt, Thomas McPherson (Peter Grozos 79’), Issac Hovar, Dean Pelekanos (c), Yousef Sawalha, Ali Auglah (Ashton Ahluwalia 46’), Evan Tsakos, Nicolas Milanovic, Stefan Nikolic (Jake Trew 46’)
Unused substitutes: Oliver Kalac, Bilal Chahine