NPL Wrap: U20s survive penalty shootout to qualify for Grand Final

On Saturday evening, the Western Sydney Wanderers U20 squad won a thrilling contest against Mt Druitt Town Rangers to progress to the Grand Final. 

With the scores locked at 4-4 after extra time, the Red & Black held their nerve, winning the penalty shoot-out 6-5. 

After a cagey start to the game, Dylan Ruiz-Diaz had the first real opportunity, striking a set piece into the wall. 

Midway through the first half, the Wanderers took the lead after a nice team move. Jacob Vasiliou got on the end of Daniel Wilmering's cross and cut the ball back for Alexander Lopez, who kept his composure to put us in front. 

Ruiz-Diaz had another chance a few minutes later with his curling shot going just past the far post. 

However, Mt Druitt responded, and made it 1-1 just before the half hour after a free kick from Giulian Airoldi. 

The Wanderers went on the attack and Ruiz-Diaz almost repeated his heroics from the sides match against Villarreal as his shot from the centre circle went just wide. 

The Red & Black's pressure paid off and were soon back in front. Lopez and Vasiliou were involved again, combining to set up Rory Jordan who finished well from the edge of the penalty area. 

Unfortunately, Mt Druitt found a second equaliser a few minutes later with Cooper Coskerie finding the back of the net after Wanderers goalkeeper Daniel Axford made an acrobatic save. 

Undeterred by the setback, the Red & Black would go 3-2 in front just after half time with Jordan receiving a pass from Wilmering before sending a beautiful dipping volley into the top corner of the goal.

There were further chances for Lopez and Ruiz-Diaz while at the other end Axford managed to push a deflected shot onto the post before gathering the rebound. 

The Wanderers then doubled their lead just after the hour mark with Ruiz-Diaz beating a defender before slipping the ball through to Jarrod Carluccio who rolled the ball into the bottom corner. 

With time running out, it looked like the Wanderers would hold on, but Mt Druitt had other ideas, scoring late goals through Coskerie and Trent Sierra to force extra time. 

There was action at both ends after play restarted with Wilmering clearing off the goalline while Ruiz-Diaz was denied once again by an excellent save from Justin Veljovic. 

Despite further chances for Bailey Rule, as well as Wanderers substitute Samuel Shepherd, the Wanderers were unable to break the deadlock in extra time.

The shootout got off to the worst possible start when Ruiz-Diaz’s penalty was saved by Veljovic. However, Vasiliou sent the keeper the wrong way with our next spot kick, and the Wanderers were back on level terms when Mt Druitt’s second kick rebounded off the crossbar.

It turned into a marathon, with good penalties from Thomas Aquilina, Rule, Michael Joseph and Lochlan Constable cancelled out by four successful kicks from Mt Druitt.

Carluccio then scored the seventh penalty and Axford ended up being the hero, diving to the right to save the next penalty and seecure our place in the Grand Final. 

Next weekend the U20s will face Hills United in the decider and details will be announced closer to the match date. 

Western Sydney Wanderers 4 (Alexander Lopez 22’, Rory Jordan 37’ 48’, Jarrod Carluccio 62’)

Mt Druitt Town Rangers 4 (Giuliano Airoldi 29’, Cooper Coskerie 40’ 88’, Trent Sierra 90+1’)

Western Sydney Wanderers win 6-5 on penalties

Western Sydney Wanderers: Daniel Axford, Bailey Rule, Thomas Aquilina, Thomas McPherson, Daniel Wilmering (Billy Nunes 101’), Lochlan Constable, Rory Jordan (Michael Joseph 87’), Dylan Ruiz-Diaz, Jacob Vasiliou, Jarrod Carluccio (c), Alexander Lopez (Samuel Shepherd 101’)
Unused substitutes: Elliot Carwardine, Ashton Ahluwahlia