Port Kembla capped off a remarkable late-season run to win the Illawarra Mercury Premier League Grand Final against Bulli.

Port were the stronger of the two sides in the opening half hour with four decent chances. After 14 minutes, Sandy Lowcock rounded Kenji Takahashi but hooked his shot to the left. Five minutes later, Kyle Hazebroek hit a volley wide off a Matt Floro cross. Lowcock fashioned another chance when a throw-in was flicked onto the young forward but his acrobatic strike flew over the crossbar. In the 29th minute, Floro pounced on a Bulli defensive mix-up but his strike from just inside the box was well saved by Yuya Kuwata.

Bulli’s first opportunity came in the 31st minute when Dylan Lewis picked out Ben McDonald from the right wing but his header produced a smart save from Brad Jardine in the Port goal. From this point, Bulli began playing with more fluency and a minute from halftime, Jardine was forced to make another strong block off McDonald's turn and strike from the edge of the area. This would mean the sides went into halftime at nil all.

Bulli had a couple of opportunities in the beginning of the second half. McDonald volleyed a deep Tobin Zoomers' free-kick over the bar in the 50th minute and a minute later Lewis touched the ball off for Marcus Beattie just outside the box but the shot dribbled to the right of the goal. Beattie manufactured the next heart in mouth moment just after the hour mark when his cross come shot collided with the crossbar before being cleared away.

The match was moving towards extra time as neither side were willing to budge. With three minutes on the clock, Ben Zucco won a free kick on the byline, from the resulting dead ball he cut it back for Floro just outside the 18-yard line but he blazed the ball over the bar.

The game spilt into extra time and despite playing 120 minutes a week earlier, Port still seemed to have plenty of energy in the legs. The best chance of the first period of extra time came in the 103rd minute, Kyoji Mori launched a rocket from distance that smashed against the crossbar, the ball landed near a Port attacker but desperate defending stopped any potential shot which would have resulted in a certain goal.

In the second half of extra time, the League Champions still couldn't impose themselves on this determined Port outfit. In the 115th minute, Ben Zucco nearly grabbed the game by the scruff of the neck when he attempted a 40-yard lob at goal, the strike was on target and had it not been for a wonderful fingertip save from Kuwata, Zucco would have scored the goal of the season.

In the second half of extra time, Bulli still couldn’t assert themselves on a determined Port outfit. In the 115th minute, Ben Zucco nearly left the strong crowd stunned when he saw Kuwata off his line and went for goal from 40 metres out. The strike was bound for the back of the net but the backtracking Bulli keeper made a fantastic fingertip save. The resulting corner found Matt Werakso unmarked in the box but the Port captain couldn’t get guide his header on target.

After 120 minutes, the sides still couldn't be separated and a penalty shootout was in order.

Port had the first penalty through Floro but Kuwata managed to parry the ball away low to his left.

Dylan Lewis was Bulli's first penalty taker and he made no mistake in giving his side a 1-0 advantage.

Jayden Salucci was next up for Port, the youngster who scored the winner in the Preliminary Final smashed the ball into the goal to make it 1-1.

Marcus Beattie couldn't maintain Bulli's advantage when his effort struck the right upright. The score was now 1-1 after two shots each.

Kuwata made his second save of the shootout of Port captain, Ben Werakso but Zoomers couldn't regain Bulli's advantage when he struck the ball against the left upright.

Justin Potter, who came on as a late substitute for Port found the back of the net to put them 2-1 up and then Jardine put them within 12 yards of glory when he saved McDonald's penalty.

The man to take the decisive spot-kick would be Ben Zucco, and he confidently rolled the ball into the bottom left corner to cue delirium amongst the Port Kembla faithful.

The Grand Final win was Port's seventh win in their last eight matches and Noel Spencer pointed to his side coming into the match with momentum as the key to their success, “The boys in these last 12 weeks have been outstanding.”

He also credited his sides never say die attitude that saw them get up in four finals matches against more fancied opposition,  “We played 120 [minutes] last week, we went 120 today and we still found a way to win.”

The 2017 Grand Final win is Port's first since 2013 where they also beat Bulli.

As for Bulli, the penalty shootout defeat is a cruel way to bring down the curtain on what has been a stellar campaign which saw them claim the League and Cup double. This is the clubs seventh Grand Final defeat in the last 12 seasons and continues their 31-year drought.

Click this link to listen to the post match interviews - https://soundcloud.com/dylanarvela/post-match-interviews-from-port-kemblas-grand-final-victory-over-bulli


Bulli - 0

Port Kembla - 0

Port Kembla winning 3-1 in a penalty shootout


Sunday the 24th of September at Crehan Park

Bulli - Yuya Kuwata, Kenji Takahashi, Scott Best, Kyle Jackson, Ryan Emerton, Guy Knight, Tobin Zoomers, Sam Davies, Dylan Lewis, Marcus Beattie, Ben McDonald - Subs - Harry Callahan, Corey Horner, Andy Gamble, Nik Miceski and Jayden Lewis


Port Kembla - Brad Jardine, Brooklan Frkovic, Kyle Hazebroek, Matt Werakso, Carlo Stella, Kyoji Mori, Ben Zucco, Justin Cario, Chris Smith, Matt Floro, Sandy Lowcock - Subs - Justin Potter, Bailey Flemming, Jayden Salucci, Tony Musumeci and Daniel Farina


Referee - Andrew Naylor

Assistant Referee - Blake Herbert and Brad Moriera

4th Official - Greg Reid

Report by Dylan Arvela, on Twitter @dylanarvela

Photo by Pedro Garcia



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