YOOGALI Soccer Club has completed a rare local quadruple, winning grand finals in four grades at Exies Oval yesterday – including the most prized of them all.
A solitary strike from GDFA golden boot Dane Ballard was enough for YSC to defeat old foes Hanwood FC 1-0 last night in a first grade grand final for the ages.
Ballard’s cool finish early in the second half gave Yoogali the edge - but Hanwood will be left to rue a double failure at the penalty spot in the dying embers of the match.
After Brandon Barski was brought down in the penalty area, HFC coach Anthony Agresta stepped up to take the dot shot, but it was saved by YSC custodian Michael DePaoli.
However, referee Mark Feltracco ordered the penalty kick be retaken, judging that DePaoli had stepped off his line.
Barski himself stepped up with the opportunity to equalize the game and almost certainly send it into extra time – but he harmlessly scuffed his shot wide of the target, much to the collective relief of the YSC faithful.
Agresta said he would not hold the moment against the English striker, who endured a torrid night in front of goal.
“I can’t say much because I missed one too. It happens. It’s sport, and credit to Dipper, he saved mine and then Brandon missed his. What do you do?” he said.
But Agresta’s pain was YSC coach Sante Donadel’s gain, and he was over the moon after the final whistle, having steered his side to their first senior title since 2009.
“Our boys probably wanted it more today. It was like Hanwood two weeks ago in the semi-final – they wanted it more and got the result. Today it was the opposite,” he said.
“It was all about possession and holding the ball. The longer you hold it the more chances you’re going to create. It’s the same for both sides because they’re both quality sides.
“But we should have buried them in the first half.”
Donadel accused Barski of diving to win the penalty despite Feltracco’s decision that he was brought down illegally by Hudson Fanani.
“I thought it was harsh to let them retake that penalty. Nobody pulls that up, ever. That was disappointing. I thought it was a dive in the box but he played for it and he got it,” he said.
“Hudson was just there, Brandon knocked it through then ran into him. But at the end of the day we can’t complain, we won it.”
YSC were back to their stunning early-season form, outclassing Hanwood in midfield and holding firm at the back when the minor premiers made their late charge.
Stopper Luke Pandolfo was crowned player of the match for his terrific effort in defence next to Grant Davidson, while GDFA best and fairest Derek McKechnie was his usual busy self and Thomas Keenan earned plenty of new admirers for his shift on the left wing.
But Donadel reserved special praise for Ballard, who came to the club at the start of the year and has delivered in spades.
“We talked about how classy he is, Dane, and in big games, the big players peform. He did well today. He got the one that mattered,” he said.
“They had their opportunities but so did we, and we put them away.”
The win completed a stunning weekend for the club after it earlier captured the over 35s, women’s and reserves titles.
On the other hand, Hanwood FC were defeated in every grand final it had qualified for, also losing the under 18s crown to West Griffith SC.
Agresta was understandably shattered after the final whistle.
“It is a cruel game, but we were just beaten by a hungrier side,” he said.
“We had our moments in the game but from the start they were just a bit hungrier. We had our chances at the end but they deserve it today, I’ve got to say.”
The rumour mill was proved correct when Matthew Gilston made his highly-anticipated start in midfield for YSC.
Lauded as the lynchpin in the centre of the part for YSC for the first half of the season, Gilston only lasted 10 minutes until his troublesome knees played up again.
“He only got back into town yesterday and it was always a gamble. It didn’t pay off but the boys picked up and just kept on going,” Donadel said.