HAKOAH Sydney City East FC capped off a spectacular campaign by triumphing in the State League 1 grand final on Sunday, beating Northbridge FC 3-2 in a dynamic display at Lambert Park.
In an encounter befitting the bitter rivalry shared between the two sides, the contest was forced into extra time where Lloyd Owusu grabbed the title-winning goal.
As expected, it was a tight opening to the grand final with goal scoring opportunities hard to come by in a scoreless first half. A header to Owusu provided Hakoah with its only meaningful chance of the first stanza, while at the other end goalkeeper Daniel Conway was called into action on several occasions and was equal to the task.
The deadlock was finally broken soon after the restart, with Northbridge going 1-0 ahead from a pinpoint header.
As the game ticked down into the final minutes, Northbridge looked destined to rain on Hakoah’s 2014 parade. But second-half substitute Kevin Lopes had other ideas, scoring the equaliser in the 85th minute after a goal-line scramble saw the striker poke the ball home from close range.
Before Hakoah could settle back into the game, Northbridge stole back its lead following a long cross to a striker, who duly slotted, seemingly sealing the deal.
Incredibly, moments later and with time running out, Hakoah pulled level again. This time it was captain Neil Jablonski who got on the end of a pass to volley home, making it 2-2 as the whistle blew for full-time.
Both sides looked exhausted as extra-time commenced, and with the match demanding a hero, it was Hakoah’s Owusu who stood tall. The talismanic striker climbed highest from a corner kick and powered home a trademark header to edge Hakoah 3-2 in front.
Despite Northbridge throwing everything forward, Hakoah withstood the onslaught and held on for the win. The side adds a title to the growing list of accolades from this season, which includes the minor premiership and promotion to National Premier League 1.
In the aftermath, stalwart leftback and club president Michael Katz called time on an illustrious playing career and will now devote his full attention to the boardroom.
The club was also honoured at last week’s Football NSW gala dinner, in which Hakoah received the State League 1 Club Championship, first grade coach Mark Robertson won Coach of the Year and Owusu took home Player of the Year.
Meanwhile, Hakoah’s reserves and Under-16s suffered bitter defeats in their respective grand finals on Sunday.
The reserves went down 4-3 to Dulwich Hill FC, with Dylan Basger and Lopes among the goal scorers for Hakoah. And after stellar form in the finals series, the Under-16s stumbled to a 3-0 loss to Western NSW Mariners.