St George FC moved into the NPL2 Grand Final after a tense penalty shootout victory over Northern Tigers last night.
This was a close game which could have gone either way, with the Tigers taking the lead twice throughout the night. A Jordan Ferrier penalty after just eight minutes, was enough to send the Tigers in 1-0 up at the break.
While it might be fair to say that the Tigers had the better of the first half, it was a different St George in the second, clearly energised straight from the re-start, It took just two minutes before the Saints equalised, Jason Romero controlled close in, before steering the ball home in the 47th.
The game was set for a cracking second period and it didn't disappoint. Both sides had chances, the best for the Saints falling to Hussein Akil, who just shot over after good lead up work by Anthony Morabito.
With no change to the scoreboard after the standard 90 minutes, this elimination final turned to extra time, and again it was the Tigers who gained the advantage when Liam McConaghy connected superbly with a header, after a neat corner.
But that lead was shortlived, Romero being brought down in the box just minutes later. Romero had no trouble stepping into the breach to take the spotkick, coolly scoring past Tonu Liiband for 2-2.
There was another penalty shout for the Saints, again when Romero was down in the area, but this one was waved away. The striker then came closest late too, his strike just going wide of Liiband's left hand post, with ten minutes left.
A strong St George finish couldn't find the needed third goal and so to penalties it went.
First up was the Saints and captain Tarik Ercan, leading from the front, made no mistake, The Tigers, through Michael Rolston, did likewise.
Up followed Jason Romero and William Foristal who each made it 2-2.
Hussein Akil and Oliver Wiggin made it 3-3 as the tension mounted.
Nicholas Paras, on as a sub in the 120th minute for this very cameo, didn't let a lack of match time affect his strike, never in doubt as it flew into the top corner.
It was then that the advantage went to St George, the Tigers missing their fourth, as it flashed over the bar.
For the game then, it was Matias da Silva Santos, who made sure of the win, ensuring that the Saints were successful with each kick. 5-3 on pens.
Onwards to the Grand Final then, our first since 2013, and coincidentally against the same opponents in Mounties Wanderers.
That one was a victory...will history repeat?
By Peter Rowney