Coogee United captain, Oran Weldrick, receiving the League Champions trophy
Coogee United have been crowned League Champions in both First and Reserve Grade of the ESFA Premier League for the second successive year by Paul Redfern
ESFA Premier League First Grade
Dunbar Rovers 1-2 Coogee United FC
Endeavour Sports High played host to this title deciding shootout between Dunbar Rovers and Coogee United FC.
Whilst a win for either side would see them lift the trophy, a draw would see the title head to Glebe and give their players who had come to watch the fixture cause for celebration.
With a fast pitch, the match began in a frantic and lively fashion, but it was Dunbar who adapted more quickly to the conditions with slick passing and movement.
With Dunbar asserting their dominance, it was Coogee United who scored the first goal against the run of play. Having spotted the Dunbar keeper of his line, Michael O’Grady shot from 40 yards out with a perfectly measured kick that found the back of the net. The celebrations showed what it meant to the players but the lead was to be short-lived. Following a succession of free kicks easily given away, Dunbar converted an opportunity and found the bottom corner of the net to make it 1-all after just 15 minutes.
Dunbar right back, Ali Simpson, suffered an elbow injury on the half hour mark but continued playing the full 90 minutes with his arm in a sling. Despite the injury his determination saw him be one the standout players on the night.
Coogee were forced to repel a continual wave of attack from Dunbar Rovers, with their goalkeeper, Jon, putting in a well-deserved Man of the Match performance to keep Dunbar at bay.
As the half-time whistle went, Coogee knew they were lucky to still be in the match.
The second half saw much of the same, with Dunbar using the wide pitch to attack down the flanks. As the clock began ticking, Coogee injected some fresh legs with a trio of subs. The changes saw Coogee start to string more passes together but they still gave up possession too cheaply. Dunbar continued to press but Coogee’s defence stood tall.
As the clocked approached the dying moments, both teams knew it was now or never. On the stroke of 90 minutes a cross into the Dunbar penalty box was met with a heart-stopping moment of scuffling for the ball. A deflected shot by Coogee forward, Matt Jules, saw the roof of the net as Coogee erupted in celebration.
With the Dunbar and onlooking Glebe players in disbelief, Coogee remained resilient in defence as the final moments of stoppage time were played.
With the final whistle singing, Coogee United claimed back-to-back League Champions titles and qualification for the Champion of Champions. The dramatic end of the match echoed the climactic race to the 2013 ESFA Premier League title.
With the Finals Series beginning this weekend, the top four teams will be eyeing the Grand Final Champions title on the 31st of August.
ESFA Premier League Reserve Grade
Dunbar Rovers 0-1 Coogee United FC
The second title-deciding match was the Reserve Grade fixture between Dunbar Rovers and Coogee United FC. Coogee were looking to defend their league title whilst Dunbar were hoping to rein Coogee in; meaning a win in their remaining game against Waverley would see Dunbar crowned champions.
As the match got underway there were opportunities at both ends of the park, forcing both goalkeepers to be on their toes with Coogee failing to convert several half-chances and Dunbar struggling to find a player to receive balls from the wings.
Both teams continued to press and probe for an opening but there was no breakthrough as the half-time whistle sounded. Coogee knew a point would be sufficient to retain the league title, whilst Dunbar needed the three points and the second half was sure to open up.
The second half saw both teams continue the attacking football and only a couple of crucial defensive tackles from Coogee's centre-half thwarted Dunbar being in on goal. At the other end, the Dunbar keeper made a couple of top saves to keep the tie level.
With just 25 minutes to play, Coogee took the lead through a fantastic goal. Following a string of great interplay on the right hand side, Coogee chipped the ball toward the centre of the pitch for a volley from 30 yards out to put Coogee in the box seat.
Despite being down 1-0, Dunbar continued to surge forward and another crucial tackle from the Coogee centre-half prevented an equaliser. With fresh legs on the pitch, Coogee used their pace to press for a second goal, only to be seen off by a fantastic double save by the Dunbar Rovers goalkeeper. Coogee shortly after had a brief moment of joy as the ball hitting the back of the net was ruled offside.
The final whistle sounded with Coogee United winning the match 1-0 and securing a rare ‘Double-Double’, with both Coogee United First and Reserve Grade sides backing up their respective title wins in 2012.
Coogee United meet Dunbar Rovers yet again in the first match of the Finals Series this coming Saturday which will set the stage for a dramatic end to the knockout stages.