By Chris Curulli
A ten-man Pittwater outfit emerged victorious as a MWFA Premier League Grand Final classic was decided on penalties at Cromer Park on Saturday.
Adam Israel’s side trailed on two separate occasions but with a man down fought back to make it 2-2 deep into stoppage time.
After a tight arm-wrestle in the first half, the contest sprung to life early in the second period.
Pittwater’s Josh Yeates was dismissed in the 47th minute as he dragged down Joshua Ciabatti who was through on goal.
Brookvale did not take long to make the most of their numerical advantage as one minute later a diving header from Ben Howell found the bottom corner, giving the league champions the advantage.
But their lead would not last for long as Pittwater pushed forward from kick-off and a scramble in the area saw the ball eventually fall to Charlie Fyfe who thumped it home into the bottom corner.
In an end-to-end contest, both sides created chances to take the lead, forcing goalkeepers Luke Femia and Tom Freemantle into some superb stops.
Brookvale eventually took the front again as the play was switched out into the path of David Cain, who broke in behind and made no mistake in slotting home to grant his side a 2-1 lead with just 15 minutes remaining.
When these sides met back in round 8, it was Brookvale who came away with the win after scoring late after being reduced to ten men.
This time, the tables were turned.
In the second of three minutes of stoppage time, one last free kick from Pittwater was hopefully launched into the penalty area.
As Brookvale desperately tried to clear the ball it eventually fell to 20-year-old substitute Elijah Bucknell on the edge of the area, who expertly chested and volleyed it into the top corner, sparking scenes of delirium within the Pittwater faithful.
As the sun began to set over Cromer Park there was no extra-time to be played; the match was to be decided through penalties.
In a dramatic shootout, the first three takers all failed to convert.
Craig Wiecowski and Ben Howell were both denied by stunning Tom Freemantle saves, while Pittwater’s first taker Jon Walker blasted his effort high and wide of the mark.
Max Bogunovic slotted home Pittwater’s first, while youngsters Aiden Currie and Elijah Bucknell held their nerve to find the back of the net as well.
Brookvale’s two penalty scorers were Mark McManus and Joel Hardwick – however as Max Glanville stepped up to make it 3-3, he skewed his effort past the post, handing the title of Grand Final Champions to Pittwater against all odds.
Post-game, Pitts coach Adam Israel was understandably ecstatic with his team’s gutsy effort.
“I said that I wanted to see a good game and we definitely got that,” he said.
“I thought we were better in the first half and the send-off certainly changed things, but I thought we got better.
“We spoke about what the Pittwater club is about, which is playing for your mates and playing for the badge.
“It’s a proud club and that’s what we represented today.”
Israel also recognised the service of club stalwart Peter Stegic who wore the captain’s armband on his final match before hanging the boots.
“Peter embodies everything about the club,” Israel said.
“The way he and his teammates played today is what Pittwater is known for.
“I’m just delighted for the boys because we were disappointed (after finishing 2nd).
“I think we wanted it more today – we worked ourselves into the ground and I couldn’t be prouder of them.”
In other action, 3rd placed CC Strikers defeated 4th placed Curl Curl 3-1 on Cromer 2, St Augustines continued their late-season purple patch with a 3-0 win over Seaforth at Grahams, while Wakehurst made it two from two against local rivals BTH with a 2-0 victory at Lionel Watts.
The other two matches both finished with a 2-1 scoreline as Narrabeen enjoyed their first win of the season over Mosman while Harbord registered back-to-back victories for the first time all season overcoming Manly Vale.
The reserve grade Grand Final was also decided on penalties with CC Strikers avenging their defeat in the league standings to Mosman.
In the AL/1s decider, Beacon Hill enjoyed a tight 1-0 victory over Forest Killarney at Melwood.