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Rockdale Illinden have given former star midfielder Idriss El Hafiane, who passed away earlier this year, a fitting send-off as they cruised to a 4-0 win against Wollongong Wolves at Ilinden Sports Centre as the phrase #NoDrizzyNoParty was in full force watching from above. 

It was an emotional day for the reigning Premiers as they celebrated the life of their former teammate as did the entire competition in what was a huge day for all involved.

A double to ace marksman Alec Urosevski was followed by a Kyle Cimenti brace as Rockdale eased to a big win to open their 2021 NPL NSW campaign.

Wollongong struggled in their opening clash and coach Luke Wilkshire will have plenty to think about ahead of round 2.

It was a frenetic start to the clash with several half-chances created.

The lively Urosevski came closest for Ilinden with a scuffed shot on his favourite left-foot straight at Wolves gloveman Munford.

Perhaps by divine providence, Wollongong conceded a penalty, Bilal Belkadi fouling inside the box, in the 12th minute firmly despatched by Urosevski to give Rockdale the lead.

Brendan Griffin replied with a shot from distance, expertly palmed away by Bradasevic at full stretch, 3-minutes later as Wollongong looked to restore parity but it was the home side who doubled the lead midway through the half Cementi bundled the ball home.

And he was called into action again when needing to be at his best once more to deny Lachlan Scott, making himself big in front of the Wolves’ player who was sent clean through on goal.

Tomoki Wada came close to lobbing an attempt over Munford to increase Ilinden’s lead but for the agility in back paddling and tipping over the bar. Excellent work from the shot-stopper.

Another smart save again from Scott by Bradasevic and a headed clearance from skipper Daniel Petkovski on the line from Van Elia kept the two-goal lead for Rockdale as Wollongong piled on the pressure but with no addition to the scoring, it remained a two-goal lead at the break for Rockdale.

There was no let-up after the break in the relentless attack and counter-attack football on display.

With Petkovski marshalling the troops at the back and Wada pulling the strings in midfield for the home side and Elia plus Marcus Beattie grafting hard for Wollongong it was, at times, uncompromising.

Visiting coach Luke Wilkshire rang the changes in the 50th minute when replacing Jake Lavalle with new recruit and former Blacktown City star player Leroy Jennings for his first outing with his new club.

Wolves had a claim for a penalty of their own denied when Hamish Lamberton went down in the box waved away resulting in a corner in the 65th minute.

Brayden Sorge could have wrapped up the points when he flicked a shot goal-ward from a Cimenti header but once again Munford was equal to the task.

Urosevski added his second of the match, and Rockdale’s third, in the 81st minute that finally settled the match.

An ecstatic Ilinden coach, Steve Zoric praised the high-level performance put on show by his players.

“I can’t put into words what the boys did today,” he said

“They put a showcase on for the fans and if we produce that week-in, week-out it’ll be hard to stop us.

“We knew Wollongong would keep coming at us and I told the guys that if we wait for those moments we can hurt them but everyone was alert today, including the substitutes who came on, everyone was switched on.

“I feel we’ve stepped up a gear, maybe 30 per cent on where we were last year and like I said, if we keep this up we’ll be pretty hard to stop.”

A disappointed Wolves’ coach, Luke Wilkshire rued a poor start to the season after the one-sided defeat.

“It’s a very disappointing result for us and we made it hard for ourselves”, he said.

“We gave them two-goals through poor decision making and poor defending and were left chasing the game and I have to take responsibility for that.

“If we had been more clinical in front of goal it would have been different but that’s the way we play and will continue to do so.

“Unfortunately we were the same in pre-season and it’s something we’ll be looking at and working on with some urgency.”

Match Stats

Rockdale Ilinden 4 (Urosevski 12’p, 82’, Cimenti 20’, 90’)

Wollongong Wolves 0

Ilinden Sports Centre, Rockdale

Sunday, 28th February 2021

Referee: Katie Patterson

Asst. Refs: Hugh Fenton-White & Matt Staples

4th Official: Sebastian Andrews

Rockdale Ilinden: 1.David BRADASEVIC, 2.Daniel PETKOVSKI, 15.Mitchell STAMATELLIS, 5.Banri KANAIZUMI, 6.Daniel ARAUJO (16.Mohamed AHMED 64’), 7.Alec UROSEVSKI, 8.Tomoki WADA, 9.Bai ANTONIOU (3.Michael NEILL 64’), 14.Brayden SORGE (18.Sam GULISANO 81’), 19.Patrick SAVOR,  23.Kyle CIMENTI

Subs not used: 11.Nikola TANESKI, 13.Zac SFILIGOI, 22.Enol Ordonez SUAREZ

Yellow Cards: Antoniou 33’, Stamatellis 54’

Red Cards: Nil

Wollongong Wolves: 1.Aidan MUNFORD, 2.Taylor McDONALD (18.Hamish LAMBERTON 64’), 3.Darcy MADDEN, 4.Nicola DJORDJEVIC, 6.Ethan KOMBISIOS (13.Stefan DIMOSKI 80’), 7.Marcus BEATTIE, 8.Brendan GRIFFIN, 10.Van ELIA, 17.Jake LAVALL (11.Leroy JENNINGS 51’), 19.Bilal BELKADI, 24.Lachlan SCOTT

Subs not used: 5.Joshua ALCORN, 12.Harrison TARANTO, 23.Hayden DUROSE

Yellow Cards: Belkadi 27’

Red Cards: Nil