A Nik Popovich double sent Canberra Olympic into the Australia Cup Quarter Finals at the expense of Tuggeranong United, the match-winner coming from the penalty spot seven minutes into time added on.
For the second season in succession Tuggeranong were hit with a late sucker punch at Greenway Enclosed in the Cup, but this time there was no further half-an-hour to try and recover the situation as Popovich drove a dagger through the heart of the home side with his nerveless conversion from the spot.
The penalty was awarded when young defender Frazer Burns was adjudged to have hauled down the Olympic striker following superb approach work by the lively Luca Florez, and Burns’ night got worse moments later as he was sent off having received a second caution, this one for a foul on Elie Darwich on the halfway line.
Burns followed feisty Olympic forward Bruno Bravo in seeing red, Bravo dismissed for a lunging challenge on Sam Walker in midfield, only four minutes after receiving an initial yellow card following a goalmouth scramble.
Earlier, the first-half had seen limited opportunities for both teams, in what was a rather flat and tepid opening, both teams getting to grips with the playing surface and opposition, with several players making their club debut or being deployed in unfamiliar positions. Nicholas Subasic went closest, hitting the Tuggeranong crossbar.
Tuggeranong had strong claims for a penalty waved away and might have felt aggrieved that Olympic central defender Lasse Olrik only saw yellow for tugging back Walker midway through the half when the United hit-man looked to be in behind.
The deadlock was broken on the hour when one of those debutants, Angus McLaughlin at the base of the United midfield, swept in a corner to the near post when Luke Stevens rose highest to thunder a bullet header past Olympic custodian Seb Usai who was helpless to prevent the goal.
Tuggeranong’s lead only lasted six minutes however as Olympic carved a well-worked equaliser. Adrian Macor, who had been shuffled to centre-back, found Florez who in turn slipped in Popovich. The angled run took the forward into a decent position, and the finish was magnificent, back across James Benivento and into the top corner.
That set up a raucous conclusion, both sides reduced to ten and chances at both ends. Adrian Macor denied Tuggeranong with a crucial interception as Walker looked to find the unmarked substitute Mark Richards in the middle, whilst Olympic continued to look threatening on the break.
It all boiled down to the spot-kick awarded deep into stoppage time and the calm Popovich did the rest.
At Ipan Park in Calwell, Belconnen United came from behind for the second round in succession as they defeated Brindabella Blues 2-1 despite being reduced to ten men for the final eleven minutes of the contest following the dismissal of Taylor Beaton, the Blue Devils skipper given a second yellow card for an incident behind the play.
An own goal from Blues defender Ollie Witrzens was ultimately the difference, the Brindabella centre-back credited with the final touch in a goalmouth scramble following Bailey Dickinson’s never-give-up effort to retrieve what appeared to be an overhit Dustin Wells free-kick.
Brindabella had made a blistering start to this all Capital League Round 4 clash, taking the lead in only the third minute of the encounter, Jayden Deighan-Smith, who had scored in the 7-0 hammering of Burns FC in Round 3, finding the net much to the delight of the vociferous home support.
Belconnen responded well though and levelled matters five minutes before the half-time break. If Tyson Livermore’s effort against Queanbeyan City in Round 3 at McKellar Park was sublime, this strike was probably at the other end of the spectrum but was of equal importance, sending the teams into the changing rooms all-square.
And that set the scene for the scrappy winner, but the Blue Devils didn’t care, they progressed to the last eight at the expense of their Capital League peers.
Tuggeranong United 1 (Stevens 60’) Canberra Olympic 2 (Popovich 66’, 90+7’ (p))
Brindabella Blues 1 (Deighan-Smith 3’) Belconnen United 2 (Livermore 40’, Witrzens 57’ (og))
Photo: Tuggeranong United Facebook