A brace from Maxx Green helped Gungahlin United move past a stubborn ANU FC at the Australian Institute of Sport to set up a Federation Cup Semi-Final clash with Canberra Croatia in the Australia Cup Qualifying Round 6, the striker netting the first and last in a 3-1 Gunners victory.
The National Premier League team were made to work extremely hard for the win by their Capital League opponents, who started well and took the lead just after the quarter hour when Max Mottl split the Gungahln defence with a piercing run, off the end of a Hassan Alnuwaysir pass, and slid a composed finish beyond Jacob Quinn in the Gunners goal and into the afar corner off the post.
Indeed, Mottl might have had a second minutes later when sent free on a similar run on the opposite side of the field. He beat Quinn with the finish again, but this time the ball rolled agonisingly wide of the post for the University team. The loss off Mottl with an ankle injury shortly after was a big blow for Tom Crossley’s team.
The underdogs might well have thought it was going to be their night as the Gunners tried to get back on terms, Jackson Paesler rattling the crossbar with a vicious strike and Maxx Green seeing his well-struck effort thump back off the base of the post with ANU FC goalkeeper Keegan Jackson beaten.
But Green was not to be denied and he levelled matters in the 34th minute, latching on to a pass over the back of the University defence and finishing wonderfully well with a controlled lob over the advancing Jackson.
And the match was turned on its head five minutes later as Gungahlin took the lead with a clinical second. Five players has stayed high after an attack broke down and, when the NPL team recovered possession from ANU, Paesler was able to slip in Nick Dahl who clipped a tidy finish over the ‘keeper.
ANU wouldn’t lie down though and with the majestic Montegah Grace in excellent form alongside Nick Hope and Leo Hadley in midfield, the lower-ranked team hung in there even though Gungahlin controlled the vast majority of possession and territory.
Chances came and went in the second half for Gungahlin, the most notable seeing Maxx Green send a free-header against the crossbar from ten yards out, whilst at the other end Quinn was reduced to dealing with half-chances from ANU.
Gungahlin finally put the match to bed with two minutes to spare. Antoni Timotheou was the creator, a stunningly weighted accurate through ball finding Maxx Green who was able to reach the pass ahead of Jackson, toeing it past the ANU custodian, and rolling it in to the empty net to conform his team’s trip to Deakin Stadium for the semi-final.
Belconnen United secured their spot in the last four when they came out on top in the derby against Belnorth, outgunning their State League opponents in a very watchable Quarter Final match-up, claiming the semi-final spot with a 5-2 success in front of a good crowd at Gungahlin Enclosed.
The higher ranked Blue Devils started well and were in front after only nine minutes, a free-kick whipped into the penalty area caused consternation in the Belnorth defence and the loose ball was slammed into the net form close range by evergreen forward Dustin Wells to open the scoring.
Belnorth hit back and equalised when Callum McGarty received possession out wide, cut inside an attempted challenge, and fired a shot across the goalkeeper and into the far corner of the net. However, unfortunately for Belnorth, the goal appeared to poke the bear and within five minutes, Belconnen had a two-goal lead.
A slick move initially led to the visitors restoring their lead, Luke Vallone collecting a pass just inside the area to spin and strike an accurate low effort into the net before David McCarron intercepted a pass across field and advanced to hammer a strong shot past the Belnorth ‘keeper to make it 3-1.
The result was put beyond doubt on the cusp of half-time as Vallone met a beautifully flighted McCarron cross with a dextrous volleyed finish into the top corner as the Blue Devils showed their class.
There was a glimmer of hope for Belnorth when Josh Argenti ran into the channel and cracked a drive high into the roof of the net, and Belnorth also had a goal chalked off for offside before Belconnen sealed their passage. The State League side were caught in possession and a cutback found Harry Billington who crashed home the fifth.
ANU FC 1 (Mottl 13’) Gungahlin United 3 (M. Green 34’, 88’, Dahl 39’)
Belnorth FC 2 (McGarty 28’, Argenti 63’) Belconnen United 5 (Wells 9’, Vallone 32’, 45’, McCarron 33’, Billington 75’)