Cup holders Monaro Panthers made their way into the Federation Cup last eight (Australia Cup Round 5) with a 3-1 away win over Wagga City Wanderers at Gissing Oval, but they were made to work exceptionally hard by the home side who were playing their inaugural home match in the Australia Cup Qualifying competition.
Indeed, it wasn’t until midway through the second half that the Panthers could rest easy, after they earned a two-goal lead against a belligerent and intelligent side that pushed them to the limit.
This was the third time in recent seasons that the Panthers had met the Wanderers in the Preliminary rounds of the national competition and, as with the second of those matches which kickstarted the Panthers progress to the Round of 32 last season, this one played out in much the same fashion.
Roko Strika broke down a stubborn Wanderers defence right on the cusp of half-time, giving Panthers Head Coach Ian Worthington a slightly easier team talk at the interval, but it was Wanderers first on the scoresheet in the second stanza, Jake Ploenges netting the leveller in a match played in sweltering heat, the forward getting in behind Adam De Franceschi to slot a finish past Jordan Thurtell.
But the Panthers are cup holders for a reason, and they re-established the lead within four minutes as midfielder Gabe Cole struck. And Monaro secured their passage five minutes later as Strika bagged his second of the afternoon to expunge the Wanderers’ hopes of a classic ‘cupset’.
Yoogali SC’s cup run came to an abrupt halt as ANU FC travelled to Griffith and emerged with a highly professional 4-0 triumph to reach the Federation Cup Quarter Finals and take a step closer to a dream debut on the national stage.
The match was switched to a 7pm kick-off to battle the extreme heat in the New South Wales town and both teams were grateful for it, making conditions more comfortable than they would have been had the game commenced at its original scheduled time of 3pm in the afternoon.
ANU FC wasted no time in getting down to business and led after a mere nine minutes. Chase Deans, so often the ANU talisman, was played in behind the Yoogali defence and, belying the temperature, coolly slotted his finish over Michael De Paoli. That goal was the difference heading into the half-time break.
Yoogali were punished again six minutes into the second half with a high-quality second ANU FC goal. From a corner, Hassan Alnuwaysir manufactured some space at the top of the penalty are and unleashed a dipping shot that flashed over the head of De Paoli and into the back of the net.
As the home team came looking for a way back into the match it was inevitable gaps would appear in their defensive structure and ANU FC had the pace and quality to make them pay, putting the match out of reach with seven minutes remaining as Rowan Peterkin snuck in behind the defence to nudge the ball past De Paoli and tap home.
There was time for one more in the final minute, Leo Hadley collecting a loose ball and placing an accurate shot into the unguarded goal at the end of another swift ANU FC counterattack.
Saturday 18 March
Wagga City Wanderers 1 (Ploenges 61’) Monaro Panthers 3 (Strika 45’, 70’, Cole 65’)
Yoogali SC 0 ANU FC 4 (Deans 9’, Alnuwaysir 51’, Peterkin 83’, Hadley 89’)