By Caleb Mitchell
A second-half brace from Thomas James helped Canberra FC to come from behind and secure a ninth treble in a 2-1 Grand Final win against Canberra Olympic on Saturday.
The Premiers fell behind to Nathen Megic’s 29th minute header and struggled for much of the game to get into the contest before James took over inside the final 15 minutes.
The start of the game was a fiery affair as both sides came racing out of the blocks, and some feisty challenges saw some early cautions and a yellow card to Ian Graham for a late tackle.
Kofi Danning created a good chance for Canberra FC in the 17th minute as he raced into the 18-yard area down the right, only for a sliding challenge from Nic Bobolas to erase his attempt at cutting the ball back across goal.
Dom Giampaolo had a crack for Olympic shortly after but put his effort just wide of the upright, and Michael John came close shortly after but also pushed his shot away from goal.
Sam Brown did well to stop a stinging effort from Stephen Domenici, and from the resulting corner Giampaolo found Megic at the back post to bundle the ball in across the line and give his side the early advantage as he wheeled away to celebrate.
James had a chance with a set-piece in a good spot approaching half-time but was unable to capitalise, and Olympic appeared to be in control approaching the break despite being already down two substitutions with Nik Popovich and Tim Bobolas already exiting the action.
Frank Cachia’s side continued to apply pressure on the other side of the break, pushing to extend their advantage heading into the later stages of the game.
Giampaolo and Roko Strika both looked to test Brown but were unable to find the target as the clash entered the final half hour.
Domenici was forced to leave the field as well, and Ian Graham was substituted by Macor as Canberra FC looked to bolster their attack, while Mat Grbesa was booked for a rash challenge.
Michael Mensah came close with an acrobatic effort and it felt like Canberra FC were working their way back into the game and shortly after James turned the momentum around.
Receiving the ball down the left wing, the fleet-footed forward made a beeline for the top of the box, cutting past two defenders before drilling a shot inside the near post with Angelo Konstantinou wrong footed to level the scores.
Roko Strika had a chance from a free-kick shortly after but couldn’t capitalise, and the Canberra FC momentum and backing of a home crowd paid off soon after as James fired through a crowd after Matthew Waters passed off to him and found the back of the net to put his side ahead.
That proved to be the sealer for Canberra FC as they saw out the closing minutes to seal a famous victory and the 2018 local treble.
Canberra FC will now face Campbelltown City S.C. next Saturday in their 2018 NPL Finals Series Elimination Final.