Canberra Croatia moved into the National Premier League U23 Grand Final with a 2-0 win over O’Connor Knights in the mini-Croatian derby at the Riverside Stadium in Queanbeyan.
The League Champions didn’t have it all their own way in the Qualification Final, the Knights passing up a golden chance to draw level when they were awarded a penalty for handball midway through the second half.
Unfortunately for the Knights Samuel Palic saw his spot-kick sail over the bar. Earlier, Croatia had taken the lead through a smartly taken finish from Fabian Olivares and, as O’Connor came looking for an equaliser, Golden Boot Atiya Waraga skipped past a couple of challenges to rifle home the clincher.
Knights will have a second shot at the Final when they tackle Monaro Panthers in the Preliminary Final next weekend after the Panthers ended Gungahlin United’s interest in the competition with a 2-0 success in the early kick-off.
Both goals for the Panthers came after the interval, and both came via headers. Samson Carr nodded the first home from a corner in the 68th minute, Archie McGregor securing passage with twelve minutes remaining.
McGregor was free at the far post to nod home from close range after a swift and incisive counterattack that stretched the Gunners. Monaro had a few moments to navigate before their progress was confirmed.
Gungahlin United 0 Monaro Panthers 2 (Carr 68’, McGregor 78’)
Canberra Croatia 2 (Olivares 52’, Waraga 75’) O’Connor Knights 0