Canberra Olympic 1 (Michael Piccolo 63’) def. by Gungahlin United 2 (Jack Green 84’, Jeremy Habtemariam 88’)
By Tim Warren
Gungahlin United have booked the last spot in the 2019 NPL1 Grand Final with a come from behind 2-1 win over Canberra Olympic at Deakin Stadium on Sunday afternoon.
Two late goals in the space of four minutes changed the complexion of the match and lifted Gungahlin to a stirring victory.
It wasn’t all smooth sailing for the North-Canberra based side though, with Olympic taking the lead in the 63rdminute through Michael Piccolo.
Jay Kelly took the ball from his own box to beyond the halfway line where he found Kofi Danning, who played the ball into the box for Piccolo to tuck it past past Gungahlin keeper Jordan Thurtell.
With time ticking down, a spirited Gungahlin side found an extra gear, with captain Jack Green powerfully nodding home Misko Naumoski’s corner in the 84thminute to draw the sides level.
Once the ball entered the top corner of the net past a diving Rory Larkins, Gungahlin’s confidence rose, sparking them to find the match winning goal just moments later.
A long ball by Antoni Timotheou into the box put Olympic captain Nathen Megic under pressure, causing the defender to raise his arms, and was consequently penalised for a handball.
Jeremy Habtemariam had no concerns from the spot kick, powering the shot to the right side of the net past Larkins and securing a Grand Final berth for Gungahlin.
Although earlier, it was Olympic who believed they had doubled their advantage in the 76th minute, when Elie Darwich tapped in the easiest of chances, but the goal was disallowed as it was ruled offside.
The first major chance of the game fell to Kofi Danning who, in the 12thminute, blasted a cutback ball over the bar from within the box.
Michael John would’ve been disappointed not to give Gungahlin the lead shortly after when Timotheou played him through on goal, but Larkins pulled off a remarkable stop to deny the Gungahlin striker.
Both sides had a myriad of goal scoring chances in the physical and aggressive finals contest, but some outstanding saves by keepers’ Thurtell and Larkins meant it was nil-all at the break.
Down 1-0, and with time ticking away, a rocketing header by Green hit the inside of the post and was cleared away in the 73rdminute, following Naumoski’s wonderfully weighted free-kick.
But Green found his mark with another header 10 minutes later, before Habtemariam slotted home his penalty to keep Gungahlin’s remarkable season alive.
They’ll now face Tigers FC in the NPL1 decider, for the right to be crowned 2019 champions.
2019 NPL1 Capital Football Grand Final | Saturday, 14thSeptember
Grand Final: Tigers FC v Gungahlin United | 6pm @ Deakin Stadium