There’s a repeat of the Australia Cup Qualifying Semi-Final to kick-start our weekend action as Round 8 of the Men’s NPL begins with O’Connor Knights hosting West Canberra Wanderers at O’Connor Enclosed.
The Cup match was an absolute epic with the Knights securing extra-time in the 95th minute of a 3-3 raw only to be trumped on penalties by the Wanderers who will face Monaro Panthers in the final next weekend.
O’Connor will feel they should have put the game to bed before then, missing twice from the spot in normal time, before recovering from a 3-1 deficit. The game perhaps summed up their season, creative, full of goals, suspect at times defensively and cursing themselves for missed opportunities.
It’s what makes them a great watch for the neutral and, with the Wanderers suffering stoppage time heartbreak themselves against table-topping Canberra Croatia last time out, there’s a need for points from both camps.
Attention will switch to the Wanderers Cup Final opponents later that Saturday as Monaro Panthers welcome the resurgent Belconnen United to the Riverside Stadium.
The Panthers were forced to battle until the end in defeating Tigers FC 1-0 at the AIS in Round 7, a late goal from defender Adam De Franceschi sealing the result, and will fondly recall their 3-0 opening weekend victory over the Blue Devils to give them any lift required in this fixture.
They may well be without talismanic striker Andre Carle, injured in the win over the Tigers, with the striker in double-digits for goals in all competitions left with a hefty amount of bruising post-match.
That might open the door for the Blue Devils who welcomed back their own goal-ace in Maxx Green against the Knights with the quickfire striker netting twice in their 7-1 victory.
This Belconnen might be a different proposition from Round 1 however and, if Panthers are to continue their title push, they will need to be in top-form.
League leaders Canberra Croatia welcome Canberra Olympic to Deakin Stadium on Sunday afternoon for the second ‘Canberra Classico’ of 2022 with the visiting team hoping for much better fortunes then their previous clash, a home fixture that was played at Deakin and resulted in an 8-0 Croatia win.
Since then, Olympic have improved immeasurably and currently sit in fifth place, off the top four merely on goal difference and playing with more fluidity and confidence than they showed early in the campaign.
Having suffered penalty shoot-out heartache in the Australia Cup semi-final themselves, the team showed great character in the narrow home loss to Gungahlin United and have the pace and penetration to worry Croatia.
It’s not been a vintage fortnight for Canberra Croatia, and yet they have walked away with six points from six, two stoppage time winners giving them maximum return in successive weeks against O’Connor Knights and West Canberra Wanderers. That’s the mark of a champion side and why they lead the way.
Finally, Gungahlin United and Tigers FC meet at the Australian Institute of Sport in what is usually a high-scoring and entertaining affair between two teams that play sparkling, attractive football.
In their first meeting in 2022, the teams shared four goals as the Tigers roared back from a two-goal deficit at the break to earn a draw in an eminently watchable contest and all signs point to a similar feats this weekend.
Tigers were on the end of a solitary goal loss to Panthers in Round 7 whilst Gunners found themselves winning by the same margin against Olympic, so there will be contrasting emotions heading into the fixture. This should make for a tasty match-up.
Saturday 28 May
O’Connor Knights v West Canberra Wanderers (O’Connor Enclosed, 15:00)
Monaro Panthers v Belconnen United (Riverside Stadium, 17:45)
Sunday 29 May
Gungahlin United v Tigers FC (AIS Grass, 15:00)
Canberra Croatia v Canberra Olympic (Deakin Stadium, 15:00)
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