Canberra Olympic will be seeking to continue from where they left off as the National Premier League Round 2 gets underway on Saturday when they host O’Connor Knights at O’Connor Enclosed in the O’Connor derby.
The two teams who share the venue had contrasting starts to the season as Olympic swept aside West Canberra Wanderers off the back of a hat-trick from striker Luca Florez at Greenway Enclosed, whilst the Knights were held to a 1-1 draw by rivals Canberra Croatia, feeling themselves unfortunate not to win the game.
Last season the Knights kicked off their NPL campaign with a stunning 6-2 hammering of Olympic, a result that created the momentum that ended with the team ending the season in the top four and Finals football upon their promotion back to the top tier of football in the Capital.
Both teams enjoy playing a fast, attack-oriented game and this should make for a wide open encounter with chances aplenty. There is attacking talent in abundance in both ranks and, with Olympic already in good goalscoring form, and the Knights appearing in good health, expect fireworks.
Tigers FC, who got off to a flier on the opening day with a convincing 3-0 away win over Monaro Panthers, will be attempting to continue their excellent start when they host West Canberra Wanderers to the Australian Institute of Sport Grass Fields on Saturday afternoon.
Even given the exceptional circumstances that surrounded the three points gained in Queanbeyan, even the most die-hard of Panthers supporters will likely admit that the Tigers appeared well in control of the fixture before the dual sending off reduced the hosts to nine men for an hour.
If there was a potential downside to the Tigers win, and its hard to be critical when you go to the Grand Final winners and chalk up a superb away win, it was perhaps the lackadaisical approach to the second half that allowed the Panthers to grab a toehold in a game in which they should have been blown away.
Wanderers need to find a response to a disappointing second half capitulation that saw them ship four goals against Canberra Olympic. There will likely be a focus on the defensive shape ahead of a match in which the Tigers attacking threat will likely be omnipresent.
Tuggeranong United face a second home match in succession when the League Champions Canberra Croatia roll into Kambah 2 for what is always an exceptionally tough game for the visiting team, the history books showing that Tuggeranong provide tough opposition for the perennial title contenders.
Having been welcomed back to the NPL with a salutary lesson learned in a 1-4 home loss to Gungahlin United on the season opening day, Tuggeranong will need to find the positives, approach the game with a structured approach and find that extra yard of pace that was lacking against the Gunners.
Croatia began the defence of their title with a 1-1 draw at O’Connor, playing the last half-hour of the fixture with ten men following the dismissal of full-back Marco Gayer for a second yellow card. They were solid in possession and defended well, but perhaps were a little shot-shy in the final third.
The Champions will no doubt be looking at this match as a chance to push on, however knowing that the home of Tuggeranong United can be a tough place to go, they will certainly not be complacent.
The Riverside Stadium will be the venue for the final match of the round as Monaro Panthers are seeking redemption following an opening weekend horror show against Tigers FC when Gungahlin United make the trip across the border into New South Wales.
Whatever could go wrong did so for the Panthers in their first match of the season, as both Gabe Cole and Roko Strika were dismissed in a first-half that saw Monaro ship three goals and, but for the form of Jordan Thurtell in goal, and the woodwork, could easily have been looking at an even greater deficit at the break.
Playing with nine for the entirety of the second stanza wasn’t ideal, but the Panthers should wonderful resilience and excellent character to keep Tigers at bay and could easily have scored themselves, missing a penalty when Connor Mynott-Smith saw his shot well saved by Jakob Cole.
Gunners roared into life in 2023 with a three-goal burst of their own at Kambah 2, running roughshod over Tuggeranong and unlucky not to add to the goals scored by Maxx Green, Jack Green, and Jackson Paesler. They will enter this game full of confidence and aiming to go two from two.
Saturday 15 April
Tigers FC v West Canberra Wanderers (AIS Grass, 15:00)
Canberra Olympic v O’Connor Knights (O’Connor Enclosed, 15:00)
Tuggeranong United v Canberra Croatia (Kambah 2, 17:00)
Monaro Panthers v Gungahlin United (Riverside Stadium, 17:45)
|8||West Canberra Wanderers||1||0||0||1||0||5||-5||0|
3 Luca FLOREZ (Canberra Olympic)
2 Maxx GREEN (Gungahlin United)
1 Elie DARWICH (Canberra Olympic), Jack GREEN (Gungahlin United), Josh GULEVSKI (Tigers FC), Phakedi MANDA (O’Connor Knights), Ed MCCARTHY (Tigers FC), Jackson PAESLER (Gungahlin United), Nik POPOVICH (Canberra Olympic), Nik TANESKI (Tigers FC), Sam WALKER (Tuggeranong United), Own GOALS