It’s top against bottom in Round 7 of the National Premier League as Canberra Croatia make the trip to Woden to tackle West Canberra Wanderers at Melrose Synthetic, aka Wanderers Park, aiming to revenge for their shock Australia Cup Qualifying exit in Round 4.
The Wanderers stunned the Canberra football community with their 3-2 success in the Cup and it has been the knockout competition that has given them the most cheer in 2022, marching onto the semi-final stage played in midweek at their home venue.
The league has been a less happy hunting ground and with only one point from their opening five matches the Wanderers need to find the winning formula and soon to avoid a season-long relegation scrap.
Croatia meanwhile won the first derby with O’Connor Knights in thirteen years with a quite remarkable denouement to the contest, Matej Busek cracking in a stoppage time winner to break Knights hearts. It was a goal that extended Croatia’s lead at the top to three points, and they’ll be favourites to maintain that advantage.
The AIS plays venue to Tigers FC who welcome Monaro Panthers as second meets fourth in the first ‘Battle of the Big Cats’ for 2022.
Tigers got back to winning ways with a 3-1 win over Belconnen United at Nijong Oval, coming back from a goal down to claim the success despite missing a penalty. Josh Gulevski netted twice, moving onto half-a-dozen league goals for the season.
It was a much-needed win for the League Champions who will hope that the result will enable them to bring some more consistency to their season which has been a rollercoaster ride to date.
The Panthers claimed a third win of the campaign with a 4-1 away success over Canberra Olympic thanks to doubles in both halves, the first pair to Nikos Kalfas and the second to substitute Andre Carle. Goals are almost a given when these two teams meet, and we are expecting plenty of them in this one.
Canberra Olympic will be focusing on bouncing back from their defeat to the Panthers when they welcome Gungahlin United to O’Connor Enclosed hoping to gain the three points to put them back into the top four.
Alen James has been in good form in recent weeks and his goal against Panthers did give Olympic a glimmer of hope of a comeback in Round 6. They will need to tighten up defensively to hold off the Gunners.
Gungahlin were, as expected, made to battle all the way against West Canberra Wanderers on a difficult surface at Gungahlin Enclosed before winning 3-1. The loss of Philippe Bernabo-Madrid with a calf injury was off-set by the introduction of Domenic Giampaolo who led the line with aplomb and took his goal astutely.
With bags of pace and creativity in both ranks, there are high hopes that this clash might just be one of the best of the season to date.
Points are becoming increasingly important for Belconnen United as well, the Blue Devils having only picked up three so far in 2022, and they will be out to redress their disappointing home form when they host O’Connor Knights at McKellar Park.
Defensively, Belconnen have conceded three times in each of their three home games so far this season and continued that trend by conceding three more on their visit to Nijong Oval and the Tigers last weekend. Addressing that deficiency will be their major concern ahead of this contest.
The Knights meanwhile have been free-scoring and wining many admirers with their on-field ability that has seen them create a plethora of openings in most of their matches so far. A failure to take these opportunities cost them in the derby with Canberra Croatia and they can’t afford to be as profligate here.
Saturday 21 May
NPL1: ROUND 7
West Canberra Wanderers v Canberra Croatia (Melrose Synthetic, 14:15)
Belconnen United v O’Connor Knights (McKellar Park, 15:00)
Tigers FC v Monaro Panthers (AIS Grass, 15:00)
Canberra Olympic v Gungahlin United (O’Connor Enclosed, 15:00)
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