A first-half brace of goals were enough for Canberra Croatia to claim the three points in the top-of-the-table clash with Gungahlin United at the AIS as the visitors held on under a late Gunner barrage to secure a vital win.
In a match that featured nine yellow cards, there was a real feel of a proper contest between these teams, and it was Canberra Croatia who started the brightest. An injury to Stephen Domenici precipitated the early introduction of Jason Ugrinic from the substitutes bench and the forward was the beneficiary of some excellent approach work from Matej Busek to open the scoring.
It was two in the 26th minute as Daniel Barac was on the end of a swift break to force the ball past Jacob Quinn in the Gungahlin goal, the ball adjudged to have just crossed the line before a desperate attempt to clear, for the striker’s fifth league goal of a productive start to 2022.
The Gunners came out in the second half in a different mood and reduced the deficit when they were awarded a penalty with ten minutes to play, Jack Green fouled inside the area. Jeremy Habtemariam expertly scored from the spot, but despite a flurry of chances at both ends, there was no further score and Croatia held on for an important victory.
Tigers FC remained undefeated after four rounds but had to settle for a third draw of the 2022 season as they were held to a 1-1 stalemate by West Canberra Wanderers who, based on an excellent second forty-five minutes, deserved a share of the spoils at Wanderers Park, Melrose.
In a scrappy contest, two moments illuminated the fare and both resulted in well-taken goals. The first came from the Tigers early on as winger Tomas Krklec somehow found his way past his marker in a cul-de-sac and laid off a pass to Josh Gulevski at the top of the area. There was still much to do and yet Gulevski made it look easy, skipping past his marker to blast in his fourth goal in four games this term.
The Wanderers would have felt that their second half display warranted a tangible reward, they dominated a lot of the possession and had the better chances, and they got it with a superb goal in the 68th minute, Ben Obst finding Jenno Ceruti who coolly finished for his second of the year to earn a point.
Honours were equally even over at O’Connor Enclosed as O’Connor Knights match with Monaro Panthers ended all-square at 1-1, a result that means the Knights remain unbeaten at home since their return to the top-flight.
The visitors took the lead in the first half, taking ten minutes to score as Andre Carle reacted well to a header across goal from Michael Pochi to nod in at the far post, his eighth goal in all competitions to date. And the striker could have had another but was denied from the spot by Knights ‘keeper Jack Miller who saved his 20th minute penalty
The Panthers paid for that as the Knights levelled in the second half of the fixture. A long ball released Phakedi Manda behind the visitor’s defence and the winger showed the pace and calmness required, racing clear and arrowing a finish across Jordan Thurtell into the far corner to bring the team’s level.
Over at McKellar Park Canberra Olympic compounded a miserable week for Belconnen United who, for the third time in three home games this season, conceded three times as Olympic secured a 3-1 away win to go with their 4-1 Australia Cup Qualifying success in midweek.
A superb finish from Mark Shields, rolling back the years with an exquisite chip over Alex Connell in the 24th minute, got Olympic off and running before the Blue Devils suffered a sense of déjà vu as, for the second time in 48 hours, Aisosa Ihegie charged down an attempted Connell clearance to slot home early in the second half.
There was a third for the visiting team as substitute David McCarron rose highest to nod a wonderfully placed ahead past substitute ‘keeper Zac Pagan to seal the points. A penalty, converted by Jayde James-Ward deep into stoppage time, was scant consolation for the beaten home side.
Saturday 30 April
West Canberra Wanderers 1 (Ceruti 68’) Tigers FC 1 (Gulevski 16’)
O’Connor Knights 1 (Manda 65’) Monaro Panthers 1 (Carle 11’)
Belconnen United 1 (James-Ward 90+7’ (p)) Canberra Olympic 3 (Shields 24’, Ihegie 49’, McCarron 79’)
Sunday 1 May
Gungahlin United 1 (J. Habtemariam 80’ (p)) Canberra Croatia 2 (Ugrinic 14’, Barac 26’)