Gungahlin United held off a tricky challenge from O’Connor Knights in a feisty match at the Australian Institute of Sport, winning by the odd-goal in seven to keep on the coattails of the league leading Canberra Croatia who swept aside the challenge of Belconnen United at Deakin Stadium.
There was a total of eleven cards shown at the AIS with Knights Assistant Coach Aleks Trninic sent off in stoppage time as the Knights closed the gap on the Gunners but ultimately fell just shy of a second win of the season over the Gunners.
Gungahlin were ahead early in this one as Philippe Bernabo-Madrid got goal side of the Knights defence and his composure to slide home his fourth goal of the season. O’Connor though hit back within thirty seconds. Straight from the kick-off Michael Adams took advantage of a defensive error to make it 1-1.
Another error at the back presented Eddie Coggan with a chance to put the visitors ahead in the 43rd minute and, after clashing with goalkeeper Jacob Quinn, Coggan picked himself up to slide home the goal that gave the Knights the 2-1 lead at the half-time break.
Gungahlin have been quietly pushing themselves back into the title chase and weren’t about to let their hard earned win at Croatia last week go to waste and they levelled through Leon Michl before hitting the front when Josh Gaspari scored with thirteen minutes of the match remaining.
Tom McLachlan made it 4-2 with two minutes to play and the midfielder’s goal was to prove crucial as Adams netted his second of the contest in stoppage time to reduce the arrears, but the Knights had no time left to force an unlikely draw.
Canberra Croatia were off to a flier in their home match with old foes Belconnen United, striking three times inside the opening forty-five minutes to virtually seal the destination of the points before half the encounter had been completed, eventually winning the Round 12 match 4-0.
The league leaders maintained their advantage at the top of the table after going ahead via a towering header from Hristjan Tanoski after only seven minutes, the wide-player rising highest to meet a perfectly delivered corner from Matej Busek.
The home side went 2-0 up when Stephen Domenici reacted fastest to a ricochet in the penalty area, turning and lashing a shot past Alex Connell, showcasing his predatory instincts that see him closing in on 150 National Premier League goals, this being his 143rd strike at the top level.
There was more to come from Croatia as they made it three before the break, as Tanoski rounded off a wonderful move, taking a touch and rifling home inside the area with the Blue Devils chasing shadows.
The second half was a much better showing from Belconnen United, but it was the home side that added to the tally with ten minutes to play. Davide Seselja supplied it with a superb cross from the right flank and Daniel Barac arrived at the far post to nod home his seventh goal of the season.
A sensational goalkeeping display from West Canberra Wanderers number one Jakeb Wiseman thwarted the Monaro Panthers and ensured that the clash between third and eighth ended in a goalless stalemate at Melrose Synthetic.
It wasn’t the first time that the Wanderers ‘keeper has saved his team in 2022 and yet this point, earned in the face of adversity from an unusually out of sorts Panthers, may prove to be crucial in the long term, moving the bottom-of-the-table club onto six points and clawing their way closer to the pack above.
West Canberra weren’t without opportunities of their own during the ninety minutes, their new-found levels of confidence obvious against an opponent that they have pushed all the way in three encounters in 2022. In the end, neither team could make the breakthrough, and both had to settle for a point.
There was a similar tale over at O’Connor Enclosed as neither Canberra Olympic, nor their visitors Tigers FC, could find a way through on a difficult playing surface with the teams nullifying each other in a 0-0 draw.
Chances for both sides were few and far between with Olympic perhaps posing the biggest threat in the opening half as Aisosa Ihegie side-footed wide from close range, not making the cleanest contact, as he slipped the shackles of the ultra-impressive Alex Wilson, to connect with a Tupaia Ringi cross from the right.
The new Olympic recruits, Nathen Megic and Nik Popovich, worked hard against their former club having switched from the Tigers in midweek, but perhaps the familiarity meant they were unable to take a firm grip on proceedings. For Tigers, their newcomer, Kofi Danning was lively in the attacking third whilst Tony Madaffari hit the base of a post.
Danning created the best chance of the second half for the visitors, slipping his marker and squaring a pass that just eluded the onrushing Tom Krklec whilst, at the other end, Adrian Macor poked a rather tame effort straight at Jakob Cole as a late hit from Simon Rohan-Jones fortuitously ricocheted into his path.
Saturday 2 July
West Canberra Wanderers 0 Monaro Panthers 0
Canberra Olympic 0 Tigers FC 0
Sunday 3 July
Canberra Croatia 4 (Tanoski 7’, 32’, Domenici 22’, Barac 80’) Belconnen United 0
Gungahlin United 4 (Bernabo-Madrid 13’, Michl 56’, Gaspari 77’, McLachlan 88’) O’Connor Knights 3 (Adams 14’, 90+2’, Coggan 43’)
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