Two goals deep into stoppage time saw Canberra Croatia rescue an unlikely point in another thrilling match in the National Premier League as the defending League Champions clawed their way back from 2-4 down to earn a 4-4 draw against Tigers FC at the Australian Institute of Sport.
Former Tiger Daniel Sparrow netted in the 94th minute, driving a shot through a crowd of players to find the bottom corner, before David Seselja was left unmarked in the 99th minute to meet a Franc Greco free-kick and header the equaliser, shortly after Sam Whithear was sent off after receiving a second caution.
The match had exploded into life in the second half after a more prosaic opening forty-five minutes highlighted by the only goal of the half, an opportunistic strike from Croatian hit-man Lukman Ahmed-Shaibu, the American forward converting at the second attempt.
Tigers were handed a lifeline six minutes after the break after Sparrow was adjudged to have committed a foul inside the box, Amilio Kista converting from the spot before, sixty seconds later, a turnover allowed Tomohiro Ogawa to advance on goal and blast a finish past the returning Sam Brown in the visitors’ goal.
Croatia equalised from the spot themselves, Ahmed-Shaibu scoring again on a re-take after Jakob Cole saved his initial strike but was deemed to have moved off his line before the ball was struck, however Tigers retook the league from their second penalty, Kista scoring once more after Josh Gulevski was upended by substitute Joran Lamb.
When Nik Taneski drilled home the fourth in stoppage time to increase advantage to two, and that appeared to be that, only for a dramatic conclusion to see Sparrow and, latterly, Seselja to steal a point.
At O’Connor Enclosed the O’Connor Knights eased past Tuggeranong United with a 3-0 victory based on two goals before the break, a win that moved the Knights into third place on the NPL table and in prime position to push towards a title challenge.
The home side were in front as early as the sixth minute of the match as Aisosa Ihegie headed home from inside the six-yard box after Phakedi Manda had retrieved a deep corner on the far post with a volley back across goal.
Ihegie returned the compliment three minutes before the half-time whistle as he latched onto a Patrick O’Rourke through-ball to sensationally wrong-foot Adam Stevens in the Tuggeranong goal with an audacious back-heel pass that allowed Manda the easiest of tasks to knock home the second.
And the Knights wrapped up the points with a third eleven minutes into the second-half. Regan Walsh sent over a cross to the far post which Adam Stevens couldn’t collect, allowing Micheal Adams to sweep into the net from close range. They were denied a fourth when Tyson Livermore was flagged offside when finishing, but it mattered not.
A first-half hat-trick from Roko Strika helped Monaro Panthers to heap more misery on bottom-of-the-table West Canberra Wanderers as the home side romped to a 6-0 hammering of their opponents at the Riverside Stadium in Queanbeyan.
The Panthers forward bagged a thirteen-minute treble in a one-sided opening half as Monaro led 5-0 at the break before easing off after the interval but still recording a comfortable win.
Indeed, had it not been for the quality of Kristian Nel in the Wanderers goal, the margin of victory would have been much greater, the Wanderers custodian in wonderful form making a string of outstanding saves, most notably denying Connor Mynott-Smith on a handful of occasions, and making a terrific low block from Archie McGregor late on.
Debutant Dylan Deep-Jones got the ball rolling, stabbing home from close in following a Gabe Cole corner, the centre-back reacting sharpest to the loose ball to control before converting in the 20th minute with Strika turning in a rebound after Nel saved from Michael John five minutes later.
Strika then bagged twice in quick success to complete a treble, moving onto eight goals for the season in the league, Mynott-Smith bringing up the fifth with a stunning free-kick a couple of minutes from half-time. There was only one more in the second-half, substitute McGregor steering home from two yards for his maiden NPL first-grade goal, to complete a resounding result.
A superb display at O’Connor Enclosed saw Gungahlin United move to within five points of the summit of the table as they summarily dispatched Canberra Olympic netting five times without response.
It could have been even worse for Olympic had goalkeeper Sebastian Usai not saved a penalty from substitute Domenic Giampaolo, playing his 200th NPL match, late on in the fixture, the ‘keeper plunging low to his left to push the shot wide of goal.
Earlier, Gunners had gone in front when Badreldin Abbas strode forward to get on the end of a good team move and finish like a seasoned goalscorer in striking his very first NPL goal. If that was a surprise, the nature of the second goalscorer wasn’t, Maxx Green collecting a through ball with a great first touch before superbly executing the finish.
Green added a third before the break, steering home Sam Habtemariam’s cross, and Josh Gaspari made it four with a stunning free-kick with twenty-five minutes to play as Olympic went 4-0 up. They rounded off a brilliant day with a fifth, substitute Tom McLachlan scoring, as the home team were swept aside.
Saturday 10 June
Tigers FC 4 (Kista 51’ (p), 80’ (p), Ogawa 52’, Taneski 90’) Canberra Croatia 4 (Ahmed-Shaibu 15’, 68’ (p), Sparrow 90+4’, Seselja 90+9’)
O’Connor Knights 3 (Ihegie 6’, Manda 42’, Adams 56’) Tuggeranong United 0
Monaro Panthers 6 (Deep-Jones 20’, Strika 25’, 33’, 38’, Mynott-Smith 43’, McGregor 90+3’) West Canberra Wanderers 0
Sunday 11 June
Canberra Olympic 0 Gungahlin United 5 (Abbas 6’, M. Green 27’, 37’, Gaspari 65’, McLachlan 79’)
|8||West Canberra Wanderers||9||0||0||9||5||38||-33||0|
10 Maxx GREEN (Gungahlin United)
9 Josh GULEVSKI (Tigers FC)
8 Roko STRIKA (Monaro Panthers)
7 Nik POPOVICH (Canberra Olympic)
6 Josh GASPARI (Gungahlin United), Nik TANESKI (Tigers FC), Own GOALS
5 Lukman AHMED-SHAIBU (Canberra Croatia), Luca FLOREZ (Canberra Olympic), Amilio KISTA (Tigers FC), Connor MYNOTT-SMITH (Monaro Panthers)
4 Micheal ADAMS (O’Connor Knights), Thomas JAMES (Canberra Olympic), Phakedi MANDA (O’Connor Knights), Patrick O’ROURKE (O’Connor Knights)
3 Philippe BERNABO-MADRID (Gungahlin United), Stephen DOMENICI (Canberra Croatia), Micheal JOHN (Monaro Panthers), Clancy HISLOP (Tuggeranong United), Jason UGRINIC (Canberra Croatia), Sam WALKER (Tuggeranong United)
2 Riley ANGELOSANTE (O’Connor Knights), Daniel BARAC (Canberra Croatia), FERNANDO Jorquera (Gungahlin United), Jack GREEN (Gungahlin United), Aisosa IHEGIE (O’Connor Knights), Ed MCCARTHY (Tigers FC), Nathen MEGIC (Canberra Olympic), Kaz PATAFTA (Canberra Croatia), Luke STEVENS (Tuggeranong United), Sam WHITHEAR (Tigers FC)
1 Badreldin ABBAS (Gungahlin United), Connor BILL (O’Connor Knights), Jake BISHOP (Tigers FC), Julian BORGNA (Tigers FC), Riley BROWN (West Canberra Wanderers), Kofi DANNING (Canberra Olympic), Elie DARWICH (Canberra Olympic), Dylan DEEP-JONES (Monaro Panthers), James DRISCOLL (O’Connor Knights), Dom GIAMPAOLO (Gungahlin United), Sam HABTEMARIAM (Gungahlin United), Alen JAMES (Canberra Olympic), Nikos KALFAS (Tigers FC), Niko KRESIC (O’Connor Knights), Tony MADAFFARI (Tigers FC), Archie MCGREGOR (Monaro Panthers), Tom MCLACHLAN (Gungahlin United), Max MELLICK (Canberra Olympic), Marko MILUTINOVIC (Tigers FC), Tomohiro OGAWA (Tigers FC), Lasse OLRIK (Canberra Olympic), Jackson PAESLER (Gungahlin United), Euan PETERKIN (Tuggeranong United), Jayden RIPPON (West Canberra Wanderers), Nicholas ROUFOGALIS (West Canberra Wanderers), Kyle SENIOR (Tigers FC), David SESELJA (Canberra Croatia), Daniel SPARROW (Canberra Croatia), Callum SMITH (Canberra Olympic), Hristjan TANOSKI (Tigers FC), Antoni TIMOTHEOU (Gungahlin United), Liam VICKERS (West Canberra Wanderers)