A goal six minutes from time gave O’Connor Knights the bragging rights in the Croatian derby at Deakin Stadium as substitute Aisosa Ihegie emerged from the bench to score his first goal in Knights colours and see his team to a memorable 1-0 success over an out of sorts Canberra Croatia.
Ihegie latched onto a Daniel Roberts through ball and hammered a low finish through the legs of Croatia goalkeeper Jason Matesa to seal the win, a result that puts the Knights into the top four and leaves Croatia languishing in sixth.
Even worse for the home side was the booking picked up by second-half substitute Daniel Sparrow, a caution that will rule him out of the Australia Cup Qualifying Final due to card accumulation.
In a helter-skelter match chances were few and far between, but both teams might have scored before the decider. Seb Arranz denied Lukman Ahmed-Shaibu with a superb block with his feet whilst Niko Kresic had a goal ruled out for a narrow offside decision after Micheal Adams had scythed through the home defence.
In the end, the positive double change that introduced Ihegie and Phakedi Manda paid dividends as the Knights, led by a superlative midfield display from Daniel Roberts, claimed their first NPL victory at the home of their great rivals.
A thumping drive from Josh Gulevski, and a world class save from Jakob Cole, were the key ingredients as Tigers FC overturned a one-goal deficit to inflict a 2-1 defeat on Monaro Panthers in a Tigers home match played at the Riverside Stadium in Queanbeyan.
Gulevski found room to unleash a low drive from outside the area to register his eighth goal of the season with six minutes remaining to keep the Tigers hot on the heels of league leaders Canberra Olympic, but equally as important was the outstanding save from Jakob Cole to preserve the advantage.
Cole threw himself down to his right at full-stretch to steer a left-footed curler from Roko Strika around the post when it appeared certain that the effort from the Panthers talismanic striker would find its way into the bottom corner of the net.
Earlier, an effort from Strika had done just that as the maestro netted his fifth goal of the season. Awarded a free-kick 25 metres from goal, Strika curled a left-footed beauty over the five-man Tigers wall and into the top corner, Cole, on this occasion, left as a virtual spectator as the ball nestled in the top corner.
However, the Panthers inconsistent form came back to bite them as Tigers FC equalised in the 71st minute. Gulevski swung over a delightful free-kick from the left-flank into the danger area where Sam Whithear stole in, completely unseen between the Panthers defence, to nod home.
Canberra Olympic continued to march on imperiously having inflicted an eighth defeat of the season on West Canberra Wanderers, seeing off the visitors to O’Connor Enclosed with three second-half strikes adding to Max Mellick’s opener in a 4-0 success.
Mellick opened the scoring just past the half-hour when he met a corner at the far post to head firmly past Kristian Nel in the Wanderers net, a rare goal for the central defender who towered over his marker to find the target.
Olympic’s second, twenty minutes into the second half, was of a similar ilk. Again, the corner was sent to the back post, where this time it was met by a solid header from Nathen Megic, his stunning leap and connection sending the ball powering back across Nel and into the opposite top corner.
The third was another spell-binding effort. Olympic, patient in possession, worked the ball from left to right from where Callum Smith crossed for Thomas James to adroitly meet it on the volley with a flick of the heel to seal the points.
There was time for one more as Alen James controlled a crossfield ball, beat his man on the outside and clipped home with the outside of the boot.
At the Australian Institute of Sport, a double from Philippe Bernabo-Madrid helped Gungahlin United secure a 3-0 victory over Tuggeranong United to ease the Gunners into third place on the ladder and inflict a seventh defeat of the season on the visitors who remain in seventh.
After a goalless opening forty-five minutes it took Gungahlin only fifty-three seconds to break the deadlock with a typically Gungahlin goal. A patent build-up was culminated with a change of pace as Bernabo-Madrid played a one-two and lashed an angled drive across Adam Stevens and into the top corner.
The second came on the hour, Tuggeranong punished for a sloppy pass in the final third as the Gunners turned defence into attack with one pass as Bernabo-Madrid broke the offside trap to calmly slide home his second.
Tuggeranong fought hard but the game was put well and truly beyond them in stoppage time as Gungahlin got a third. Substitutes Cristian Barresi and Domenic Giampaolo worked the ball wide to another sub, Sam Habtemariam, whose cross was lashed home by Maxx Green for his sixth of the season.
Saturday 27 May
Tigers FC 2 (Whithear 71’, Gulevski 84’) Monaro Panthers 1 (Strika 55’)
Canberra Olympic 4 (Mellick 31’, Megic 65’, T. James 67’, A. James 73’) West Canberra Wanderers 0
Sunday 28 May
Canberra Croatia 0 O’Connor Knights 1 (Ihegie 84’)
Gungahlin United 3 (Bernabo-Madrid 46’, 62’, M. Green 90+1’) Tuggeranong United 0
|8||West Canberra Wanderers||8||0||0||8||5||32||-27||0|
8 Josh GULEVSKI (Tigers FC)
7 Nik POPOVICH (Canberra Olympic)
6 Maxx GREEN (Gungahlin United), Own GOALS
5 Luca FLOREZ (Canberra Olympic), Roko STRIKA (Monaro Panthers)
4 Josh GASPARI (Gungahlin United), Thomas JAMES (Canberra Olympic), Connor MYNOTT-SMITH (Monaro Panthers), Patrick O’ROURKE (O’Connor Knights)
3 Micheal ADAMS (O’Connor Knights), Lukman AHMED-SHAIBU (Canberra Croatia), Stephen DOMENICI (Canberra Croatia), Micheal JOHN (Monaro Panthers), Clancy HISLOP (Tuggeranong United), Phakedi MANDA (O’Connor Knights), Nik TANESKI (Tigers FC), Jason UGRINIC (Canberra Croatia), Sam WALKER (Tuggeranong United)
2 Riley ANGELOSANTE (O’Connor Knights), Daniel BARAC (Canberra Croatia), Philippe BERNABO-MADRID (Gungahlin United), FERNANDO Jorquera (Gungahlin United), Jack GREEN (Gungahlin United), Amilio KISTA (Tigers FC), Ed MCCARTHY (Tigers FC), Nathen MEGIC (Canberra Olympic), Kaz PATAFTA (Canberra Croatia), Luke STEVENS (Tuggeranong United)
1 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), James DRISCOLL (O’Connor Knights), Dom GIAMPAOLO (Gungahlin United), Sam HABTEMARIAM (Gungahlin United), Aisosa IHEGIE (O’Connor Knights), Alen JAMES (Canberra Olympic), Nikos KALFAS (Tigers FC), Niko KRESIC (O’Connor Knights), Max MELLICK (Canberra Olympic), Marko MILUTINOVIC (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), Callum SMITH (Canberra Olympic), Hristjan TANOSKI (Tigers FC), Antoni TIMOTHEOU (Gungahlin United), Liam VICKERS (West Canberra Wanderers), Sam WHITHEAR (Tigers FC)