A brace of goals from star striker Aisosa Ihegie, the second of which brought up his 50th NPL goal, pushed Canberra Olympic to second on the table as the hosts defeated Tigers FC 4-2 at O’Connor Enclosed in a superbly entertaining match.
Most of the action took place in the opening 45 minutes, a breathtaking rollercoaster of emotion that saw Olympic twice take a two-goal cushion only for it to be reduced each time in a five-goal half. Two goals within sixty seconds set the tone, Simon Rohan-Jones firing home on nine minutes and Ihegie making it two from the kick-off.
A thumping drive from Antoni Timotheou brought Tigers back into the game but, when Olympic were awarded a penalty, they looked to restore their two goal lead. Alen James was entrusted with the spot-kick but saw his effort well saved by Jakob Cole in the Tigers net. The reprieve was short-lived as Ihegie spun his marker and advanced to net his half-century of league goals.
Nik Popovich’s beautifully placed shot made it 3-2 at the break, his curling effort past Sebastian Usai raising Tigers hopes, but they were dashed in the second half when Max Mellick crossed, and Luca Florez arrived at the back post to slot into the unguarded net to seal a third win on the bounce for Olympic their horror start to the season becoming a somewhat distant memory.
The second of the matches played on Saturday was the early evening encounter at the Riverside Stadium and it took an 88th minute penalty, finished with some feeling by Darren Bailey, to give Monaro Panthers a narrow 1-0 win over West Canberra Wanderers.
In a game of few chances, Jakeb Wiseman in the Wanderers goal was the marginally busier of the two goalkeepers, clawing a Gabe Cole corner away when it looked likely to cross the line, watching on as a Bailey corner clattered the woodwork and then saving superbly from substitute Zak McLaren who had burst past three players in a wonderful solo run.
Wanderers battled hard and their substitute, Nathan Twomey on for the unfortunate Ben Obst, stung the palms of Jordan Thurtell in the Panthers goal. Beau Harvey, returning to his former club, also looked lively, but it was a late spot-kick, awarded for a handball inside the Wanderers area, that allowed the Panthers to take the points.
Canberra Croatia maintained top spot in the competition thanks to a 2-0 win over Belconnen United at Deakin Stadium that was secured via goals from Matej Busek and Teeboy Kamara.
The first-half was delayed due to an unfortunate injury to Belconnen defender Philippe Borgeaud and, if losing their centre-back wasn’t bad enough, salt was rubbed into the wound when Croatia scored moments before half-time, Busek firing a shot at goal that took a deflection off Tyson Livermore.
The home side had to wait until six minutes from time to secure the points that kept them top of the table, Kamara sent clean through to drive in off the post for his first goal for the club since his off-season arrival.
There was a five-goal thriller to round out the weekend as Gungahlin United saw a last-minute penalty from Jeremy Habtemariam fly wide as they were defeated 3-2 by O’Connor Knights at the AIS. Habtemariam saw his effort skim past the post in stoppage time as the Gunners missed out on a point.
Earlier, the Knights had taken the lead when Patrick O’Rourke manoeuvred space inside the area to stab a finish past Jacob Quinn after only six minutes, but Gungahlin were on terms eight minutes later as Knights ‘keeper Jack Miller failed to hold a Josh Gaspari free-kick presenting Jack Green with a tap-in to level.
Knights restored their lead in the second half after a slick move saw Connor Mynott-Smith find O’Rourke who steered his finish into the far corner. Incredibly, it was only eight minutes later again when Gunners equalised for the second time, substitute Will Roberts presenting Philippe Bernabo-Madrid with a gilt-edged chance he was never going to pass up.
But it was the Knights who were to win it. The impressive Michael Adams turned his man in midfield and spread play wide to Gabriel Ayuel who fizzed in a cross that was inadvertently turned into his own net by the luckless Gungahlin skipper Green.
Saturday 7 May
Canberra Olympic 4 (Rohan-Jones 9’, Ihegie 10’, 34’, Florez 79’) Tigers FC 2 (Timotheou 15’, Popovich 40’)
Monaro Panthers 1 (Bailey 88’ (p)) West Canberra Wanderers 0
Sunday 8 May
Canberra Croatia 2 (Busek 45’, Kamara 84’) Belconnen United 0
Gungahlin United 2 (Green 14’, Bernabo-Madrid 66’) O’Connor Knights 3 (O’Rourke 6’, 58’, Green 70’ (og))
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