A goal with the last kick of the match from teenage substitute Maddison Sawkins set Canberra Croatia towards another League Championship crown with a dramatic 2-1 victory over nearest challengers Canberra Olympic.
Sawkins had only been on the field for barely thirty seconds when she responded to her own blocked shot to send a beautifully weighted chip over Olympic custodian Janet King and into the far corner to seal the points, sending her teammates and the watching Croatian support into delirium.
If mathematically the deed is not yet done, Zoran Glavinic has every chance to put at a new trophy in the Deakin cabinet this time next week. Just like the first time they met this season, the home team scored at the last second, but this time, rather than the equaliser, it was the goal to inflict on Olympic a first defeat in 2022.
Until then, we were going towards a third 1-1 draw between the two teams that have dominated the competition. A stunning free kick by Elke Aitolu two minutes before half time gave the visitors an advantage, one they held onto for 20 minutes.
Past the hour mark, Diane Wilson would respond with a powerful right footed effort from within the box that left King no chance. The following 25 minutes of the game saw both teams pushing for the winning goal, with the last work going to the reigning champions.
Two successes this week, for their postponed game against Tuggeranong on Thursday and next Sunday at home against Belconnen would see Grace Gill lift a third consecutive Premiers’ trophy.
Earlier on Sunday, fourth place West Canberra Wanderers secured a much-needed win against Tuggeranong United at Melrose synthetic, triumphing 2-0. The team coached by Rey Castro kept their nine-point cushion over Gungahlin United (who still have a game in hand) and are still the masters of their finals’ destiny.
As is almost always the case this season, the home team started all guns blazing. Five minutes in, Ginger Oliver almost scored a second straight corner kick in two weeks, only to see Sam Emms deflecting it on the crossbar. Daisy Canavan was lucky to be where the ball bounced diverting the rebound into the net
The Wanderers doubled their lead just before the half hour mark, thanks to their most prolific goal scorer. Tara Cannon earned and converted a penalty to bring her tally up to nine in 2022.
Sarah Whitfield’s teammates stayed on the front foot for most of the game, getting closer to score a third than conceding. Tuggeranong United mainly proceeded in counterattack, but Lara Mustaine’s team was rarely able to put the Wanderers’ defence off balance. West Canberra is ever so close to secure their semi-final berth, five years after their last post-season adventure.
Gungahlin United is the only team left to challenge West Canberra for that fourth spot. On Saturday, the Gunners were hosting the Wagga City Wanderers at the GEO, and had to battle to get all three points, eventually winning 2-1.
On their turf, Andrew Woodman’s squad tried to weather the storm coming from the Riverina early on, but ended conceded an unlucky goal seven minutes in. Similarly, to a couple of weeks ago, Kailey Tonini found herself on the wrong end of the joke, with a shot crashing on the post and bouncing back on the keeper’s back before rolling into her net.
The home team did not chase the score for too long, the equalizer coming ten minutes later. After a trademark run on the right wing, Erika Pennyfield perfectly offered a goal on the platter to Natalie De Marco who finished from close range.
Both teams battled for the rest of the first half without breaking the deadlock. The answer came ten minutes into the second half for the home team thanks to experienced striker Sharon Chao.
Ebony Walker thought she had done the hardest part, winning her duel against Piper Lockley, but the subsequent loose ball was volleyed perfectly by Chao, giving her team an advantage that they would keep until the full-time whistle.
Belconnen United moved to within six points of Canberra Olympic on the table after defeating Canberra United Academy 3-0 at McKellar Park. Three points, and three goals for Scott Conlon’s protegees, all wearing pink socks to help raise awareness for the Breast Cancer Network Australia.
Sofia Palywoda got the show on the road, with a great control-shot sequence from outside the box, and high ball that dipped under the crossbar, out of Eliza Evans’ reach. The Academy thought they had answered promptly, but their goal at the 13th minute was disallowed for a foul in the corner scramble.
The Blue Devils managed the rest of the first half, before accelerating again in the second half. The scored twice, and killed all suspense, withing seven minutes around the hour mark. Reilly Yuen struck first, with just the right amount of luck.
During a scramble in the Academy’s box, Yuen was there to prevent the defence from clearing their line and was happy to see the deflected ball ending in the net. Yuen again six minutes later was awarded a penalty for an avoidable foul near the edge of the box. Keira Bobbin’s shot from the spot kick was too powerful for Evans.
The Academy is the only team to have played all 18 games this season, but with this loss, Sarah West’ squad are now mathematically out of the top four race.
Saturday 20 August
Belconnen United 3 (Palywoda 10’, Yuen 55’, Bobbin 62’ (p)) Canberra United Academy 0
Gungahlin United 2 (N. De Marco 17’, Chao 54’) Wagga City Wanderers 1 (Tonini 7’ (og))
Sunday 21 August
West Canberra Wanderers 2 (Canavan 5’, Cannon 29’ (p)) Tuggeranong United 0
Canberra Croatia 2 (Wilson 66’, Sawkins 90+5’) Canberra Olympic 1 (Aitolu 44’)
|4||West Canberra Wanderers||17||8||3||6||-11||27|
|6||Canberra United Academy||18||4||2||12||-20||14|
|8||Wagga City Wanderers||17||1||1||15||-85||4|