West Canberra Wanderers claimed their first win of the season as they downed the defending League Champions Tigers FC with a thoroughly deserved 3-1 win at the Australian Institute of Sport on a sunny, but chilly, Saturday afternoon in the Capital Football national Premier League.
The victory has put the Wanderers to within five points of the Tigers and Belconnen United, with a game in hand, and means that the Tigers have only won twice in eleven matches and haven’t won for six matches.
It all looked so different for the Tigers in the opening quarter. They had started the game well and had taken the lead in the seventeenth minute as central defender Alex Wilson stole in unopposed around the back at a corner to volley into the net for his maiden NPL goal at first-grade level.
Wanderers though hit back. An Angus Bailey corner was met a flick-on from George Pavese which may have taken a further nick off Tigers full-back Tim Nguyen before crashing into the net past Jakob Cole off the base of the post. The goal was eventually credited to Pavese, his first for the club.
Incredibly, before the interval, the team at the bottom of the table had taken the lead. A beautiful ball forward from Lachlan Fields picked out the run of James Driscoll and the Wanderers defender plucked it out of the air to send a shot into the bottom corner via the shin of Nguyen.
They sealed their result with a crucial third ten minutes after the re-start. Bailey swung in another tantalising corner and Blaise Vlazlovski rose above the pack to thump a header past Jakob Cole and secure a first, and possibly priceless, win.
Canberra Olympic struck twice in the last eleven minutes to rescue a point against Belconnen United with an injury time equaliser from former Blue Devils midfielder Adrian Macor securing a 2-2 draw.
The first-half belonged to the home side who went into the interval with a 2-0 lead thanks to a brace from Maxx Green who moved onto six for the season and into the Golden Boot race. Both goals were created by winger Christian Kreskas, the first with a drop of the shoulder and a square ball, the second with a pinpoint delivery from out wide following a break from an Olympic throw-in.
Olympic fought hard to get back into match and they had a glorious chance in the 79th minute when they were awarded a penalty. Alen James is usually reliable from the penalty spot and the midfielder made no mistake in lashing home his fifth goal of the season to give the visitors hope.
And it was hope that was turned into a point one minute into stoppage time as two former Belconnen players combined. Luca Florez delivered, and the ball diverted into the net off a combination of Adrian Macor and home defender Harry Menham.
After the disappointment of losing at home to Canberra Croatia in Round 10, Monaro Panthers roared back into the winner’s circle with a convincing 2-0 away win over O’Connor Knights at the always tricky O’Connor Enclosed.
On a difficult surface that didn’t help either team, it took until the 59th minute for the Panthers to take the lead. A patient build-up that involved Josh Calabria and Gabe Cole ended with Nikos Kalfas attempting a lofted pass into the penalty area. The ball deflected kindly onto the path of Zac McLaren who rolled a composed finish past Jack Miller for his first NPL goal for the club.
Knights broke effectively on occasion, but the Panthers appeared to have the upper-hand and created the better chances, Kofi Danning missing a great opportunity, before they managed to secure the victory and the points with the second goal of the game twelve minutes from time.
Darren Bailey created it, the Scottish defender marauding from full-back to slide a pass in behind the Knights defence. Kalfas beat Miller in the foot race for the ball and rounded the ‘keeper to clip the ball into the empty net and seal the points.
In the only match played on Sunday afternoon, Gungahlin United threw the title race wide open with a crucial 1-0 win to end Canberra Croatia’s unbeaten run at Deakin Stadium. A single goal from Philippe Bernabo-Madrid, on the occasion of his 100th NPL appearance, proved to be the difference in an entertaining match.
Bernabo-Madrid struck for the 75th time in the NPL two minutes before the break to put the Gunners into a lead which they were never to relinquish, keeping Croatia at arms-length for the majority of the second forty-five minutes having established their lead.
Before Bernabo-Madrid struck, a sweet hit on the turn from the edge of the penalty area that fizzed past Sam Brown in the Croatia goal, the home side could, and perhaps should, have been ahead.
Jason Ugrinic took a touch instead of shooting first time when presented with an open goal, allowing Jacob Quinn to make a stunning save, whilst from the resultant corner a powerful downward header from central defender Daniel Subasic was hacked off the line as Croatia had Gungahlin stretched.
Chances were at a premium throughout, but the Gunners took the half-chance that came their way to slash the gap to Canberra Croatia at the top to one point with a deserved success.
Saturday 25 June
Belconnen United 2 (Green 22’, 45’) Canberra Olympic 2 (James 79’ (p), A. Macor 90+1’)
Tigers FC 1 (Wilson 17’) West Canberra Wanderers 3 (Pavese 29’, Driscoll 39’, Vlazlovski 55’)
O’Connor Knights 0 Monaro Panthers 2 (McLaren 59’, Kalfas 78’)
Sunday 26 June
Canberra Croatia 0 Gungahlin United 1 (Bernabo-Madrid 43’)
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