Canberra United Academy progressed to the Women’s National Premier League Reserves Grand Final with a surprise 4-3 penalty shoot-out win over the League Champions Canberra Olympic on an action-packed day at Deakin Stadium.
It was the Academy who struck first in an open and exciting first-half, breaking the deadlock in the 18th minute through speedy frontrunner Bonnie Young, the Canberra United forward showing great anticipation to put her team ahead with a brilliant strike.
The lead didn’t last for long though, the League Champions responding before just nineteen minutes later as Tia Burridge reacted fastest to a ball in the penalty area to sweep home the equalising goal meaning the two teams retired to the changing rooms with nothing to separate them on the scoreboard.
That theme continued throughout a keenly-contested second-half with chances at both ends, but neither team was able to make the critical breakthrough and so the match entered extra-time and with no further goals was settled on penalties.
Gungahlin United await in the Preliminary Final after the Gunners stunned Belconnen United with a late, late match-winner deep into stoppage time. Juliana Stauffacher pounced on a defensive error in the 118th minute to slide home the winner and send those clad in black and white into raptures.
It was something of a surprise as the Gunners had finished below Belconnen United in the league table and, as the match progressed, it appeared as if the result would mirror the finals standings as the third-placed team opened the scoring.
Blue Devils hit the front after only ten minutes, striker Ella Palframan putting them ahead, and it looked like it would stay that way until at least half-time, but Gunners had other ideas and levelled matters in the final throes of the opening stanza.
Abby Nolan-Hodges was on hand to find the equaliser to set up a nerve-shredding, close-fought second stanza where neither side could find the breakthrough. Extra-time has a similar feel to it until Stauffacher broke Blue Devils hearts as the clocked ticked inexorably towards the final whistle.
Canberra Olympic 1 (Burridge 37’) Canberra United Academy 1 (Young 18’) – after extra time, Canberra United Academy win 4-3 on penalties
Belconnen United 1 (Palframan 10’) Gungahlin United 2 (Nolan-Hodges 44’, Stauffacher 118’) – after extra time