NPL2 Grand Final Preview
O’Connor Knights v ANU FC | Grand Final | Sunday, 3pm @ Deakin Stadium
The inaugural NPL2 title will be decided this weekend, as the O’Connor Knights and ANU FC meet in the Grand Final at Deakin Stadium on Sunday.
Both sides enter the Final off the back of close wins over the Canberra White Eagles; O’Connor prevailed in a penalty shootout two weeks ago, while ANU scored a very late winner in the preliminary final to book their spot in the decider.
Those matches could have gone either way, if not for the teams’ respective goalkeepers.
Jason Denham was superb for O’Connor in their qualifying final, making a number of key stops during normal time, before saving a penalty from the dangerous Zinelabiddine Eljammoudi in the shootout.
While for ANU, some miraculous saves by Jake Bradley, including two off the boot of Milan Santrac, inspired his side to a late victory.
Both O’Connor and ANU possess attacking weapons up front, so Denham and Bradley will again play a key role in this match.
Tim Lopez missed a spot kick in the preliminary final, but has otherwise been in dangerous form for ANU over the past few weeks, and O’Connor will need to be wary of the threat he, Rowan Peterkin and Andrew Manly pose.
But the Knights boast a number of threats themselves, led by midfielder Adam Seselja who, outside of Denham, was the sides best player in their qualifying final triumph.
His class and composure in a tense match was second to none, and his goal deep into extra-time brought the Knights back from the brink and forced a penalty shootout.
Josip Jadric scored O’Connor’s other goal in that match, and he has the potential to cause ANU some headaches with his lightning pace and footwork.
With the White Eagles taking out the Premiership, this is a Grand Final that not a lot of people might have expected.
But a number of exciting one-on-one match ups across the park, and two goalkeepers in superb form, means this clash is sure to be an entertaining one.
O’Connor will start as favourites, given they will be fresh from the week off and won both regular season meetings with ANU this year.
But this ANU side has continually proven the doubters wrong in 2019, and it wouldn’t come as a shock to see them lift the silverware on Sunday.