Canberra FC break Belconnen dominance
Belconnen United 1 (Jessie Williams 99') def. by Canberra FC 1 (Marcia Wallis 119') (1-3 on Penalties)
By Mitchell Keenan
Canberra FC claimed a thrilling grand final win against competition top dogs Belconnen United, coming back at the death and taking the game in penalties at McKellar Park on Sunday.
Belconnen United came into the season finale having lost just one game all year, but Mark Risteski’s Canberra FC had been gaining ground on their rivals throughout the season.
The player of the game award was unsurprisingly handed to former Canberra United goalkeeper Chantel Jones, who has lead her side in goals scored this year but was placed in goals for the big dance.
Jones’ cat like reflexes came to the rescue on a number of occasions, as the American shot-stopper ultimately made the final penalty save to win the game for Canberra FC.
As the two sides took to the field nerves took hold early, with Canberra FC’s Krista Hagen handed the first chance at the top of the box but skewing her effort high and wide.
Belconnen’s first opportunity came just moments later, with prolific goal scorer Maddy Wihittall out to make an early impact but lacking the power to trouble an experienced Jones.
Antoni Jagarinec’s Blue Devils’ started settling into a rhythm after the 20 minute mark, easing the nerves and working the ball well going forward.
But Canberra FC captain Alice Churchill very nearly caught Klara Manenica off her line following a punching clearance from a corner, but Churchill’s curling effort bounced wide of the mark.
Belconnen came very close to stealing an early goal right on half time through Whittall, who weaselled past Ivana Galic at the back only for Jones to make herself big in goals and complete a stunning stretching save to her right.
The second half brought a new sense of urgency in the Belconnen side, who came out determined to establish a lead.
The Blue Devil’s best chance of the half came at the 55 minute mark, when Chloe Callaghan made a driving run into the box drawing the defender and passing off to Jasmine Maguire in miles of space, but Maguire couldn’t take the opportunity and scuffed her shot straight at Chantel Jones.
The two sides ramped up their pressure as the game rolled on, but a Jones special in the dying embers of the 90 minutes kept her side in it once again, as a goal could not be found and the game went into extra time.
Once again, Belconnen came out strong into extra time and applied a tonne of pressure on the Canberra FC backline.
The first goal of the game came in the 99th minute, as substitute Jessie Williams went on a dazzling run through the middle and found space to launch a looping effort from outside the box into Jones’ top left corner.
Just as all seemed lost for Risteski’s side, Grace Gill took the ball outside the area and curled in a dangerous effort that Klara Manenica just couldn’t keep hold of, with Marcia Wallis picking up the crumbs and firing home to send the game into penalties.
Penalties were a tense affair, but Belconnen couldn’t capitalise from the spot and a number of clutch saves from Jones were enough to do the trick, handing Canberra FC an incredible title win to end Belconnen’s dominance over the past five years.