Shoot-Out Glory for Blue Devils

Belconnen United 3 (Tom McLachlan 47’, Cameron Reinhart 107’, Jack Green 120’) Canberra FC 3 (Alex Oloriegbe 39’, Josip Jadric 110’, 115’) – after extra time, Belconnen United win 3-2 on penalties

It was a fitting end to an absorbing season. After 120 minutes of battle these two titans of ACT football had fought themselves to a standstill and yet nothing could separate them. A quite remarkable match seemed headed for a Canberra FC victory as stoppage time in extra-time ticked over before Jack Green scrambled the most unlikely of equalisers to force the penalty shoot-out where Ashley Collins’ save from FC Captain Matt Grbesa won the trophy.

That Grbesa should miss the vital spot-kick was harsh on a player who was a colossal presence throughout the match. The FC skipper bestrode Deakin Stadium with a display of guts and determination that deserved a winners’ medal. But that was a description that could also be applied to any number of players. For the victors Green and Jack Blackley, their twin pillars in the centre of defence were outstanding. Tom McLachlan was a worthy Valeri Medal recipient for Man of the Match and Marty Raines put in a 66 minute shift that swung the momentum in favour of the Blue Devils.

For the vanquished, left back Jordan Lamb can rarely have played a better game. Two-goal Josip Jadric, recovered from a suspected fractured foot was a constant menace and young Marko Vrkic, introduced as a 69th minute substitute for Aidan Brunskill, showed his character with a number of exquisitely timed tackles to deny Belconnen. 

The first half was marginally shaded by Canberra FC and they just about deserved their narrow lead at the interval. Alex Oloriegbe and Jadric had already been denied by Collins, saving well on both occasions, but the stopper could do nothing about the goal that opened the scoring in the 39th minute. David Kemp, otherwise imperious in his 76 minutes of action, under-hit a back-pass that was greedily seized upon by Oloriegbe who rounded Collins to slot home.

Belconnen, who had ended the season as runner’s-up to Cooma Tigers, regrouped at the break and came out a different side in the second half. They were level within one minute and ten seconds. A peach of a disguised pass from Raines fed McLachlan, running in behind the FC defence from deep, and the Blue Devils man of the season drilled his low shot past Jakob Cole and into the far corner to bring his team level. Shortly after Raines went close again, denied at the near post by Cole, and Jason Ugrinic may have done better when beating his man but firing a tame shot at target.

Ninety minutes failed to find a winner and the match exploded into life in the extra half-hour. Cameron Reinhart had a difficult week losing a family member, so it was perhaps destiny that the diminutive full-back should give his team the advantage in the 107th minute. Cole made a fine save in the first instance, but could not prevent Reinhart following up to ram home from close range. He almost scored again late on but was denied by a goal-line clearance from Nathan Evans.

By that stage FC had re-taken the lead as Jadric put in a devastating five-minute spell. Alex Tilley had had his moments in 2014 and he picked the perfect time to illustrate his talent, standing up his marker and swinging over a cross that Jadric met on the volley, beating Collins at the near post with an effort that the Belconnen custodian perhaps should have done better with. Jadric, whose passion for the club shines through in his performances, then put his team ahead with a long range free-kick that deceived Collins and dipped past the ‘keeper to send Deakin Stadium into raptures.

Belconnen weren’t done however and as the clock ticked into stoppage time they forced one last corner. From it the ball was knocked down and there, lurking at the back-post, was Green who slid full stretch to divert the ball past Cole, make it 3-3 and send the match to penalties. A test of nerve at the best of times it was surprising to see Taylor Beaton fail, his shot saved by Cole. Olorigebe hit the bar, the ball almost crossing the line on its downward trajectory, before Reinhart blasted over.

At this stage, especially after Ian Graham had calmly converted his penalty, FC was in the box-seat. Blackley made it 2-2 before Field emulated Olorigebe, this time on the other side of the goal and the fates appeared to be favouring Belconnen. There was still work to do but after Goran Mukevski, a muscular presence in a late cameo, blasted home, Collins saved from the unfortunate Grbesa and the glory was the Blue Devils’. 

Belconnen United: 1. Ashley COLLINS, 4. David KEMP (7. Taylor BEATON 76’), 5. Dustin WELLS, 6. David ARRANZ (2. Cameron REINHART 101’), 8. Zac MAYBURY, 10. Jason UGRINIC, 11. Marty RAINES (9. Goran MUKEVSKI 66’), 13. Jack GREEN, 14. Milan POPOVICH, 15. Tom McLACHLAN, 17. Jack BLACKLEY
Substitutes not used: 12. Bernard RENE, 20. George KAZOLIS
Canberra FC: 22. Jakob COLE, 8. Ian GRAHAM, 10. Domenic GIAMPAOLO (18. Alex TILLEY 97’), 11. Alex OLORIEGBE, 13. Daniel BENNETT (21. Niko KRESIC 112’), 14. Josip JADRIC, 15. Jordan LAMB, 16. Matt GRBESA, 17. Aidan BRUNSKILL (6. Marko VRKIC 69’), 20. James FIELD, 23. Nathan EVANS
Substitutes not used: 5. Izach CLEMENTS, 1. Shaun BURKE
Discipline: YELLOW CARDS: 6. David ARRANZ, 17. Jack BLACKLEY (Belconnen United), 6. Marko VRKIC, 18. Alex TILLEY, 11. Alex OLORIEGBE, 20. James FIELD, 22. Jakob COLE, 23. Nathan EVANS (Canberra FC)
Match Officials: Richard Naumovski (referee), Owen Goldrick, Adam Powers, Luke Withell (4th Official)

SHOOTOUT (Belconnen went first)
Beaton (missed, saved) 0-0, Jadric (scored 0-1), Wells (scored) 1-1, Oloriegbe (missed, hit bar) 1-1, Reinhart (missed, over) 1-1, Graham (scored) 1-2, Blackley (scored) 2-2, Field (missed, hit bar) 2-2, Mukevski (scored) 3-2, Grbesa (missed, saved) 3-2


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