Canberra FC book Grand Final spot with win in extra-time thriller
By Mat Stramandinoli
Canberra United Academy 2 (Laura Hughes 29’, Halse 55’) def. by Canberra FC 3 (Grace Gill 40’, 110’, Langtry 90+1’)
A stunning Grace Gill free kick in the second period of extra time has sent defending champions Canberra FC to the grand final once again, after they defeated the Canberra United Academy at McKellar Park on Sunday night.
The start of the match saw a hesitant approach from both sides, un-willing to commit too much early in the fear of being caught out up the other end.
The Academy earnt a free kick in the 7th minute and Aoife Colvill stepped up to take the set piece. Her curling effort was straight at Nat Vasta in goals but she juggled it before controlling it, and despite appeals for a goal the referee ruled it had not crossed the line.
The Academy struck first just before the half hour mark as Aoife Colvill burst down the right and cut back before squaring the ball to Laura Hughes who buried the ball in the net despite a touch from Vasta.
Jamie Berkeley had a crack shortly after in an effort to respond but her effort was too high as it went over the crossbar.
Not long after, Gill levelled the scores with five minutes remaining in the half.
Krista Hagen’s corner found its way to Gill waiting near the top of the box, and she thrashed home the bouncing ball into the net to ensure the two teams were locked at the break.
Canberra FC came out of the gates strong in the second half, and Gill’s effort five minutes in flashed just wide, but it was the Academy who would strike first once more.
Colvill’s free-kick beat Vasta and struck the upright, but Courtney Halse followed the ball in and was first to the rebound to tuck it home and put her side back in the lead.
From then on it was all or nothing for Canberra FC as they threw the kitchen sink at the Academy, pushing for an equaliser in the final 35 minutes. And in stoppage time they found the goal they needed through Zoe Langtry.
Langtry had replaced substitute Georgia Stewart after she had come on earlier, and Rachael Goldstein found her with a great pass and plenty of time in the box to fire home in stoppage time and send the game past 90 minutes and into extra-time.
Canberra FC again were on top to begin extra-time but were unable to find the breakthrough in the first half as both sides struggled to create chances early on in the extra-time period.
But it was in the second lot of 15 minutes that the game came alive, as Canberra FC were awarded a set piece in a strong position just outside the 18-yard area.
And Gill stepped up to curl it into the far corner, leaving Sally James with little chance of getting across to the ball.
The Academy looked to fight their way back to parity but were unable to find a way through and bowed out of the finals after an extraordinary match.
Canberra FC will now take on Belconnen United in the 2018 NPLW Capital Football Grand Final on Sunday, September 16th at 5pm at McKellar Park.