ACT Project Coordination Federation Cup Final - 2010
BOTN Feature Game

Canberra FC retains crown with epic win
By Capital Football (Photos by Paul Lau)

Sunday 28 March, 2010
at Deakin Stadium, Canberra

Canberra FC 3
(John Glass 38', Michael Spaleta 51', Adam Spaleta 53')
defeated
Goulburn Strikers FC 2
(Brody Willis 22', Sam Taylor 37')



Reigning champions Canberra FC was forced to come from 0-2 behind for the second time in the space of four days in order to retain the Project Coordination Federation Cup with a 3-2 victory over first-time finalists Goulburn Strikers at Deakin Stadium and even survived a late missed penalty to claim the cup.

The Strikers, surprise finalists having just been admitted to the Gatorade Premier League in 2010 for the first time, had a gilt-edged chance to send the match into extra-time but Nicky Rogers saw his penalty kick pushed away by Canberra FC goalkeeper Ben Klug. It wasn't without controversy however, as Rogers had been ordered to re-take his penalty following encroachment at the first attempt.

Lady-luck certainly seemed to desert the Strikers at the critical moments, with Rogers in particular the victim, seeing his late volleyed strike chalked off after Ben Wilson, running the line, had adjudged the ball out of play before Robert Dorsett swung over his inch-perfect right foot cross.

Earlier, the Strikers had found themselves 2-0 ahead in front of a healthy crowd on a warm Canberra afternoon. Having played three games in a week, and seen his squad struck down with a stomach bug following their semi-final success over Belconnen United, Strikers' Coach Carlo Aliffi could have done without seeing one half of his prolific strike duo leaving the field injured inside ten minutes. However, a hamstring pull suffered by Daniel Aliffi curtailed his involvement early on.

The Strikers made light work of the absence of Aliffi though taking the lead after 22 minutes thanks to a superb strike from Brody Willis. The feisty striker picked up the ball 25 metres from goal and set off on an angled run across the face of goal. Entering the penalty area, Willis checked onto his right foot before unleashing a rocket of a shot across Ben Klug in the Canberra FC goal and in off the underside of the crossbar. The goal was Willis' sixth of the tournament and was worthy of the occasion.

Goulburn should have doubled their lead moments later when Willis and Klug collided on the edge of the box when challenging for the ball with the ricochet fall kindly for Nicky Rogers. The midfielder, however, lifted the al over the bar with the goal at his mercy.

Failing to heed the lessons of Willis' goal and the near miss from Rogers, Canberra FC was guilty of falling asleep again fifteen minutes later as the Strikers, much to the delight of their vociferous support, doubled their advantage.

Willis found space in the Canberra FC half sending a perfect ball wide into the path of the onrushing Sam Taylor who had broken clear of a flat Canberra FC defence. With Klug racing of his line to intercept, Taylor coolly slotted the ball past the 'keeper and watched on in increasing glee as the ball entered the empty net for a 2-0 advantage.

Having been 0-2 down in their semi-final with ANU FC during the week, eventually coming through 5-2 after extra-time, Canberra FC had it all to do once again and so their response, barely 120 seconds later, was critical. Midfield maestro John Glass collected the ball 35 metres from goal and launched a speculative chip that flew over the head of the stranded Jessie Bunt in goal to give the home team a much needed lifeline.

Indeed, Canberra FC could have been level going into the break as Bunt was called upon to save smartly from Glass before Adam Spaleta curled a shot just over the cross bar. As it was the Strikers held on to lead 2-1 at the interval.

It was imperative that Goulburn began the second half well but it was Canberra FC who stole the initiative with a trademark lightning strike. With veteran Elliott Zwangobani forced to leave the field with an injury at the break his replacement, Josip Jadric, wasted little time in making an impact.

The rapid winger received a pass from Adam Spaleta and raced clear down the right before putting over an inch-perfect right wing cross that was met by the head of centre-forward Michael Spaleta who bulleted the ball past Bunt into the net to bring Canberra FC level. Spaleta's header was the burly striker's seventh goal of the competition handing him the 'Golden Boot' as the Federation Cup most prolific scorer.

With the match in the balance it was Canberra FC upped the tempo and amazingly completed their comeback with a goal two minutes later. It was fitting that it was Adam Spaleta, the most creative player on the field that struck what proved to be the winning goal. Receiving a lay-off outside the area Spaleta unleashed a beautiful curling drive of such power that if flashed past Bunt into the top corner giving the 'keeper no chance.

With their resolve broken it would have been easy for the Strikers to fold, but this team is made of sterner stuff and are sure to shake-up the Premier League on this performance. Taking the game to their more illustrious opposition they forced a late penalty, after Klug was adjudged to have fouled Rogers in the area, only to see the spot-kick blocked at the second attempt, before the even later disallowed goal.

There was time for one final fling from Goulburn when a corner appeared to strike John Glass on the arm, but the appeals were to no avail and referee Richard Naumovski brought the match to a close to complete a wonderfully exciting game which was a terrific advert for football in the nation's capital.

MATCH REACTION

Adam Spaleta, Canberra FC goal scorer: "The win means we have made a good start to the season. We were a little bit shaky and made it hard for ourselves but we got there in the end. We have been disappointed with our defence, but we responded well [to going two down] and that's something we can take as a positive into the season. Getting a goal back straight away at 0-2 behind was crucial for us."

Carlo Aliffi, Goulburn Strikers Coach: "The boys did us extremely proud. We had half the team down with a stomach bug, our best defender in hospital and we lost Daniel Aliffi after ten minutes so considering all of that we did very well. After half-time, because we were not 100% health wise, we were completely flat in that ten minute spell and that's where we lost the game. Apparently, on the penalty, someone walked into the area while it was being taken. He didn't interfere with the goalkeeper or the ball going into the net but that's the rules, so what can you do? It's been a fantastic pre-season. If we can push Canberra FC this far, with all the problems we have had, I have no doubts that we can be a force."

Andrew Aliffi, Goulburn Strikers Captain: "I think we put it in right until the end. We had our chances and had a couple of disallowed goals, but it was a tough game. Even though we were missing players we have good depth in the squad. We did have four key players out, but we restructured well and put it to them as well as we could today in the circumstances. We've shown we can compete with the best teams in the competition and have shown that we can be competitive in the Premier League."

Stan Dukic, Canberra FC Coach: "I'm happy with the boys. We've not had a long pre-season but we had to get the guys ready for three games in a week, but we were flat in the semi-final on Wednesday because we were warming up for an hour and a half because of penalties. We'll get too used to it though, we're a championship team. I didn't think it was a penalty in the first place, but I suppose you can say justice was done. He missed the second one, simple as that. They pushed everyone up forward and we were a little bit tired. But credit to them, they kept on fighting which is great. It's great for Goulburn and great for football."

3rd/4th Place Play Off: Belconnen United 2 (David Leet, Jason O'Dwyer) defeated ANU FC 1 (Mohsen Ravanparsa)

See ACT Football link for fixture details


ACT Federation Cup Final
Sunday 28 March, 2010
at Deakin Stadium, Canberra

Canberra FC 3
(John Glass 38', Michael Spaleta 51', Adam Spaleta 53')
defeated
Goulburn Strikers FC 2
(Brody Willis 22', Sam Taylor 37')