A brace of free-kicks from Valeri Medal winner Robbie Cattanach ultimately proved the difference as Canberra Olympic claimed a fifth Grand Final title with a 3-1 win over Canberra FC in the PlayStation 4® NPL decider at McKellar Park.
Cattanach showcased his dead-ball prowess to perfection in each half to spark joyous scenes amongst the Olympic faithful and seal a fairy-tale triumph for the team that had ended the season in 5th place.
And, whilst even the most ardent of Canberra FC fans will not argue that, overall, the better team won the match, such are the quirks of football that the League Champions could have been out of sight by the time Olympic found their feet. That was because Canberra FC dominated the opening twenty minutes and might have found themselves three to the good for want of some better finishing.
FC made a sensational start as they took the lead with one of the fastest goals ever recorded in an ACT Premier League decider. The clock had reached just 42 seconds when Thomas James swept home a cut-back from Domenic Giampaolo to give Canberra FC a scarcely believable lead. Giampaolo had exploited space on the right flank to skip clear and lay the ball into the path of the English striker, who doesn’t often pass up those chances and on the big occasion was deadly.
Shortly after James, who was unplayable early on, couldn’t quite connect with a cross by Jordan Lamb before Giampaolo passed up a glorious chance to double the lead, steering a volley over the crossbar from six yards after a teasing cross by James had left the Olympic defence bemused. Thomas Milicevic then headed straight at Olympic stopper Angelo Konstantinou when well-placed.
Olympic finally settled and, when they did, they carved open a glorious chance. Tom McLachlan rode a challenge and burst into the area where he thumped a fierce strike that was parried by Sam Brown in the FC goal. The loose ball rolled invitingly to Daniel Colbertaldo whose follow-up seemed destined for the net only for the recovering Lamb to make a superb goal-line clearance.
The match began to have a decent ebb and flow to it following this but FC would have been more than happy to go into the interval with the lead. That was not to be however as, on the cusp of half-time, Olympic drew level. Cattanach cleverly won the foul on the edge of the penalty area and exploited the narrowest of gaps on the end of the FC wall to curl a wonderful free-kick across the turf and into the bottom corner.
Incredibly it was as if a switch had been clicked at the interval as Olympic dominated the contest from the re-start, buoyed by the momentum created by that Cattanach equaliser. Jordan Tsekenis, who ran himself into the ground in the number nine role for Olympic, saw an effort smothered by the advancing Brown and, when Colbertaldo picked out his clever angled run, was extremely unfortunate to see a rasping drive cannon back off the crossbar with Brown beaten.
By now Olympic’s midfield, led by another imperious display by the increasingly influential Adam Rogic, was retaking command. And, in the 64th minute, they went in front. Colbertaldo was felled outside the box and from the resultant free-kick, Olympic netted. Cattanach has hit many better dead-ball efforts in his time but none could have fallen as invitingly as this one. Cattanach’s effort came back off the wall and bounced into the path of Colbertaldo who struck his shot with extra venom and watched on as it whistled past the startled Brown and into the roof of the net for a stunning strike.
Within five minutes it was game over. Brown was penalised for carrying the ball outside his area when attempting to distribute a clearance and Olympic made FC pay for their indiscretion as Cattanach calmly curled the ball around a six-man wall and into the far corner for another belting free-kick. At the other end the influence of James and Giampaolo was receding as Tim Bobolas, Nick Bobolas, Phil Yarnold, outstanding in his 200th appearance, and Jon Toole came to terms with the movement of the FC front men denying them any real sights at goal in the second half.
FC introduced flying wingers Daniel Bennett and Josip Jadric into the fray as they searched for a way back into the match but they were scarcely involved and Olympic could have added icing on the cake with twenty minutes to play. Tsekenis was involved again, touching a pass into the oath of McLachlan who finished between the legs of Brown only to be called offside.
It mattered little as Olympic saw out the remaining moments with minimal fuss and fittingly Cattanach, the man of the match, was in possession when referee Luke Withell ended the contest bringing the Grand Final trophy back into the arms of the Olympic support.
PlayStation 4® NPL Caspital Football Grand Final
Canberra FC 1 (Thomas James 1’)
Canberra Olympic 3 (Robbie Cattanach 45’, 68’, Daniel Colbertaldo 63’)