Ten-man Canberra FC scored a remarkable victory over Monaro Panthers to force their way back into the title race on a wet day at the Riverside Stadium.
Even the first half dismissal of goalkeeper Rory Larkin, expelled for halting the progress of Panthers’ striker Darian McGarry-Watson who was clean through on goal, couldn’t dampen the attacking prowess of FC who claimed a 6-3 success.
Larkin’s dismissal in the tenth minute forced a major reshuffle for the already depleted visitors with youngster Rashad Farid summoned from the bench in place of the unlucky Christian Pratezina, who was substituted. The red card came only moments after the Panthers had threatened an early lead, Ed McCarthy wriggling free from a couple of half-hearted challenges to rifle a shot against the base of the post with Larkin static.
However, despite being reduced in number, it was Canberra FC who proceeded to dominate the game. Domenic Giampaolo was pulling the strings in midfield and he almost created an opening for Nikola Barisic in the 14th minute, the young forward’s header coming back off the post. But the visiting team did not have to wait long to open the scoring. Giampaolo was involved again in creating the chance for Thomas James.
James control allowed him a shot from close range which Panthers’ stopper Nathan Alferink did supremely well to block onto his right hand post. The ‘keeper recovered well to gather the rebound but the greasy ball squirmed out of his grasp allowing James to stretch out a log and prod the ball across the goal-line.
Within minutes it was 2-0. Thomas Milicevic broke and squared to Giampaolo who took a touch and turned to ram a perfect shot low and into the corner back across the goalkeeper who was left flat-footed. And the remarkable sequence of events saw Canberra FC lead 3-0 just past the half-hour. A cross into the area was aimed at Ian Graham but the flame-haired midfielder was shoved in the back for a penalty, allowing James to convert from the spot.
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Monaro Panthers 3 (Daniel Felizzi 35’ (pen), Dam Roestbakken 82’, Michael Piccolo 84’)
Canberra FC 6 (Thomas James 25’, 31’ (pen), Domenic Giampaolo 27’, 62’, Ivan Pavlak 74’, 90+1’)