Image courtesy Capital Football

Match of the Round: Gungahlin United v  Monaro Panthers

Upon arrival at AIS Grass Field 2 on a glorious Sunday afternoon, the word was that Canberra FC had been deducted three points due to fielding too many substitutes in an earlier round. With Canberra United Academy enjoying the bye, Gungahlin United had the opportunity to leap into second place on the ladder with a win here. Standing in their way was Monaro Panthers, a team looking to build upon their first win of the season (over Wagga City last weekend).

A dominant first half display – where Monaro allowed Gungahlin far too much freedom in midfield – set up a convincing 6-1 win for the Gunners, who had to fight off a far more resolute Panthers outfit in the second half.

After a number of outstanding off-the-bench appearances for Gungahlin United, Elke Aitolu earned a start up front, while for the Panthers Jelena Josipovic started as goalkeeper, but there was still no sign of the three Solomon Island internationals that were said to be joining the squad this season.

The game started on a promising note for Gungahlin with their opening goal in the 3rd minute by Ella Brown from a tight angle close to goal after some tidy lead-up work via Nat De Marco and Erika Pennyfield.

While perhaps not what Panthers coach Worthington had planned, it soon became evident that Monaro were content to concede space to the Gungahlin midfield. The two De Marco’s in particular were having no trouble passing upfield, and Aitolu was having a field day dropping between the Panthers’ defensive and midfield lines and distributing wide to her wingers, or setting up for shots at goal. It was not uncommon to see six or seven sharp Gungahlin passes strung together, and this would have been pleasing for coach Iglesias.

The Monaro backline however were getting a workout. Kaitlin Joy and especially Thembi Compton were putting in big shifts in attempting to counter waves of attacks, reprieved only occasionally by attacking efforts down Monaro’s right channel by Alyssa Bozinovska and Kelly Stirton.

Gungahlin wingers Ella Brown and Pennyfield switched wings and in the 17th minute Brown played a nice one-two with Nat De Marco and was given time enough to chip a perfectly judged shot over Josipovic in goals for Gungahlin’s second.

These two sides are blessed with some of the best long shot specialists in the competition in Aitolu, Joy, and Meuronen, and their abilities were on display for all to see. On the half hour Aitolu received a ball with back to goal a few metres outside the penalty box. She turned and surprised the keeper with a strong low shot to give her team a three goal buffer.

In the next minute Nat DeMarco was pulled back from just outside the penalty box. Alex Paterson’s free kick was perfectly placed into the six yard box but the onrushing attackers were unable to connect.

Monaro forays upfield were fairly rare in the remainder of the half but Liz Edwards and Stirton challenged the Gungahlin defence with an attacking passing movement. The action remained at the other end of the field for the most part, with further corner kicks and off-target shots on goal. Ella Brown once more found her shooting accuracy in the 44th minute after stealing the ball from Monaro’s Zoe Millar close to goal and slotting it easily into the net, and Gungahlin walked into the sheds at half time four goals to the good.

Monaro took the field with renewed purpose in the second half. After withstanding another Aitolu thunderbolt from range, it was evident that they were working harder at closing down the Gunners’ time on the ball, and this was opening up attacking opportunities. A free kick to Meuronen in an attacking position in the 48th minute saw Joy step up and strike the ball with venom just over the right post. This was followed up by Liz Edwards dispossessing Maddie Perceval in the backline and whipping a perfect low cross to Bozinovska for one of Monaro’s most promising chances of the game, but she was only able to scuff the ball wide of goal from right in front.

A few minutes later Ella Brown had a chance to add to her tally after a cross from Aitolu fell to Brown close to the Monaro goal, but she stabbed the ball wide of the goal under intense pressure from goalkeeper Josipovic.

Just after the hour mark Meuronen knocked a ball deep into the Gungahlin penalty area for Edwards who managed to challenge for the ball in between the keeper and defender, but her effort was cleared off the line.

In the 67th minute Gungahlin responded to the Panthers pressure in the best possible way after a cross to the back post by Paterson was collected by Nat De Marco, who rounded her defender and unselfishly laid off the ball right in front of goal for Pennyfield to tap in with a simple finish for a five goal lead.

This did not deter Monaro from their efforts and they were rewarded in the 72nd minute after a terrific dipping long range strike by Meuronen found the gap between Tonini’s outstretched arms and the bar, reducing the lead back to four goals with the score now at 5-1.

The Monaro goal seemingly had the effect of revitalising Gungahlin’s purpose, and for the next few minutes the ball was camped in the Monaro half, with Brigitte Sander making several productive runs down the left wing; Aitolu ever threatening; and Crompton and her fellow Monaro defenders tested. A corner was awarded in the 75th minute and a strong run into the 6 yard box by Perceval was not tracked; she made no mistake from close range to make the score 6-1.

That was to remain the final score, with the weight of possession and chances  primarily Gungahlin’s way in the final ten minutes.

Monaro will be disappointed that they did not compete throughout the game like they did in the second half. Gungahlin will look back in satisfaction with the quality of their passing game and the variety in their attacking options on show today; the win sees them lifted into the top two on the ladder.

Gungahlin United 6 (Ella Brown 3’ 17’ 44’, Elke Aitolu 30’, Erika Pennyfield 67’, Maddie Perceval 76’)

Monaro Panthers 1 (Alicia Meuronen 72’)

Teams:

Gungahlin United – Coach: Diego Iglesias

Kailey Tonini, Brigitte Sander, Alex Paterson, Rachael Corbett, Maddie Perceval (c), Stella DeMarco, Erika Pennyfield, Ella Brown, Marija Rathouski, Elke Aitolu, Natalie DeMarco, Freya Jacobsen, Jade Brown, Sophie Spice, Courtney McCann, Ruby Gambale

Yellow/Red cards: nil

Monaro Panthers – Coach: Ian Worthington

Jelena Josipovic, Charlotte Grandy, Alyssa Bozinovska, Thembi Compton, Zoe Miller, Sofia Furlanetto, Alicia Meuronen (c), Kaitlin Joy, Chris Yip-Au, Liz Edwards, Kelly Stirton, Gabby Markulin, Cheyanne Girvan

Yellow/Red cards: nil

Around The Grounds:

Woden-Weston – Canberra Olympic (postponed)

Belconnen United 12 – 0 Wagga City Wanderers

Tuggeranong United 0 – 8 Canberra FC

Canberra United Academy – bye

Ladder:

Pos Team P W D L For Against GD Pts
1 Belconnen United FC 6 5 1 0 49 0 49 16
2 Gungahlin United FC 6 5 0 1 23 9 14 15
3 Canberra United Academy 6 4 1 1 26 4 22 13
4 Canberra FC 7 4 2 1 37 6 31 11
5 Woden-Weston FC 5 3 0 2 14 18 -4 9
6 Monaro Panthers FC 5 1 0 4 8 21 -13 3
7 Wagga City Wanderers FC 6 1 0 5 7 37 -30 3
8 Tuggeranong United FC 7 1 0 6 5 40 -35 3
9 Canberra Olympic FC 4 0 0 4 0 31 -31 0