Monaro Panthers will take their place in the Australia Cup Round of 32 for the first time following a dramatic conclusion to the Qualifying Final at Deakin Stadium as they tore the heart out of a valiant West Canberra Wanderers, ultimately winning 3-1 in a remarkable finish to the contest.
A strike from substitute Andre Carle with the last kick of the match ensured that the Panthers would equalise and send the game to extra-time, prompting bedlam amongst the Panthers support and deflating the Wanderers in the process.
Carle was quickest to react to a pinball around the penalty area as Monaro goalkeeper Jordan Thurtell caused chaos in the West Canberra box, his presence seeing a loose ball driven goalwards by Kyle Senior, a deflection prompting it to fall perfectly for Carle who rammed his shot into the roof of the net from close range.
That caused delirium amongst the ranks of the Panthers fans who, quite rightly, must have thought that they were destined to fall short following an unbelievable goalkeeping display from Wanderers’ custodian Jakeb Wiseman who was presented with the man of the match award for a series of superb blocks.
Indeed, it was Wiseman’s acrobatic save that denied Panthers’ skipper Josh Calabria which led to the corner that tied the fixture, having earlier made a stunning save to turn a Zac McLaren shot, which took a heavy deflection off Kofi Danning, around the post.
That was in the first half, a 45 minutes that saw Panthers hit the crossbar direct from a corner from Darren Bailey and which had seen the underdogs take the lead six minutes prior to the break.
Angus Bailey, whose ITC only came through on Friday afternoon, swung a corner into the near post where former Panther Beau Harvey finished with an exquisite back-heel flick to net against his former club and send the Wanderers support, of which there were many, into ecstasy and provide a hint of an upset.
Carle’s leveller sent the match into the extra half-hour and the Wanderers fairy-tale was finally punctured with ten minutes of the game remaining. A long ball from Josh Calabria sent full-back Bailey scampering clear and a moment of hesitation from Wiseman opened the door which Bailey rammed ajar, clubbing a quality finish low beyond the ‘keeper and into the corner.
Wanderers were stunned and to rub salt into the wound, the Panthers sealed their progression onto the national stage with a third in stoppage time of extra time.
Carle used his pace and power to break into the area and was adjudged to have been felled by the Wanderers defence. The number nine picked himself up to dink a cheeky ‘Panenka’ penalty down the middle, his twelfth goal in all competitions this season to bring the trophy to the Riverside Stadium.
Monaro Panthers 3 (Carle 90+3’, 120+1’ (p), Bailey 110’)
West Canberra Wanderers 1 (Harvey 38’)
Monaro Panthers: 1. Jordan THURTELL, 4. James WILSON (9. Andre CARLE 65’), 5. Darren BAILEY, 6. Gabe COLE, 7. Nikos KALFAS, 10. Amilio KISTA (14. Michael POCHI 109’), 11. Adam NEOU (17. Ben BASSER-SILK 58’), 16. Kyle SENIOR, 23. Kofi DANNING (20. Jai SELDEN 58’, 2. Adam DE FRANCESCHI 84’), 91. Zac MCLAREN, 99. Josh CALABRIA
West Canberra Wanderers: 1. Jakeb WISEMAN, 3. Harrison PALIC, 4. Connor BILL (5. Daniel GROVE 90’), 8. Jackson PAESLER (33. Brandon TALIANO 88’), 9. Beau HARVEY, 14. Blaise VLAZLOVSKI, 16. Jenno CERUTI (6. George PAVESE 68’), 19. Lachlan FIELDS, 25. Shae THORNTON, 34. Angus BAILEY (20. Roy ROMEO 86’), 35. James DRISCOLL