NARRABUNDAH claimed the State League 1 title with a nerve-wracking 5-3 penalty shoot-out win over Queanbeyan City at Hawker Football Centre on Saturday.
Narrabundah striker Ken MacDonald struck the winning penalty after goalkeeper Gavin Van Zyl had saved from Nikolce Noveski to give the Bulls the crown in a match that had ended in a scoreless stalemate at full-time.
Having shared nine goals the last time the two sides met, hopes were high for a free-flowing, attacking game of football.
But early on the only thing on show appeared to be some big match nerves as both sides took their time to settle into the game.
It wasn’t until the 18th minute that either goalkeeper was really called into action and it was Queanbeyan City’s Chris Trajanoski who had to be alert when an opportunity presented itself.
A precision pass cut open City’s defence allowing MacDonald a half-chance as the rangy forward slid in to connect.
Trajanoski was sharp off his line to block and did even better with the follow-up, making a superb one-handed save to deny Jamie Mauro.
City looked to their midfield pairing of Vele Dukoski and Zach Knight to open up the stubborn Narrabundah defence but there was no way through for the duo, or for free-running Nathan Walker.
Walker did head a cross wide of the target but in fairness it was a difficult chance for the striker.
Mauro went close for Narrabundah again minutes before the interval with a fizzing drive that went just wide after Christopher Jess saw a free-kick blocked but neither team could end the stalemate and the teams entered the changing rooms deadlocked at 0-0.
The pattern continued in the second half with both Narrabundah and Queanbeyan enjoying lengthy spells of possession but with limited opportunities in front of goal.
MacDonald headed well over for Narrabundah in the early stages of the second stanza while Queanbeyan’s Samale Mohamed was a whisker away from connecting with a drilled ball that flashed across the face of the six yard box.
Ben Harrington, summoned from the bench by city coach Jeremy Butler, then tested the reflexes of South African goalkeeper Van Zyl as City pressed for the game-breaker but the Bulls’ shot-stopper was more than equal to the task.
Van Zyl went even better in the 77th minute making an outstanding save, flinging himself horizontally to pluck a Tim Anderson pile-driver out of the air with a goal seeming certain.
Then at the death, Mauro might have won it in stoppage time for Narrabundah but his effort from 25m, after being set up by David Smullen, was tame and the match headed into extra-time.
The match was crying out for a moment of inspiration but it was becoming increasingly clear that neither side had the key to unlock the door.
Jose Exposito was well-positioned to cut out a cross as Queanbeyan made a rare foray into the danger zone but, as was the case in the ninety minutes, neither goalkeeper was unduly troubled as the minutes ticked by.
There were finally some half decent chances in the second period of extra time as firstly Duncan Harrington saw a close range effort blocked for the Bulls before Nikolce Noveski blazed over from inside the area for City.
City almost stole it in the 107th minute as Richard Santiago headed Anderson into space but Nathan Walker could only direct his header from the resultant cross straight at Van Zyl.
From there the match headed to penalties from where MacDonald kept his cool to send the Bulls into delirium.
1. Chris TRAJANOSKI, 2. Mark WALKER, 5. Milos MILUTINOVIC, 6. Mathew RYAN, 7. Nathan WALKER, 8. Nikolce NOVESKI, 9. Vele DUKOSKI, 10. Zach KNIGHT, 11. Goran MILUTINOVIC, 12. Samale MOHAMED, 16. Anthony PULCIANI Substitutes (interchange): 3. Tim ANDERSON, 4. Dylan ALEXANDORW-RIDLEY, 14. Richard SANTIAGO, 15. Ben HARRINGTON, 20. Igor ILIEVSKI (GK – not used) Discipline: YELLOW CARDS: 12. Michael WEBB (Narrabundah), 2. Mark WALKER, 7. Nathan WALKER (Queanbeyan City)
1. Gavin VAN ZYL, 2. Christopher JESS, 4. Jose EXPOSITO, 6. Jamie MAURO, 9. Ken MacDONALD, 10. Duncan HARRINGTON, 11. Lewis GRIVE, 12. Michael WEBB, 14. Adrian RUSSELL, 16. David SMULLEN, 18. Luke SANTOLIN Substitutes (interchange): 3. Steve NOJA, 5. Cesar MARTINEZ, 8. Brent CHICK, 17. Liam BOYLE, 20. Jovanco NAUMOVSKI (GK – not used)
Daniel Rajic (referee), Alex McConachie, Owen Watson, Tom Wodzinski (fourth official)