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Tigers claim title in nail-biting finish

A stunning strike from Stephen Domenici two minutes from fulltime has given Cooma Tigers the loop Premier League grand final with a come from behind 2-1 win over Belconnen United at McKellar Park. Domenici sent a spectacular curling shot high over Blue Devils goalkeeper Rowan Shepherd to give his team the trophy for the first time since 2006.
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There was very little to choose between the teams in the opening 45 minutes as a strategic midfield battled ensued with Cooma Tigers edging possession and creating the better of the limited chances that did come. It took over 14 minutes for either side to take the initiative with the Tigers going close. Iain Elliott made a lung-bursting run down the right hand flank and sent a dipping cross into the danger area that Belconnen shot-stopper Rowan Shepherd did well to pluck put of the air with Goran Josifovski lurking.

The Blue Devils response to this threat was a rasping half-volley from Dustin Wells out of nothing that dipped and swerved and had Francois Bangweni at full stretch with the Cooma goalkeeper relieved to see the ball arrow just wide of the goal. Almost immediately though Cooma sent play to the other end of the field and nearly took the lead. A clever chip over the defence broke for Josifovski and the hero of the 2-1 major semi-final win over Belconnen at the same venue skipped around Shepherd and sent a shot towards goal that lacked the requisite power and was blocked on the line by the experienced Elliot Zwangobani.

By now Cooma looked the more dangerous in the final third and tested the Belconnen defence again 10 minutes from the break. Robbie Cattanach was the danger-man this time, dancing his way into the penalty area before sending an attempted curler towards the far post that was deflected and had Shepherd sprawling as it narrowly avoided sneaking inside his near post. Stephen Domenici was next to try his luck heading into the box after a quickly taken free-kick by Jordano San Martin but seeing his first time cross-shot well blocked by the impressive Jack Blackley. And, whilst the Tigers did seem to marginally have the better of the half the score remained deadlocked at the interval.

The score didn’t remain goal-less for long though as Belconnen took the lead within 63 seconds of the restart. A long ball freed Wells down the left channel and the striker shrugged off the challenge of Mariano Real and cut infield to send a shot inside Bangweni’s near post. The Blue Devils had the bit between the teeth and went for the throat. A corner was poked on by Jack Blackley and Zach Maybury was close to turning the ball over the line from close range.

Taylor Beaton also went close with a chip after Bangweni punched a corner to the edge of the penalty box before Cooma upped the ante. Domenici was close with a curling effort before the Tigers equalised. Winger Iain Elliott rampaged down the right wing and burst into the area before being upended by David Arranz leaving referee Richard Naumovski no option but to award the penalty. The experienced Alex Castro stepped up to the plate and shimmied before sending Shepherd the wrong way to make it 1-1.

Shortly afterwards a humdinger from Castro was deflected wide as Cooma pushed on. Wells almost put the Blue Devils back in front but it was the Tigers who won it with time running out. Domenici collected a pass, turned and blazed an effort high into the top of the net for the match-winner. Belconnen still had a chance to pull it out of the fire but David Kemp was put under pressure by Real and shot wide and the Tigers held on to claim a memorable win.