A missed penalty, eight yellow cards and three points were all part of the mix at Melrose on Saturday, as West Canberra Wanderers FC clinched their spot on top of the NPL ladder.
The home side beat Belconnen United FC 2-0 to climb to the top, but their reign may be short lived as Tigers FC and Canberra Croatia FC are set to play their fixtures on Sunday, and a win for either would see Wanderers drop.
Wanderers coach Ulisses Da Silva said it was not their best performance but it showed the resilience and character of the side, following their 5-1 defeat to Tigers last week.
Alessandro Pena Alcazar stepped up to take the free kick and sent the ball into the box to an unmarked Shae Thornton, who slotted it away to make it 1-0 in the 6th minute for Wanderers.
Only minutes after the celebration, Wanderers skipper Adam De Franceschi went down with an ankle injury and was taken off. Da Silva said it was a sprain, but they would know more after it was assessed.
Jackson Paesler delivered another blow to the visitors on the brink of half-time, with his long range strike making it 2-0. Winger Babin Paudyal took off down the line, before cutting it back inside to the feet of Paesler, who beat his defender and sent the ball into the top left.
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It was not the fairy tale 50th NPL match for Belconnen's Michael Mensah, after he was fouled in the box shortly after half-time. He stepped up to take it, but sent it into the hands of a diving Mason Interlandi.
Belconnen coach Fabian Miceli said if the penalty went in, it would have provided the momentum they needed.
"The first half was not Belconnen, it was someone else. We spoke about it and we said let's fix this and comeback to how we usually play. We were fantastic in the second half, the ball wouldn't go in, so credit to the goalkeeper, and the defense," he said.
After the penalty, tensions began to boil over between the sides. Referee Scott Boon tried to de-escalate growing tensions, but still had to hand out eight yellow cards.
Belconnen almost scored a consolation goal after some fancy footwork from Luca Florez found Mensah, who slotted the ball through to Darren Bailey but his shot from point blank was saved by Interlandi.