OAKLEIGH Cannons star Ricky Diaco snatched a last-minute draw from the verge of defeat against Richmond at Jack Edwards Reserve on Friday night.
The veteran forward had endured a frustrating night with several shots either blocked or deflected as the Cannons dominated possession and had shots at goal yet couldn't score after Richmond's Michael Ferrante tapped home a penalty just before the half-time whistle.
Diaco's night looked to have ended in ultimate frustration after he powered a stunning free kick into the top left corner of the goal just before injury time only for it to be ruled out. The referee told Cannons players he had called for an indirect free kick but none of the Cannons players had touched the ball before Diaco struck it.
But as the Cannons pushed the ball in the final minute of injury time, Diaco took a knock-down just outside the box and smashed a low drive past the Richmond keeper and into the net and celebrated with Cannons fans who had braved the cold, windy night.
Cannons coach Huss Skenderovic said his players, especially Diaco, were not told the free kick was indirect so were shocked when their apparent equaliser was ruled out.
Some Richmond players appeared to recognise the situation as keeper Stjepan Gal didn't dive for the shot from Diaco and quickly appealed to the referee.
But Skenderovic also praised his star for his ability to regroup and take that final chance which hands his side an invaluable point.
"Ricky said he always gets told by the ref whether the kick was indirect or direct and he said he wasn't told anything," Skenderovic said.
"I kept telling him to believe it was going to happen and he took that final chance.
"There is none better than Ricky in and around the box."
The Cannons' cause could have been ended had Richmond taken a late-counter attacking chance before injury time.
Forward Nick Marinos beat the off-side trap and was put on goal, facing off with young Cannons keeper Lewis Italiano and dribbling past the young custodian to shoot from a tight angle. But Cannons defender Ramazan Tavasancioglu dived in front of the goal and deflected the shot out of bounds.
Skenderovic praised the valiant effort of the former Melbourne Victory defender.
"His transition into defence is excellent and he is a good guy; that play was an extension of his character," he said.
With more tough matches to come Skenderovic wants his side to continue its good play in winning large chunks of possession. "I think it was a good performance and we were the dominant team for much of the game.
"We didn't take our chances but sometimes that is what happens; sometimes you can't buy a goal."
The Cannons face Southern Stars at Kingston Heath Soccer Complex at 7pm this Saturday night.