A second pre-season game for the Ravens GYL2 Under 15s, a second game played in hot conditions, this was a trip to local rivals Inter Lions over the river in Concord. A first half where both teams worked each other out and yielded a two goal lead for the visitors pathed the way for a dominant second half performance that demonstrated the firepower in the Ravens squad. Good signs and a positive start to pre-season.
The still-new synthetic field and facilities at Majors Bay Reserve was the venue for an intriguing match-up, another opportunity to gauge the readiness of both teams ahead of a long 30 game season. The changing rooms were locked, forcing the players to huddle in the shade to get their last minute tactical words from coach Stephen Bott. The initial exchanges were even, Gisele Del Baglivo lively down the right for the home team giving Jas Waters plenty to do. Once Alessia Rizzuto and Charlotte Douglas got hold of the midfield though, Ravens started to press. On 10 minutes they broke through, Marli Williams forging forward on the right of midfield, the ball played out to Maya Jones whose low cross was expertly dispatched by Jackie Rice for 1-0.
Inter Lions looked to strike back immediately, Holly Smith finding space to shoot low towards goal, but Chloe McCredie was right behind it in the Ravens goal. Rizzuto fired in two range-finders from the edge of the area after enterprise from Anika Watson, neither shot testing the keeper, but a second goal wasn’t far away. An interception by winger Ella Moar in the middle of the Lions half looked to have hit her hand, but she sprinted for the by line before firing in a lovely low cross for Maya Jones to connect and score from the edge of the six-yard box.
A fabulous run from Roan Linton on the Inter Lions left saw her latch on to the ball and fire in a looping shot that McCredie did well to palm away for a corner, quite some save, the home crowd erupting at the marvellous passage of play. Another Moar run and cross saw the keeper spill and Jones had a simple opportunity to add a third goal just before half-time, but the shot was wide and her hands were on her head in disbelief. Douglas fired in a shot just wide, before Annika Mae Lee scrapped hard to beat her player, but she was crowded out as she bore down on goal. The half ended with the unfortunate Moar succumbing to the hot conditions, unhappily leaving the field in distress, but Ravens had stamped their authority and were cruising at 2-0.
Into the second half, and Ava Pirrozzi found herself in an advanced position after intercepting and raging forward, but her shot was deflected out for a corner. From the corner, Williams lifted the ball in, central defender Aurelia Smith picked up the loose ball and fed the ball back to Williams, whose curling cross struck the post and fell to Rice. The usually dependable forward fluffed her lines and the ball trickled wide with the goal gaping from three yards out. Former Ravens player Aria Miltiades was still battling hard for the home team, but she was a spectator as the speedy Angie Le Roux raced through to shoot, Inter keeper Juliet Saalmans saving well.
Lee battled hard to force the ball out to Le Roux, who tested the keeper again, before a controversial penalty added to the Ravens tally. The pass inside from Williams looked well offside before reaching Billie Letsios, who was unceremoniously dumped to the ground as she shaped to pass to Le Roux. No hesitation by the referee, despite the vehement protestations of the home fans. Rizzuto expertly placed the penalty high into the left hand corner of the goal, finishing her celebration with a Ronaldo ‘siu’.
When Inter’s Smith was brought down on the edge of the box at the other end, a shot from Lucy Silk was well fielded by McCredie. From then on it was one way traffic from the visitors. Lee’s hassle on the edge of the area fell to Rizzuto who fired a shot from the edge of the area that gave Saalmans no chance for 4-0. Letsios had a run and shot saved, Sophie Steele romped down the right to win a corner which almost resulted in an own goal, the ball just going the wrong side of the post. Jones then charged down a clearance from Saalmans and the ball was fired low into the net for a fifth Ravens goal. Rice pounced on a sliced clearance from the keeper but her shot was saved.
It was relentless. Stef Lakic was determined to get a goal, but her shot from distance wasn’t close. Rizzuto blazed high and wide trying to go one better, Williams teed up Lakic whose shot was touched wide, Steele had a great run from her own half, cutting inside but her shot was saved. Williams then intercepted a throw-in and raced through to be tackled at the last second, Steele again outmuscled her marker to fire in a shot that was again saved.
Just as it looked as if the goals had dried up, Williams turned sweetly, cut inside and finished with a low shot for six. A Smith corner for the Lions was wasted as they looked for a consolation, but the last action saw Steele lift a corner in to the six yard box for Lee to head straight into the keeper’s arms from point blank range.
Gladesville Ravens had won, and convincingly so. Inter Lions had faded in the final stages and could only look on as the visitors laid siege on their goal. All credit to Saalmans for keeping the score respectable, and kudos to the Ravens rearguard who were resolute in keeping the clean sheet.
We move on to Wollongong next week, the next pre-season encounter with South Coast Flame. Ravens were easily the better team today, they grew into the game and showed good fitness to outfight their local rivals. Tougher tests will come as pre-season continues and moves into the season, but for now, the players will process this performance and learn from it. Let’s go Ravens!