Sutherland Shire 2 Gladesville Ravens 2

After a pre-season of endeavour that showed promise and determination, Gladesville Ravens Under 15s kicked off their marathon Girls Youth League Division 2 campaign with a trip to Harrie Denning Reserve and a chance to redeem themselves following last season’s reverse. A superb game, played on a spongy surface with a generous length of grass in hot conditions, saw Ravens weather the storm to take the lead through Alessia Rizzuto and go in ahead at half time. A penalty was tucked away by the home team to level things up in the second half, Maya Jones restored the lead for the Ravens before a late, late equaliser gave Sutherland a share of the spoils in an evenly matched contest.

Sutherland started off this game with a bang, taking the game to the Ravens who were shooting up the slope; Tali Fowler was getting into good positions down the left flank. Alice Van Tol went closest as the home team continued to press, a shot coming off the post, and it was only when Ava Pirozzi released Ella Moar for a searching run down the left that Ravens could regroup and get settled. Lauren Wells then sent in a fizzing low cross into the Ravens area that was well cleared. The action was unrelenting, but the beaming conditions would soon slow the game down to a more realistic pace.

Early season cobwebs were yet to be blown away when two foul throws were committed, one for each team in quick succession, before a great chance for Sutherland when Jas Waters missed a header, a cross came in where keeper Chloe McCredie did well to make herself big and the shot sailed wide, a let off for the visitors. The Ravens defence was battling well to help Ravens stem the tide, Waters and Moar linking up well, but when Pirrozi was dispossessed, a through ball looked odds on for a goal until the assistant referee’s flag went up and the goal was ruled out. Ravens defender Aurelia Smith was unable to cut out a through ball which saw McCredie come out bravely to smother at the feet of the Sutherland attacker, and Ravens were definitely starting the game on the back foot.

The visitors showed some promise midway through the half, Anna Wroughton firing in a shot that went well wide, Angie Le Roux lined up a shot from distance that was well saved, and Moar’s run and cross was also fielded well by the Sutherland goalkeeper. Le Roux then slipped in the powerful Annika Lee who took the ball into the area before being crowded out, and Jones stole the ball out on the right but the cross was wayward. If Ravens thought they had turned the key, a through ball found Sofija Zabic clean through, but McCredie was equal to it, saving at her feet.

Another Ravens corner won by Lee was fired in low by Jones. Lee missed the initial chance, but the ball fell invitingly for Rizzuto, who composed herself and picked her spot in the top left hand corner of the goal with an immaculate finish to give Gladesville their first goal of the season. McCredie had to be quick straight away to foil an immediate reply, before Ravens went again, Lucy Chandlok bursting through the middle to cause panic in the Sutherland defence. Anika Watson fired in a shot from distance that was wide of the mark, before the half ended with a good chance for the home team. Rizzuto escaped a yellow card after tugging her player back, and that gave Zabic a chance from a direct free kick 25 yards out. The kick was blazed wide and the referee sounded for half time, a slender lead for the visitors after a tricky start to the game.

The second half started as the first half had done, with Sutherland on the break. McCredie did well to smother a mis-hit chance early in the half, and Smith battled hard but couldn’t prevent the shot that was well saved again by the Ravens keeper. After Wroughton had flashed a cross across the face of the goal at the other end, a cross from the Sutherland left was adjudged to have been handled by Pirozzi and a penalty was awarded to the home team. It was eerily silent, no one having seen the offence and no player appealing for or against the award. The penalty was confidently dispatched by Ruby Hart just out of reach of McCredie, who guessed right, the scores now locked at 1-1.

The game was there for the taking and Fowler was again lively as Sutherland looked to capitalise on their good fortune. A run up the left hand side led to a good shot that was seen wide by the Ravens shot stopper, and from then on Ravens took control. Wroughton fired in a shot that was saved, Rizzuto slipped in Jones who raced through, her shot under pressure just clearing the bar. All of a sudden it was the visiting team looking most likely, and from a clever passage of play involvong Moar and Wroughton, Rizzuto took aim from distance. The shot was spilled into the path of Jones, the only player to react, and she drilled the ball home confidently for 2-1.

Moar was thoroughly involved now, Waters won the ball and set her away, her run through the middle saw her tripped, a free kick awarded some distance from goal. Jones stepped up and cleared the bar and the fence surrounding the field with a wild effort. Moar then ran almost the length of the field only to be crowded out when the shooting opportunity arose. Marli Williams raced up the right onto a clever pass by Stef Lakic, the cross just too far for the incoming Jones, and a cameo from Sophie Steele almost saw her set up Jones with a clever pass. The game was still in the balance though and up the other end Fowler played in Renee Penitani who dug out her shot from under her only for McCredie to save again. Lee then teed up Rizzuto for a shot from distance that the home keeper saved at the second attempt. The game see-sawed from end to end, Hart finding space to round McCredie, but the home crowd’s celebrations were stopped by a dramatic goal-line clearance from Smith.

With playmaker Rizzuto sacrificed in the sapping conditions, Ravens found themselves again on the defensive. A corner clearance by Pirozzi was returned with interest but over the bar, the left wing was a source of joy for Sutherland, but ultimately as the game was drawing to a close, some opportunistic closing down after a misplaced pass from Smith saw Fowler turn Lakic and her shot found the corner of the net past the despairing hand of McCredie for a last gasp equaliser. The Shire players were delighted, Ravens given a kick in the teeth after going so close, and the whistle confirmed that the points would be shared today.

Gladesville Ravens had given a good account of themselves here, with four of their regular squad unavailable and some fantastic displays from the Under 14s to help out, and they will look to next Sunday to search for their first win when they entertain Hills United. The two teams have already met in early preseason in a close match, and Hills went down heavily in their opening fixture, but in these early stages, the form book does not exist. Sutherland can now go into their second home game, with UNSW the visitors, with confidence after this late show gave them momentum.

See you all at Christie Park on Sunday.

Thanks to expert snapper Matt for the photos. If you see anything that doesn’t look right, a player’s name from Sutherland who is incorrect or any mistakes, leave a comment and it will be fixed up.

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