Gladesville Ravens 2 Hills United 1

Gladesvillle Ravens GYL Under 15 Division 2 played their first game at home for the 2022 season, on the hallowed turf of Christie Park No 1, and banked the three points against Hills United thanks to a late flurry. A glorious first half strike from Emily Jackson saw Hills lead at the break, and they were in the driving seat until the final ten minutes when goals from Maya Jones and Alessia Rizzuto turned the result on its head. Ravens know that they got lucky on a day where they didn’t hit their stride, but the result will give them a boost at this early stage of a long season.

The home team came into this game on the back of a late equalising goal that saw them only pick up the solitary point from the trip to Sutherland, while the visitors were given a difficult welcome by Northbridge Bulls in round one which they were keen to erase. It was Gladesville on the attack early on, Ella Moar bundled over to win a free kick out on the left as they attacked the National Park end, and play-maker Rizzuto forced a punch from the Hills keeper. Moar was busy in the opening stages, racing down the left, and Jones intercepted the resulting goalkick but could only shoot tamely at the keeper. Taylah Khoudair and Indigo Williams teamed up beautifully to give Hills their first attack, dealt with by Chloe McCredie in the Ravens goal, and Williams and Ravens’ central defender Ava Pirozzi were having a telling duel as Hills pressed for a goal. Asha Eveniss shot from distance as Hills found their range, but it was up the other end where the best play was happening. Jones’ corner was met by the head of Aurelia Smith but sent wide, Jones ran through on goal and shot early under pressure, the keeper making a good stop. Jones was having a busy game, and she released Jackie Rice, but she couldn’t force the ball in.

Jas Waters then teed up Moar with a cheeky ball down the Ravens left. Moar rode a challenge and the defence opened up but her shot lacked power. The lively Tahlia Butcher, making her first appearance of the season, played the ball through for Jones whose shot was again well saved and soon after Marli Williams was fed by Jones and her shot was saved. Hills then had a sustained period of intense pressure as the half wore on. Resolute defending from Waters and Stef Lakic kept the Hills strike force at bay, while tricky midfielder Samantha Wickremeratne gave the visiting fans plenty to cheer. A snapshot from distance from Ravens’ debutant Charlotte Douglas made sure Hills would not have it all their own way, but it was from a corner that the visitors took the lead with half time approaching. The ball into the mix was cleared, but kept alive by Hills, eventually breaking for Jackson, who controlled on the edge of the box and sent a beautiful shot curling towards goal. McCredie couldn’t get her fingers on the shot and the ball hit the inside of the post and rolled along the line into the net for a spectacular opening goal.

The half ended with Ravens back on the attack, Angie Le Roux winning a corner after a powerful run, which Rizzuto lifted in for Jones to hit just wide. A yellow card for captain Rizzuto demonstrated the frustration in the home team, her impetuous clip of the heels right in front of the referee earning a lecture and a booking to end the first half.

The second half started with Ravens again on the offensive, Williams had plenty of the ball up the right but couldn’t find a good cross, Rizzuto tricked her way up the right to cause panic in the Hills defence which resulted in another corner. Butcher couldn’t find any power in the header when the ball was swung in and the frustration continued for the Ravens. Hills were dangerous on the break, Anika Watson was strong in the lynchpin role at the base of the midfield, although she couldn’t prevent a shot that just cleared the Ravens goal.

Rizzuto’s turn and shot from outside the box was just over as Ravens looked to turn the screw, Lakic was finding more room down the right, but the home team almost conceded a second goal when a corner from Jade Seghabi was helped onto the bar and away. This was something of a turning point in the game as Ravens started to press. Sophie Steele’s ball in to Jones saw her bundle through a challenge and shoot just wide, Le Roux rampaged up the left to cross, but Jones was crowded out, and Annika Lee strode forward to release Jones down the right who couldn’t find the telling cross. It was one way traffic, just as the Hills had enjoyed in a similar spell in the first half.

Ravens should have equalised when Jones challenged the keeper and the ball fell to Rizzuto, but her shot was ballooned over, the midfielder left with her hands on her head. From the goal kick though, Hills went to sleep. Rizzuto won the header, the ball fell to the unmarked Jones, who placed a low shot into the net for the simplest equaliser. Soon after a cross from Williams bounced up and hit a hand, no penalty given despite the appeals, but Ravens didn’t have to wait long for their second goal. Butcher cut out a goal kick and fed Rizzuto. She strode on and looped in a shot from 20 yards, which deceived the keeper and squirmed into the net. Ravens were motoring now, the lively Jones beat her player in the penalty area and set up Rizzuto but the shot was weak, and Williams sent in another teasing cross that saw Jones pressure the keeper into a corner. Some crafty possession by the corner flag saw the final minute out and the referee brought the game to a close at 2-1.

This was a tough loss to take for the Hills after leading for half the game, and Ravens will be relieved that their pressure finally turned into goals in their hour of need. Hills remain surprisingly winless to start their season, while Ravens have a win and a draw from their first two games. With games postponed due to the torrential rain over the week, we’ll still not see which teams are emerging as front-runners in the division, but this has been an encouraging start to the season for the Ravens. Next up is the old foe UNSW while Hills entertain the impressive SD Raiders. The 2022 season is up and running.

Big thanks to Matt and Nic for taking today’s photos.

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