A visit from footballing powerhouse Marconi to Christie Park was enough to instill nerves into the unbeaten Gladesville Ravens, but with nothing to separate the teams at the end, it was the home team who were again rueing their missed chances. Goalless at the break, Ravens had enjoyed the better chances; it was against the grain that Marconi took the lead with a Sara Malinkowsky free kick and they looked most likely to go on and win the game. The ship was steadied when Maya Jones lashed home an equaliser midway through the half, but the home team failed to fire up front and a winner was never likely despite a strong finish.
A beautiful morning for football turned into a hot and humid day in bright sunshine as Ravens welcomed their latest opponents Marconi to the home of football, Christie Park. With tricky midfielder Moriah Lo Basso and striker Ava Paolini looking lively early in the game, it was the visitors who started brightly without finding a way through the Ravens rearguard. The first chance fell to the home side though, and it was all thanks to some enterprise from Marli Williams on the left, whose cross-shot was parried by goalkeeper Ivana Franulovic into the path of the hovering Jackie Rice. The goal was at her mercy and what should have been a simple low pass into the unguarded net ended up hitting the post and was scrambled away, a great chance gone begging.
Ravens had called up their youth to help fill the gap left by midfield enforcer Anika Watson, and one of those players, striker Billie Letsios, went close with a run and shot as the home side pressed. Sienna Bell stole the ball high up the field and won a corner, which Jones flashed into the area, Aurelia Smith close to a telling touch and there was total chaos as the ball was somehow cleared. Sophie Steele was busy down the right and won another corner, and from the clearance, captain Alessia Rizzuto won a challenge and set up Ella Moar for a shot that was underhit and Franulovic saved comfortably. The pressing continued, Stef Lakic covering a lot of ground in her wing back role, and a handball decision gave Ravens a chance from a great position centrally. Rizutto’s free kick, after patiently waiting for the wall to be taken back the required ten yards, was high and handsome and another chance was gone. The half-time whistle was approaching when Annika Lee battled well to win a ball on the edge of the area after Jas Waters had fed the ball back upfield, and Moar took the shot that was well saved. Despite all their dominance, Ravens had nothing to show for it, and aside from some routine handling and tidy distribution, home goalkeeper Chloe McCredie had not been tested.
An excellent run by Steele down the right got the second half off on the same path, Ravens persisting down the wings, but the shot was wide of the goal. A shot from Faith Bugeja was then well saved by McCredie, Ravens reminded that they were playing one of the stronger sides in the the Girls Youth League Division 2. All of a sudden, the visitors were ahead. A free kick was awarded for a handball, well outside the area. The wall was set and set-piece taker Malinkowsky stepped up to curl her shot over the wall but directly at McCredie. Two seconds later the ball had somehow bounced into the net, a moment that the cultured Ravens shot-stopper will not look back on fondly.
Ravens now a goal down, they has renewed purpose. Williams stole the ball and set up Steele who shot well wide while off-balance. Moar then stole the ball on the left, beat her player on the sideline and raced to the byline. The delicate cross was delightful. Jones took aim and swung, missing the shot but it fell perfectly for a second bite, and the ball was rifled into the roof of the net for the equalising goal.
A free kick from Bugeja was then headed clear by Smith, but a blatant push gave Marconi another dangerous free-kick, almost a carbon copy of the goal. Malinowsky floated in an identical shot over the wall, McCredie parried, but this time a miracle save prevented a second goal, the athletic Ravens keeper launching herself bravely at the striker’s feet to smother. Rizzuto was then dispossessed on the edge of her own area when trying to mount a counter attack, and she was relieved when the shot was well wide. Paolini then curled in another free kick as Marconi looked to turn their dominance into goals, again a combination of Ava Pirozzi and Smith were able to clear, their goal under siege.
Ravens have built a reputation of finishing strongly, and this game was no different. The home team went on the attack to find a winner. Jones was able to bundle through and shot from distance straight at the keeper, and Ravens won a series of corners, a Pirozzi header causing mayhem in the Marconi box. The tide had turned and the pressure absorbed by the Ravens in the early stages of the second half was thrown right back at the visitors.
With time running out, Moar raced down the left hand side towards the byline and was well tackled. The referee generously awarded a free kick to the protests of the Marconi players. Rizzuto lined up the free kick, and the shot cleared the wall but was off-target, and with that final chance the referee brought the game to a close.
This had been quite a contest. Not a classic by any stretch of the imagination, but both teams had enjoyed heavy pressure down at the National Park end of pitch in either half. Today was all about the resolute defending from both teams and some key moments that changed the complexion of the game completely.
Marconi search for their first win of the season next Sunday with a home game against Nepean, while Ravens entertain Blacktown City, looking to turn some of these steady draws into wins. The season is already four rounds old and the true complexion of the league table is still waiting to reveal itself. What is clear though is that encounters with Northbridge Bulls and St George FA will be much anticipated for all teams in this exciting division.