Unbeaten coming into this one, Gladesville Ravens were given a footballing lesson at Ernie Smith in this one as a fired-up SD Raiders put their visitors to the sword in the first half. Individual errors and an inability to close down their dangerous opponents were key to Ravens going in three goals down, with goals from Olivia Riquelme, Sharrele Garcia and Mimi Zumaya. A rain bomb before half-time saw difficult conditions on the heavy pitch after the break, and a controversial goal from the penalty spot blew the score out to 4-0 as the Raiders wrapped up a comprehensive victory.
Ravens were without Annika Lee, but welcomed back Stef Lakic for a game that was, on paper, a mid-table clash of two well-matched teams. Indeed, after their draw in pre-season and a slender 1-0 victory for the home team last season in the corresponding fixture, this one was in the balance. A wet field but sunny conditions for kick off, and the football matched the conditions, bright crisp passing, good possession by both teams and a share of the ball. Marli Williams was played in by Maya Jones for the first chance of the game, the shot from distance easily fielded by Jacinta Knight. A raid down the Raiders’ right opened the scoring though, Ava Pirozzi doing well to deal with the attack, fellow central defender Aurelia Smith’s pass was intercepted by the alert Abbie Puckett and Riquelme curled a beautiful shot over Chloe McCredie for the opener.
That was tough on the Ravens, and they reacted well. Playmaker Alessia Rizzuto stole the ball in midfield and fed Jones, whose low shot took a wicked bounce but was just wide. A similar attack soon after saw Rizzuto scrap well to win the ball and feed Jones. Sienna Bell made the run into space ahead of her and Jones eventually played her in with just the goalkeper to beat. She went for power and goalkeeper Knight tipped the ball onto the bar and away, a real let off for the home team and a great chance spurned, Bell holding her head in dismay.
SD Raiders Carisa Herrera was starting to boss the game, but the home team were restricted to long-range efforts, Zumaya lashing a shot in which McCredie did well to save. The skillful Zumaya then found space on the edge of the area to swing in a cross. With Garcia in attendance, defender Lakic calmly rolled the ball back to McCredie, however there wasn’t enough on the back pass and the SD Raiders forward nipped in to finish calmly to take the score to 2-0. Zumaya then unleashed again from distance, a shot that McCredie did well to save and hold on to. At the other end Jones scrapped for a ball and went to ground with an injury that forced her off, Jackie Rice jinked her way into a dangerous position with a great run but her underhit pass to Sophie Steele making the overlap was easily cut out.
Riquelme then shot from 30 yards out, again McCredie able to save. A disastrous moment for the visitors then gave them a mountain to climb. An overhit through ball by the home team was fielded comfortably by McCredie, however she was outside her box and the referee brandished a yellow card. Confusion in the visitors’ defence then saw all but two of their players line up on the goal line, with only a two-player wall. This was an invitation that Zumaya couldn’t resist and she smashed the ball goalwards, Pirozzi unable to plug the gap between her and the post and the ball hit the back of the net for 3-0. Once Riquelme had jinked into the box and forced a great diving save from McCredie to smother the ball, the heavens opened and a deluge threatened to bring the game to a halt. There was time for a dangerous Riquelme free kick from the left that bounced across the goal mouth, before the referee blew for half time and the players could take refuge from the elements.
Ravens were in no mood for smiling as they emerged for the second half. Some stern words from coach Steven Bott had the players in a huddle and ready to do battle to restore pride for the rest of the game. Raiders were back on the attack though, and Mia Stanmore fired in a shot from a low cross that was well saved by McCredie. Livewire Ange Le Roux was introduced and added some verve to the Ravens’ attack, and latching onto a Rizzuto through ball, she got her shot away, the ball just flashing wide as Ravens reignited. From almost the next play, Charlotte Douglas tackled in midfield and the ball bounced kindly for Le Roux, who took on her player to get into a shooting position. With Herrera leaning on her, she battled admirably to fire in her low shot, but it was straight at the keeper. This was Ravens’ best period, Tahlia Butcher looking lively, Anika Watson commanding in the midfield anchor role and Le Roux’s pace a constant threat.
A fabulous ball from Steele set Le Roux away again, and she managed to get past Herrera but was uncermoniously bundled over right on the edge of the area. A great position for Ravens, but the resulting shot was high and handsome from Rizzuto and another good chance was gone. Ravens were giving it a go, but the final nail in the coffin would come when Zumaya slipped in Puckett with a simply delightful ball. McCredie raced out of her goal to clear confidently with her feet, the referee somehow deciding that it was reckless and awarded the penalty. There would only be one further decision to make and mysteriously a second yellow was not forthcoming and McCredie was allowed to face the penalty which was confidently dispatched by Puckett for 4-0.
There was still time for Zumaya to romp down the right and cause mayhem in the Ravens penalty area, and Stanmore had a shot that was well saved by McCredie. Ravens played some of their best football at this stage, a one-touch triangle between Rizzuto, Ella Moar and Steele showing the visiting fans what they could have seen on another day; Moar’s foray into the box was eventually halted. The final whistle brought to an end a testing game for everyone involved, and SD Raiders were the team cheering in the sheds after the game.
SD Raisers’ swift rise up the table will be tested at Mt Druitt Rangers next weekend, while Ravens travel to Fraser Park to take on high-flying St George FC who were surprisingly beaten this Sunday on the unpredictable bounce of Seymour Shaw by UNSW. Stand by for a bounce of their own by the home side; Ravens will need to be on form.
A thousand thanks to Matt for taking some cracking photos in the lashing rain.