St George FC 2 Gladsville Ravens 0

Gladesville Ravens travelled to Fraser Park to take on big hitters St George FC in the NPL Girls Youth League Division 2 on a glorious sunny Sunday and left with nothing after an abject first half and a battling stalemate in the second period. The result went to form, but the performances of both teams showed anything but form in a game littered with errors and stoppages; luckily two moments of magic lightened the mood, both goals for the home team enough to make the season’s highlights reel. Warning : you might be hungry for some grilled chicken after reading this…

The transport hub of Sydney at Fraser Park was alive with the sound of passing suburban trains, freight trains screeching in the background and planes flying low over the syhthetic turf of this neat stadium. Ravens were without their striking talisman Maya Jones and goalkeeper Chloe McCredie and central defensive lynch pin Ava Pirozzi were both missing, so there were changes to make. Coach Steven Bott promoted speedy wing back Tahlia Butcher to the striker role, Lucy Goss was in goal and Charlotte Douglas was drafted in at centre back.

St George had a dynamic duo of Daniella Iskandar and Lia Athanasiou up front, with Lily Perdikaris anchoring the midfield, and were without players themselves. It was St George on the front foot from the early stages as Ravens were hemmed in to their own half. Sienna Bell and Anika Watson were busy in midfield, but it was mainly on the defensive as the home team pressed. They were rewarded with the break through when a clearance was allowed to bounce. Athanasiou controlled well and fed Iskandar on the right. She took the ball into the area and placed a fabulous shot past Goss into the right hand corner of the goal for a stunning opening goal.

The lively Demi Kandylas then fashioned a cross from the left after a good run, the ball perfectly timed for the incoming Iskandar, but the shot was sliced wide. Athanasiou then battled well in the area to get away a cross-shot that Goss had to race across her six yard box to smother at Iskandar’s feet. Kandylas then crossed again, Douglas doing well to clear the ball from danger as St George looked to press home their advantage.

At the other end a rare moment of respite saw Butcher work hard to win a corner that Sophie Steele delivered into the area dangerously, and Butcher again bundled through two challenges to bring Dimitra Vais racing from her goal to smother at her feet. Watson battled well to fashion an opening for captain Alessia Rizzuto and her speculative shot from 35 yards dipped but was wide of the goal.

Athanasiou’s snapshot from distance was well saved by Goss, but the Ravens shot-stopper was beaten soon after when a looping shot from distance from Perdikaris was misjudged and flew into the net. Ravens now had a big ask to get themselves back into the game but they nearly did before half time when Marli Williams made space and fired low just past the post with the home keeper beaten. St George had displayed much more desire in the first half; Ravens on the other hand had looked a few steps off the pace and were becoming frustrated at the lack of quality possession.

With some soul-searching at half time, Ravens came out looking more focused and ready to make St George earn the three points. Jackie Rice played a good through ball to Butcher, but the pace of the ball was just enough for the keeper to smother. A free kick was won by Butcher soon after. Rice stepped up to hammer the ball goalwards, but too close to Vais and the chance was gone. Williams then raced through to set up Bell; her shot was charged down, but she got a second bite only to see the shot skew wide. Ella Moar was involved down the left to good effect. By now Angie Le Roux was on and doing what she does best, running at defenders. She swerved inside and unleashed a shot that was blocked. Le Roux then picked up the ball deep in her own half and set off on a Maradona-style run; at one point she was tackled to the ground but got up to continue, winning a corner for the visitors, who were now in command.

St George still posed the threat though, Kandylas firing a shot just wide. Aurelia Smith was left in a foot race with Kandylas and managed to outfox the speedy forward, even winning the goalkick against all odds. Goss’ goal was rarely threatened in the second half, and it was Ravens who finished the game strongly, Rizzuto crossing and the defender almost coughing up the ball for Annika Lee to pounce. The Ravens defence was strong, Stef Lakic dominating on the right and Jas Waters stemming the tide of attacks from the home team down the left. The ball though was more often out of play than in it, and this was great throw-in practice for both sides in a stop-start game.

Congratulations to St George FC for taking chances in the first half and keeping that lead intact during a spirited second half from the visiting Ravens. The better team won on the day, Ravens now go into a tough game with Central Coast Mariners on the weekend on the back of two defeats that have derailed their otherwise impressive start to the season.

Ravens now sit in the bottom half while St George continue to push strongly at the top. Their next game at Hills United will be a cracker on Sunday. A few photos of the impressive artworks around the stadium to finish this weekly wrap, and thanks as always to Matt for his superior camerawork.

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