Inter Lions 1 Gladesville Ravens 2

Gladesville Ravens hit the road again after their draw at table-topping Northbridge Bulls and came away with all three points in a game they dominated but never really looked comfortable in until the final whistle. Ravens took a long time to get going, and when they did, sharpshooter Maya Jones put them into the lead with a classy finish after springing the offside trap. A glorious goal from Charlotte Douglas that would be a fitting Play of the Day on Sports Tonight wrapped up the action for the first half, sweeping in a devastating cross from Sophie Steele to make it two. The second half looked one-sided but only after Roan Linton scored an outrageous goal from 40 yards, injuring herself in the process. A hatful of missed chances for the visitors made for a nervy finish, but Ravens took the points back across the river in this pulsating local derby.

Inter Lions came into this game on the back of a big reverse against Marconi Stallions, and they were up for it. Ravens were missing their goalkeeper Chloe McCredie, so in came Lucy Goss for this one, despite some pre-match injury worries. The conditions were perfect for football. Sunshine, no wind and just a nip in the air to remind us that we are now in the depths of autumn. Inter Lions boasted a former Ravens player in their ranks, captain Aria Miltiades, and from the opening whistle she was the source of much of their attacking moves down the right hand side.

It was Ravens though who manufactured the first chance, Sienna Bell racing down the left to win a corner. When Aurelia Smith went up for the header, the ball fell to Jackie Rice whose first-time shot went well wide. Miltiades was released again down the right, Ava Pirozzi came to cut out the danger and was spectacularly upended to win a free-kick, almost doing a flip in the process. There were faint calls for a penalty when Bell was sandwiched between two Lions defenders after Maya Jones had flicked the ball into her path, but up the other end it was Miltiades fashioning the better chances. She should have hit the target when Ravens failed to clear a cross, the ball just clearing the corner of post and bar, and then when she unleashed from distance, Goss dived full length to push the ball away.

Ravens were fortunate again when a corner was flicked on and Matilda Banfield dragged her shot wide with a clear sight of goal, then Pirozzi had to be smart when Linton reacted to a weak backpass and almost broke free.

Just as the last of the Ravens’ impetus gained from the prevous week’s stellar performance was evaporating, they took the lead in dramatic circumstances. Ella Moar motored past her opponent and looked inside and, as the defence stepped up, Jones raced onto the through ball and the referee waved ‘play on’ leaving her with a clear run on goal. She took her time, and slotted the ball low into the corner of the net, goalkeeper Juliet Saalmans appearing to be struggling with injury, not coming off her line. Ravens had the lead and had finally woken from their slumbers.

Moar was at full throttle by now, she raced up the left again, Jones challenged with the keeper and Bell reacted first, a great block by the defender clearing the ball away for a corner. The corner was lifted in by Alessia Rizzuto and popped out for Smith, who tried her luck from outside the area, Saalmans making the save. Anika Watson then fed Steele, who took a touch and fired in a cross that Jones pirouetted on, leaving Bell to go in bravely against the even braver Saalmans to block the chance. Moar romped down the left and fired in a glorious cross that neither Jones nor Steele could reach before Jas Waters tackled hard to win the ball and fed Moar, whose one-two just found her offside. Ravens had their tails up, and were searching for a second.

When the second goal came, it was a sublime team move from back to front. After the defence fought to win the ball, Stef Lakic fed the ball inside to Annika Lee. She took a touch and waited for Steele to join the attack. When the ball was expertly spread wide to Steele on the right, the drop of the shoulder sent the defender the wrong way and the wily winger fired in the sweetest cross for the in-rushing Douglas to sweep home a brilliant second goal. What a magnificent move that had the Ravens bench on their feet and punching the air.

The whistle sounded soon after the kick-off and Ravens were still experiencing the euphoria of the goal as they joined the bench for the half-time team talk. The visitors had weathered the early storm and had asserted their authority with two good goals.

Whatever was said at half-time didn’t register and Ravens almost conceded within seconds of the restart. A routine through ball was intercepted by Smith, but hesitation as Goss came to collect and then retreated saw the Ravens central defender stranded. She managed to fend off the attacker, but the shot came in, luckily Goss seeing the ball roll harmlessly wide with the Ravens keeper caught out of position. Inter had a keeper change at half-time, but the replacement had no problem fielding a shot from distance from Douglas that lacked any power.

A scrappy period of play followed, Smith intercepting, giving the ball away and then winning it back three times in the space of 30 seconds. Neither side could get meaningful possession and the play was scrappy in midfield. All of a sudden, the ball fell to Linton who lashed it high into the air. The ball sailed towards goal and Goss lost flight of the ball as it looped over and down into the net for a freakish goal. Linton was already on the ground in agony and wouldn’t get a chance to celebrate this wonder goal, eventually being replaced after a lengthy stoppage for treatment.

Inter were dominating the opening stages of the half, but from the kick off, Rizzuto found Jones who was well marshalled by Tanisha Navaratne and there was confusion as a corner was awarded. Ravens then camped themselves in the Inter half. Rizzuto played the ball to Bell who got into the box but hit the side-netting wth the shot. A quick throw-in by Waters found Rizzuto who crossed for Jones, but there was no power in the shot. A cross shot from Rice then just evaded the head of Jones who was free in the area. It was relentless from the visitors.

A fantastic move down the right starting with Tahlia Butcher saw Rizzuto tee up Marli Williams whose shot was blocked for a corner; the corner count was rising by the minute, Waters setting up Rizzuto this time for the shot that was parried wide.

It seemed like a matter of time before Ravens found another goal. Rizzuto fed Steele down the right whose cross saw Douglas racing in like a steam-train to meet the ball, but the shot whistled over the bar, a fabulous move deserving a goal. The Rizzuto – Jones combination was by now taking full effect, Jones racing into the box, shimmying past her defender and shooting low straight at the keeper who was quick to react to gather the rebound. A dinked free kick from Smith then rolled just too far ahead of Moar, who was having a busy game down the Ravens left, before a weak goal kick was fired back with interest by Rizzuto, the ball flashing wide. This was as good a passage of play as Ravens had served up all season, but they were given a reminder of their slender lead when Miltiades slipped up the right only to shepherded away from goal by Smith.

With the game well into its final ten minutes, Rizzuto found Jones with a superb through ball and the big strides of the Ravens striker raced confidently through, but her shot was again straight at the keeper. Two minutes later Jones was again released by Rizzuto and she beat her defender for pace and smashed in another low shot that was comfortably dealt with. The nerves were jangling for the visitors, and with time running out, some expert game management saw Rizzuto pass up the chance to cross and she walked the ball to the corner flag to shield the ball for half a minute until the referee blew for full time. The arms went up to celebrate a hard-fought slender derby victory.

Ravens had the win. The three points were in the bag. It was a mixture of relief and joy at the final whistle as the players congratulated each other for putting on a great show for the watching crowd in the compact main stand.

This was not a case of winning ugly, this was a Ravens team who played some champagne football, scored the most amazing team goal but just couldn’t convert their numerous second-half chances to produce a more emphatic score line. Well done to both teams for a fine spectacle on a glorious day.

Ravens now have a home fixture with Mount Druitt Rangers to look forward to next weekend while Inter Lions have a tricky trip to Sutherland as their difficult run of games continues. See you next week for more thrills and spills from Christie Park as the GYL Under 15s season hots up.

Thanks as always to Matt for his cracking photos.

ps. If you like what you read here, you can check out other posts, and also check out the author page at Fair Play Publishing. My latest book Anna Black – This Girl Can Play is a novel about a local NPL player who makes it in the A-League and goes on to represent her country in the 2023 World Cup. Find out how the Matildas go in 2023 before the event happens, and pick up a copy of this exciting fast-paced fiction book. Available in paperback, eBook and most incredibly of all as an audiobook. Feel free to ask me about it when I see you next. A football fiction book about women’s football – yes, it does exist!

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