Mother’s Day at Christie Park and between sips of champagne, the mums of Gladesville Ravens were rewarded with a hard-earned 2-0 victory for their girls against a determined Mount Druitt team. After some testing opening moments when it looked like nothing would fall for them, the Ravens finally got the opening goal, Sienna Bell sweeping home at the far post. Taking that one-goal advantage into the second half, Ravens struggled to fashion any clear chances and had to rely on the generosity of the referee for a fortuitous penalty award, a composed Alessia Rizzuto dispatching the spot-kick to double the lead. The visitors will be encouraged by their display, almost turning around the deficit in the second half, but for the Ravens, this is a statement of intent for the rest of the season.
A day swathed in brilliant sunshine greeted the two teams, following a wintry morning of SAP action at Christie Park, and an unusually late kick off meant this game was played in the peak of the beaming sun. The visitors Mount Druitt were coming off the back of a brave midweek draw with South Coast Flame and last weekend’s slender reverse against high-flying Sutherland, while the Ravens coninued their revival with a win at Inter Lions in the cross-river derby.
Ravens made the first move, Marli Williams shooting wide from an Ella Moar cross, and Ella Mangan in the heart of the visitors’ defence knew that she was going to be in for a busy afternoon. Rizzuto’s persistence then won a corner, which she delivered into the area where Moar and defender Aurelia Smith put the pressure on, but goalkeeper Elizabeth Kwiatkowski was equal to it. The visitors won a corner of their own soon after, the perfect delivery causing panic but Anika Watson quick to clear.
What has become a feature of a Gladesville Ravens game this season is a run from central defender Ava Pirozzi, and she embarked on another romp upfield that ultimately led to Bell racing past two defenders to win another corner. When the ball was played in by Rizzuto, the ball fell perfectly for Maya Jones, but her shot from four yards out was high and handsome, nestling into the building site behind the Mount Druitt goal. The star striker was left holding her head in disbelief; would Ravens be made to pay for their profilgacy? Just as the Ravens started to feel like it could be ‘one of those days’, the breakthrough came.
An interception by Smith and some clever play by Jones found Sophie Steele, who made herself room down the right and delivered a delicious cross; Jones and Annika Lee couldn’t get the vital touch, but the ball fell perfectly for the incoming Bell to lash the ball into the goal and wheel away in celebration. This was much more like it for Ravens, and they went on the attack in a bid to get themselves further ahead by the break.
A clever free kick from Rizzuto saw Jones spring the offside trap, but Kwiatkowski was quick out of her area to confront the Ravens’ striker and she did well to clear the danger. That combination continued its assault, Rizzuto winning the ball and feeding Jones for a shot that was well saved. An interception by Jas Waters then saw Anika Watson scrap to win the ball in a good position and feed Jones, the shot again smothered by the busy Kwiatkowski.
A penalty shout for the home side was waved away as Jones was tackled heavily in the corner of the area, a corner the only reward; there would have been protests if that had been given. Then the dynanic Bell flew down the left, beating two players before being halted for a corner. Rizzuto’s corner missed all the heads. This was a dominant display by the home side, and they looked good value for the one-goal lead going into the break.
The second half began as it left off, Ravens creating the better opportunities without fashioning anything meaningful in the opposition area. A wild up-and-under from Tahlia Butcher allowed Rizzuto to get a shot away, her shot hitting Jones and deflecting away. The impressive Charlotte Douglas flicked a ball to Moar who raced down the left, her cross just too close to the goalkeeper, and there were some fine moments of one-touch passing to wow the bumper crowd a Ravens toiled in the hot sunshine.
Rizzuto then fed Jones who took the ball on and cut back onto her left foot , which Kwiatkowki was equal to. Another penalty shout was ignored soon after, Butcher racing down the left, her cross striking the arm of the defender and all the Ravens hands went up claiming the penalty. The poker-face of the referee indicated no interest in the appeals and Ravens were again frustrated.
Mount Druitt then turned the heat up on the hosts. Captain Mylee Paluch was battling well up front, and from her endeavour, Mia Watson took aim, Ravens goalkeeper Chloe McCredie doing well to hold the shot. When Ravens midfielder Anika Watson coughed up possession, Smith had to be strong in the 50/50 challenge, but the danger wasn’t clear until McCredie had snatched the high ball out of the air. With Zoe Twining coming in to give some grit to the midfield, Ravens were still on the back foot. Kayla Walker found herself with a good chance after Andrea Plaatjes had swung in a cross, but the shot was charged down.
Livewire Mia Watson then forged a great run down the left for Mount Druitt, and with the Ravens commited in attack and slow to regroup, her cross was perfect for the in-rushing Paluch at the near post, but the ball was sent wide with the goal at her mercy. The home team were creaking, but they were handed their chance to double the lead soon after. A fantastic move in the centre of the park saw Bell and Rizzuto work the ball in a triangle with Jones, who sprinted down the left. After riding a first challenge in the area and awaiting support, a nudge in the back sent the home striker crumbling to her knees like a newly-born foal and the referee blew for a penalty.
Up stepped captain Rizzuto to nestle the ball in the bottom left hand corner of the net to take the score to 2-0, a cheeky high-five for mum on the sideline as a celebration. There was time for Stef Lakic to launch a long ball into the area which resulted in a corner, Jones sending that one wildly over the bar, and Bell turned smartly outside the area to fire in a shot that Kwiatkowsky saved. The final whistle was met with relief from the home team; they had weathered a difiicult period at 1-0, but had come away with the points, and a clean sheet for McCredie too. This was not a classic by any stretch of the imagination, and the bulk substitutions, while maintaining the shape and cohesion, were not designed to change the course of the game in any way; a routine victory for the Ravens, let’s call it.
The Ravens should be lifted back into the top half of the table following this latest win, and have a tricky Saturday trip to South Coast Flame to come. Mount Druitt entertain St George on Sunday, another difficult game, but if they show the fight from today, they will fancy their chances againt another quality team.
Happy Mother’s Day to all the mums out there; the photo didn’t happen with your girls, but they took this one instead, especially for you …
Many thanks to Steve for the crystal clear photos.