A moment of individual brilliance separated these two quality sides as Gladesville Ravens continued their impressive run with a hard-fought 1-0 win in Bella Vista against a valiant Hills United. Had the hosts displayed the composure shown by Ravens’ Maya Jones in front of goal, the result could have been different, but in a game of slender margins, that solitary wonder strike, a curling shot into the top corner of the net, was enough to take the three points back to Gladesville.
Bright sunshine welcomed Gladesville Ravens to the Hills, a blustery wind howling around the home stadium, and an eager crowd rugged up against the elements. The visitors were on the back of three consecutive clean sheets and the hosts had just beaten high-flying Northbridge Bulls by a hefty scoreline, so we were in for a magnificent show as these two form teams came head to head.
It was the visiting Ravens who started the brightest, Jackie Rice in the thick of the action, and it was Jones who first tested goalkeeper Elyssa Tedesco, firing in a cross from the right that was well held with Sophie Steele ready to jump on any half-chance. Despite the early pressure, the home team was always ready to pounce, and with Jade Seghabi up front and Samantha Wilkinson dangerous down the left, they had good possession as the first half developed. A long range effort from Taylah Khoudair warmed Ravens shot-stopper Chloe McCredie’s hands, and Ravens contrived to concede a sloppy corner to twist the momentum back to the home team. A fabulous corner was expertly fielded by McCredie, and she was well placed to save a speculator from Seghabi soon after from a long way out as the home side looked to get a foothold in the game.
Another raid down the left saw Jones battle well, eventually being freed by Sienna Bell, and she raced forward and shot early, Tedesco equal to the strike. A head-knock on the touchline saw play delayed for a moment, and when the referee restarted play with a drop-ball, the quick-thinking Alessia Rizzuto lifted the ball forward for Jones, who read the bounce and advanced into the box, but some swift defending blocked a great chance at the last moment.
Ravens were tight in midfield, Marli Williams putting herself about in an energetic performance, and they were quick to close down the home team. Some enterprising play by Ella Moar led to Anika Watson heading a ball towards the penalty area, Rizzuto helped it on, and Jones reacted quickest, turned her defender and lashed the ball goalwards from ten yards, Tedesco beating the ball away brilliantly to deny the red-hot striker another goal. Moar was finding the space down the left, and Watson slipped the ball again to Rizzuto, who teed up Moar to shoot from distance across the face of the goal and just wide.
With the Ravens defence marshalling their opponents well, the midfield was the source of the inspiration, and when Watson fought well to win a tussle deep inside her own half, she played the ball to Charlotte Douglas who advanced and played a long through ball for Jones to run on to. She strode forward and again shot early, this time the strike was brilliantly saved by Tedesco, pushing the low effort wide and out for a corner. Up the other end, a misplaced pass by Jas Waters wrong-footed fellow defender Aurelia Smith, leaving Khoudair in on goal, but her shot was well held by McCredie. When Moar was shoved to the floor in an advanced position, a free-kick gave Rizzuto a chance to test Tedesco, and she curled in a shot over the wall that was expertly tipped onto the cross bar by the home keeper, and Ravens were denied again, the resulting melee seeing Annika Lee manhandled to the floor, but nothing given by the referee.
The home side suffered a blow when Emily Jackson was forced off with an ankle injury, and a final chance of the first half fell to Ravens, Douglas doing the spade work in midfield to release Jones, but the shot was blocked. No goals at the break, but a lot of action, and the home goalkeeper defintely the busier of the two.
Ravens started the second-half with their backs against the wall, a sloppy pass in midfield was pounced on and some trickery from Seghabi created space for the shot, which McCredie did well to hold on to. The stiff wind was making the going difficult for both sides, but when they managed to get it down and play, the football was easy on the eye. Jones picked up a loose ball and scurried down the right, a fortuitous bounce took her into the box, but she was blocked and Tahlia Butcher’s quick-thinking almost saw Douglas played in, a last-ditch interception saving Hills and keeping the scores locked at 0-0.
A long ball from Smith sent Jones away again down the right, but she was unlucky to be blocked as she turned inside. The game was beautifully poised, and Hills still posed a massive threat; Sydney Miller played the ball out left to Indigo Williams, who unleashed from just inside the box, but the shot went whistling wide of a relieved McCredie’s near post.
At the other end, Rizzuto lifted a long ball over to Jones to run on to, the defender managing to get a foot in to steer the ball away for a corner. The corner was floated in and defender Smith was first to it, but Tedesco saved comfortably after the stooping header was blocked. At the other end, a great move up the right saw Waters do well to shepherd her opponent to the byline at the expense of a corner. The resulting chaos from the corner saw Smith head away well and then block a stinging shot, before Williams got in a header that McCredie saved.
When a long Waters clearance saw Hills hemmed into the corner with a throw-in, the home team couldn’t find a teammate, and Moar reacted first to play the ball perfectly in to Jones wide on the edge of the area. Her touch took her inside, another touch set up the shooting opportunity, before she let rip with a stinging right-foot shot that curled around the despairing dive of Tedesco and into the net for a terrific goal, worthy of winning any game. Ravens had their tails up, and Moar pounced on hesitancy in the Hills defence to set up another chance, her shot well off target though. Great work by Ava Pirozzi at the back saw Douglas battle for the ball and win the duel, but her Beckham-esque shot from half way was never going to trouble Tedesco.
Pirozzi and Stef Lakic then cleared up a dangerous break into the Ravens half, the one touch play from the visiting team getting them out of tight corners and setting them onto the attack with ease. There was one more big moment though that the home team produced, and it was from a mistake, Smith electing to meet a swirling ball with her foot instead of a head, Susannah Murray racing onto the missed clearance for a glorious opporunity, but her firm shot was well held by McCredie and the chance was gone. The final whistle sounded 30 seconds later, the visiting players and fans rejoicing the win.
The three points takes the Ravens up to fifth in the ladder, with five wins in a row and four clean sheets on the bounce. Their harrying and hassling in midfield was the key here in difficult conditions. Anika Watson was again outstanding, and with an assured defence, pacy wide players and an in-form striker who knows her way to goal, the Ravens will hopefully go from strength to strength in the run in to the end of the Girls Youth League Under 15 Division 2 season.
Next up for Hills is a tricky trip to SD Raiders, while Gladesville Ravens face their bogey team UNSW at Christie Park, hoping to continue their amazing run of results. Be there!
Big thanks to Matt and Steve for the top quality photos.