Marconi Stallions 1 Gladesville Ravens 1

Girls Youth League Under 15 Division 2 football came to Marconi Stadium on Sunday, the main stadium graced with an absorbing game that provided plenty of entertainment for the bumper crowd. The persistence of Gladesville Ravens central defender Aurelia Smith opened the scoring, lifting an awkward bouncing ball into the net, before a controversial equaliser for Marconi, keeper Chloe McCredie adjudged to have caught the ball behind the line following a shot from Ava Paolini after a short corner. Despite the endeavour of both teams in the second half, the score remained at 1-1 and they both had to settle for the point.

A crisp sunny morning at Bossley Park saw these two form teams go head to head and home ground advantage was tipped to make the difference. The dangerous Paolini started up front for the home side, while Ravens had their hotshot Maya Jones as the target up front and were determined to make use of the extra-wide Marconi pitch. The opening stages of the game saw the Ravens dominate possession, Sienna Bell making in-roads up the right, and Ella Moar working hard down the left. It was the pace though of Claudia Cox that created the first chance, racing down the left, a deflected cross finding Paolini, who took a touch to steady herself, but shot straight into the welcoming arms of McCredie in the Ravens goal.

Good work by Jackie Rice in the middle of the park, teaming up with Alessia Rizzuto, then set Jones away, but she was matched for pace, goakeeper Ivana Franulovic sweeping up calmly. A more direct ball from Rizzuto then saw Jones outpace her defender, Franulovic almost letting the ball roll out of her grip before smothering the danger with Jones homing in for the rebound. Both teams were trying to play football, Moriah Lo Basso looking very comfortable in midfield for the home team, while Anika Watson hassled and stuck to the player in possession like glue in another dynamic display, and Charlotte Douglas pounced on every loose ball in the middle of the park.

It was the quick thinking of Moar who intercepted a cross-field pass that produced the next half-chance, the pacy winger taking one touch before going for placement with a long-range effort along the ground that Franulovic got down well to, pushing the ball wide with her fingertips for a corner. Rizzuto took the corner and swung the ball dangerously into the box, Aria Williams missed the header and the ball bounced to Smith, who hooked the ball over Franulovic into the net with a deft finish to give the visitors the lead.

The visitors had a lead to protect, and Stef Lakic and Ava Pirozzi were kept busy, a suspicion of handball as Pirozzi seemed to control with her hand when on the ground went unpunished, and Tahlia Butcher was having her work cut out containing the threat down the Marconi left. The game was in the balance, and when Watson’s ball was too short for Pirozzi, Paolini pounced, advancing and shooting from distance, McCredie scrambling across her goal to push the ball wide. The corner was taken short, with Ravens not heeding the danger. Keira Culnane fed Paolini, who twisted on the edge of the area and lifted in a shot that McCredie got a hand to, turning to snatch the ball on the line, with two Marconi players in attendance. A little nudge from Brigette White was enough to take McCredie over the line. There was controversy when the assistant referee called the referee over, and after some animated deliberation, the goal was awarded to the slow shaking heads of those watching from behind the goal. A contentious equaliser, but the visitors had been their own worst enemy.

With Sophie Steele now on up the right and battling well, Marli Williams introduced to provide the midfield spark and Annika Lee providing a bustling target up front, the Ravens started to get more of the ball. Rizzuto took command of a loose ball and advanced, slipping a ball through for a great run by Lee. A heavy challenge on the edge of the box saw a free kick awarded. Set-piece specialist Rizzuto lifted the ball into the in-rushing pack, but Franulovic easily fielded. Half-time came with the game poised at 1-1, and the promise of more entertainment in the second half.

Good work by Pirozzi foiled a break at the expense of a corner right at the start of the second half. The short corner routine was half cleared, but a shot took a deflection and looped goalwards. McCredie touched the ball onto the bar and Smith hacked the ball away as the visiting Ravens survived. A subtle tactical change saw the black and whites push another player forward. Ange Le Roux arrived from the bench and became a thorn in the Marconi defence, hassling for everything. She cut inside from the corner flag to win a corner, and from Rizzuto’s excellent delivery she flung herself at the ball, only just missing as the ball bounced away.

Watson tried her luck from distance, before Marconi enjoyed a long spell of dominance that saw them win and waste a series of corners. Paolini found herself in the area and crossed, but McCredie was quick to race off her line and intercept ahead of the lone green shirt in the area. A great run by White, a player who seems to float along the grass, then had the Ravens panicking in defence, and her shot was saved by McCredie and grabbed at the second attempt.

A delightful ball inside the defender from Bell then set Le Roux away and she won the ball on the byline and turned to shoot into the side netting. Jones then turned out wide on the left and shot, but Franulovic was equal to it. Bell’s tenacity saw her charge down a Marconi goalkick soon after, but the ball wouldn’t drop for her, and Steele ran on to a through ball but couldn’t wrap her foot around the ball on the byline. Ravens were attacking, but couldn’t find the killer pass.

A run down the left from Williams saw her upended and a free kick awarded. Jones took the kick, but could only find the wall, before turning the rebound in dangerously for Rizzuto to win a corner. The corner was comfortably cleared, but the energy of Lee soon had the ball back in Ravens’ possession – the powerful midfielder was again able to exert her physical presence and the visitors again looked dangerous. A good win by Lee in midfield saw Williams tease a ball through for Jones, but it was too far, before Marconi fashioned a good chance through Lo Basso who shot wide from the edge of the area.

Jones toiled tirelessly up front and almost managed to wriggle through out on the left after chasing a lost cause, her shot in the end was at the expense of a cut back that may have seen a better chance fall to the Ravens wth Bell hovering on the edge of the box.

The final whistle sounded with the Ravens again on the attack. This had been a positive display from the visitors and a draw was perhaps the right result on the balance of play. These two teams could be around the top four at the end of the season on what we saw today, but there is a long way to go yet and as many teams improve, there are some surprising results to come before the end of the season. A treat for the players and the fans today though, playing in the historic Marconi Stadium, an arena steeped in football tradition and with a magnificent main stand that was well populated for today’s big game.

Marconi head to Nepean next week hoping to continue their excellent run of results, while Ravens put their unbeaten run to the test in a double-header, in-form visitors South Coast Phoenix arriving at Christie Park on Saturday before a trip to Blacktown on Sunday. The GYL Under 15 Division 2 table is getting tighter each week. We look forward to a feast of football on the weekend. See you there.

Great work by Matt and Steve again with some cracking action shots.

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