Institute given scare by plucky Ravens

Gladesville Ravens Girls Youth League Under 16 Division 1 began life in the top flight with a visit from the mighty Football NSW Institute at Christie Park. A rasping effort from Mikaela Gavranic got us underway, and further goals from Milla Singleton and Hope Cleur had Institute three goals up, but a spirited fightback from the home team saw Maya Jones and Alessia Rizzuto reduce the deficit to a single goal at the break. After Sylvie Karena had hit the Institute bar early in the second half, eventually the class of the visitors shone through, two further goals from Matilda Dias Watewitz and a screamer from Gavranic completed the scoring. Ravens will be pleased with the way they fought back into contention in this one, but in truth this was a baptism of fire for the league’s newcomers and every point will be precious in their debut season in Division 1.

An overcast Christie Park, these were beautiful conditions for football, and the main field was looking pristine, new advertising hoardings signalling the increase in interest in women’s football in Australia in this World Cup year. The scorching sunshine of late summer was absent, but temperatures would still be testing for the players, and it was the home team that got off to a lively start, springing into action straight from the kick off. The first opportunities though fell to the impeccably-credentialed visiting team, Gavranic turning sweetly on the edge of the area to fire in a shot that Ravens shot-stopper Chloe McCredie saved comfortably. Abby Duggan was penalised for handball soon after, and Singleton shooting straight into the wall from the resulting free kick.

A tremendous tackle from Isla Giron then prevented a great break from Institute, but the offside flag had already come to Ravens’ rescue. Ava Pirozzi’s free kick found touch and the visitors were back on the attack immediately. Good work by Cleur found the dangerous Gavranic, and her low shot was well saved by McCredie on the stretch, pushing the ball behind for a corner. McCredie juggled the cross from the corner, and breathed easily when she grabbed the ball ahead of the incoming striker. With Ravens confident in defence, it was with dismay that they were undone by a loose ball. Pirozzi played a long back pass to McCredie, who invited the Institute players to press. The measured ball out from the back was easily cut out by Gavranic, who took aim and fired low into the bottom right-hand corner with McCredie well beaten.

Ravens toiled up front, chasing and harrying well, but Institute continued to attack, and they won a corner down the right. Singleton flighted the ball into the six-yard box, McCredie got nothing on it, and the ball somehow bounced goalwards, and despite the attempt of Giron on the line to keep the ball out, Ravens were two goals behind and in danger of unravelling.

There was a moment of confusion as Stef Lakic didn’t realise there was a player behind her, and Gavranic was through, but McCredie made a smart save to keep the score at two. A quickly taken free kick by Institute then led to a smart passage of play down the right and a beautiful lay-off was smashed goalwards by Cleur, the ball evading the dive of McCredie and sneaking inside the post for a fabulous third goal. Ravens had it all to do now, barely a quarter of the game had gone.

Impressive play from Sinead Fisher up the right then allowed Jones to get in a shot for the Ravens. Buoyed by that sight on goal, unbelievably Ravens were back in the game when a disastrous pass from goalkeeper Sofia Fante was intercepted by Jones, who advanced on goal and swept the ball into the bottom right-hand corner of the goal. Ravens almost shot themselves in the foot soon after though, as they were robbed when trying to take one touch too many, Laura Errichiello straight onto the ball, firing a superb shot just over the bar.

Institute’s number 10, Dias Wadewitz then advanced and smashed a piledriver from outside the area that whistled over McCredie’s goal. There were five minutes left of the half when Rizzuto and Alexia Mavraidis forced the ball out to Fisher. Expert hassling from Anna Wroughton allowed Rizzuto to pick up the ball and advance, and she took her chance, firing in an incredible effort from 25 yards that sailed over Fante and just underneath the crossbar for a spectacular second goal for the Ravens.

This had been a remarkable turnaround, and Ravens were now only a goal down with everything to play for. The half ended with Sophia Grindlay reaching for her asthma puffer, such was the pace of the action, and the referee brought a fascinating half to a close with the odd goal in five separating the teams.

A goalkeeping change for the visitors saw Anabelle Croll come in, and it was Ravens who took the second half by the scruff of the neck and dictated the opening stages. Fisher’s ball through found Mavraidis down the right, and she was upended on the edge of the area. Up stepped Karena to float a shot over the ever-encroaching wall, and the ball smashed off the bar. Giron, one of four Ravens players unmarked in the box, was unable to keep her header down from the rebound and a glorious opportunity was spurned.

One of those football moments that happens once a season then had the Institute defence fired up and angrily remonstrating with the referee. Mavraidis stole a ball from Hayley Hazouri and advanced on goal. The speedy Sophia Kelleher raced back to deal with it, and her backpass was handled by Croll, the referee possibly the only person to pick up on it, and he awarded an indirect free kick to the Ravens. There was total confusion; Ravens had no idea what was going on, the coaches were all bellowing in unison from the sideline, but Wroughton and Mavraidis got themselves into position to take the free kick right on the edge of the six yard box as the referee ushered the defenders to the goal line.

Wroughton’s touch was a little obvious, and Mavraidis was charged down, but the referee had seen the defenders coming off the line well before Wroughton had touched the ball. There seemed to be more confusion as the unhappy defenders were again ushered back onto the line, this time Aurelia Smith rolling the ball back to Mavraidis, whose shot was deflected over the top and Institute had survived. Karena’s corner was fired over by Mavriadis and Ravens may look back and rue that missed opportunity to draw level.

Wroughton and Mavraidis then combined again to set Fisher away down the right, but her cross was well fielded by Croll. Smith did well to win a goal kick, her attacker lunging in with a heavy tackle, and when Giron and Hazouri traded pushes up the Ravens’ right, it was clear that the Institute players were rattled. When Gemma Odes scythed down Mavraidis on the edge of the box, up stepped Lara Green, but her effort was safely into the arms of Croll.

It was time now for Institute to turn the screw. Dias Wadewitz played the ball out wide, Sienna Bell was outpaced, Smith was turned on the byline, and the cross was expertly prodded home from close range past the despairing McCredie by Dias Wadewitz for the fourth Institute goal. The visiting team’s nerves had disappeared, and they played a terrific move from defence to attack, Gavranic cutting inside onto her left foot and unleashing an absolute screamer over McCredie for 5-2.

There were still ten minutes remaining, and Ravens had to keep going. Grindlay did just that, winning a corner and Rizzuto’s corner was cleared back to Grindlay who fired in a shot that was well blocked. Up the other end, McCredie had to deal with a snapshot after a corner was floated in, and then back up the M2 end, Rizzuto managed to get in a shot that was again deflected behind. The resulting corner was floated in too close to the keeper, but Giron was challenging the Croll and the ball was palmed away to safety.

There was time for Lana Elkordi to fire in a shot from distance that was saved, Grindlay won a corner from a cross when well-placed. The swift Catalina Wyrzynski then raced past Smith to fire in a shot too close to McCredie and Institute ended the game on the attack, Dias Wadewitz with a snapshot that McCredie did well to save.

It was a shame to see the game end; this had been fabulous entertainment for the healthy crowd. Institute had definitely been rattled, but their smooth-running motor clicked up a gear when it mattered to put the game beyond the Ravens and secure the three points on the opening day of the season. Now that the Ravens know what they’re up against, they will need to work hard against Bankstown next weekend in their first away fixture of the 2023 season. See you all there.

Note : Thanks for reading. I hope you’re enjoying coverage of the Gladesville Ravens 2023 season so far. Feel free to browse around the website for previous season’s games – you might even notice some of our players starring for opposition teams in years gone by.

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