Ravens soar to silence Lions’ roar

Bankstown City Lions 0 Gladesville Ravens 6

Tuesday evening’s rearranged match at Jensen Park in Bankstown gave the Gladesville Ravens Football NSW Girls Youth League Under 16 Division One team the opportunity to shine. A tense first half where only Maya Jones’ close range goal separated the teams turned into a bloodbath in the second half, as Sophia Grindlay scored, Alessia Rizzuto converted a penalty and Alexia Mavraidis made it four. The best was saved til last, Sylvie Karena scoring a dramatic header and then serving up a contender for goal of the season with a long range effort to complete the scoring just before full time. Ravens can look forward now with a win and a clean sheet under their belt, and the first three difficult rounds are now put firmly in context.

Travelling to the industrial heart of Western Sydney, through heavy midweek rush hour traffic, gave this game an extra twist, but the players were all present and correct as they lined up against a team containing no less than four ex-Ravens in their ranks. Playing in their lucky white socks, there was an excitement about the squad that we hadn’t seen yet this season, and the team was keen to continue their attacking conclusion to Sunday’s narrow defeat at Northbridge.

The opening moments were frantic, Ravens perhaps trying too hard to get on the front foot, but we had the opportunity quickly to find out more about the home team, Joey Lu on the right looking full of running, with Matilda Sutton and Angelina Zampogna forming a tough back line that would take patience and time to breach. An early shot wide by Rizzuto was the first sniff at goal and she then crossed well for Mavraidis to shoot wide. A winding run by Lara Green threatened to ignite the game, bursting through three tackles, but she was blocked, and Grindlay was full of verve down the right. Karena slipped a ball to Mavraidis but she overran the ball, and it started to look as though Ravens might have a frustrating evening.

The very vocal Bankstown coach was almost commentating through the whole game, his persistent positivity driving the home team’s players to a solid performance in what was quite an even contest. The visitors went very close when Isla Giron played a long through ball for Karena. She took the ball in her stride and dinked the ball over the advancing Ivana Franulovic for what looked like a terrific opening goal, but the ball bounced off the post and was cleared. Grindlay was rampant down the right, and she burst through on the wing but her touch was just too heavy. The same player whipped in a fizzing cross soon after that was helped away as Ravens continued to attack.

Some hesitant defending nearly undid all the early approach work as a shot was flashed in from the right, Ravens goalkeeper Jemma Horley getting down early to save, grabbing the rebound before the striker could pounce. That was a warning for the visiting team. Grindlay then embarked on another lung-busting run down the right, winning a corner. Rizzuto’s corner was dropping on to Karena’s head, but was somehow cleared. Another corner was cleared back to the taker Rizzuto, who teased in an inviting cross that just went past the post with no one able to apply the finish.

Ravens continued to press, Sienna Bell intercepted a cross-field pass to romp forward. Her cross was controlled by Karena, who turned sweetly in the box, but her touch was too strong and Franulovic smothered. Rizzuto then battled to win the ball and played in Karena, whose shot was well saved, before the Ravens survived an almighty scramble following a rare corner for the Lions. Giron did remarkably well to block the follow up shot that was heading in, and from the clearance, Bell broke down the right. A throw-in was the reward, Stef Lakic played in Karena, who beat her player on the byline and lifted in a cross into the corridor of uncertainty. Out came Franulovic, but she couldn’t hold the bouncing ball and there was Jones to almost apologetically roll the ball into the unguarded net for a scruffy opening goal.

Five minutes were remaining in the first half and the referee blew for half time. There was confusion all round, but after a gentle reminder from the sidelines, play resumed. Jones used the extra five minutes to perfect her miskicks, coming out of a comedy ten second passage of play with a wry smile on her face after two big slices of the ball. Bell was having a field day on the right, racing past her player to cross. Jones flicked the ball on for Mavraidis who was surprised to find the ball at her feet and the shot was easily saved. The half ended with Sinead Fisher lining up a spectacular shot from distance but it ended up well wide of the post. One unconvincing goal was all they had to show for their dominance, and the athleticism of the Bankstown Lions team had surprised the visitors in a tense first half.

Ravens looked like a new team as the second half got under way, Anika Watson looking composed as she dictated play in midfield. Bankstown did have a sustained period of possession, but it wasn’t long before Gladesville doubled their lead, Aurelia Smith advancing into the space in midfield to play a sweeping ball out to Bell. She raced on to the ball and played in a decisive first-time cross. Jones challenged for the ball at the near post but it rolled through for Grindlay and her shot from the edge of the six yard box was swept past Franulovic for 2-0, arms raised in celebration at her first Ravens goal.

Ava Pirozzi then raced down the left on a searching run, winning a corner that Jones played into a dangerous position. Bell was dominating down the right and Ravens won a free kick when Anna Wroughton was fouled. Sensing a shooting chance, Rizzuto was quickly substituted on, but her floated shot from the free kick was well over the bar. Grindlay then raced down the wing to win yet another corner. Rizzuto lifted in the corner and Franulovic did just enough to put off the attacking players. It was all out attack from the visiting team, and they had stepped up a gear. Smith combined with Wroughton to play in Jones, whose persistence saw her create a half-chance, the shot going narrowly over. More enterprise from Bell won further corners, but again, the end product from the numerous set pieces just wasn’t there, two near-post deliveries frustrating the Ravens players queuing up at the back.

A brilliant run by Bell won another corner on the right. This time Rizzuto’s corner was right into the mix, the ball fell to Jones at the far post who forced the ball towards goal. Zampogna, right in front of goal, deflected the ball onto the bar and over, but she had used her hand. The referee immediately blew for a penalty as the Ravens players appealed as one, and made her way over to the assistant to confer on a course of action. After some deliberation Zampogna knew what was coming and she was dismissed. Rizzuto placed the ball on the spot and coolly stroked the ball into the bottom left hand corner, wheeling away to the sideline for what looked like a pre-conceived team goal celebration, alas none was forthcoming.

Ravens were now totally in the box seat. Three goals up and with the extra player. That didn’t seen to faze the home team, who seemed to step up their work rate to make up for the deficit in numbers, and Karena found out the hard way that Sutton had more pace as she tried to race around the Bankstown defender. There were definitely more goals in this game, and when Karena jinked down the right, her impressive cross was right onto the foot of Mavraidis, but she couldn’t direct the ball on goal. Wroughton shot just wide from distance and Green delivered another teasing cross that had the defence scrambling. This was now a training exercise, defence against attack, and when Lakic delivered a perfect cross, Mavraidis challenged for the ball and it broke for Wroughton whose shot cannoned off the post.

To their credit, Bankstown continued to play football, trying to work their way out from the back. Karena though closed down the defence and won another corner. Rizzuto’s corner to the near post was ballooned up into the air; Karena challenged with Franulovic and the ball dropped at Marvaidis’ feet, who poked in the ultimate poacher’s goal for 4-0. The scoreline was now looking more realistic, but it was tough on the home team, who continued to battle hard.

There were five minutes to go and Ravens continued to harrass the Bankstown defence. Wroughton and Mavraidis hounded the ball off the right back from a goal kick, and Mavriadis lifted in a cross to the unmarked Karena lurking on the penalty spot. Time stood still as she met the cross with a precision header to steer the ball over Franulovic for a superb fifth goal, the coaches punching the air in delight on the sideline at seeing a perfectly executed headed goal.

There was time for one more attack, and a sweeping one-touch move from Ravens seemed to have met a dead-end when Karena pounced, stealing the ball from her defender and teeing up the most outrageous shot from 25 yards that flew over Franulovic for a quite incredible goal.

The game ended with Bankstown on the attack, the whistle sounding as they won their first corner of the half. Gladesville Ravens had opened the throttle on a game that looked to be frustrating them until half time, and thanks to the unfortunate dismissal of a key defender, Bankstown Lions had been overrun in a blitz towards the end of the match. With a tough assignment at home to powerhouse Illawarra Stingrays on Easter Sunday to come, the Ravens now know they have the weapons at their disposal to give any team a tight game. Look out for Sylvie Karena’s two goals on your social media feeds. Add those to Alessia Rizzuto’s goal against Institute on the opening day and Maya Jones’ strike at Northbridge and you already have a montage of goals that would be up there as contenders for goal of the season.

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