Rams leave it late to deny Ravens

Macarthur Rams 1 Gladesville Ravens 1

An outrageous long-range strike from Danielle Cannarella rescued a point for Macarthur Rams in a hard-fought encounter with Gladesville Ravens in the NPL Girls Youth League Under 16 Division 1 clash at Lynwood Park in south-west Sydney on Sunday. The visitors were cruising after Maya Jones had smashed home the opening goal in the first half, but a spirited finish to the game saw the hard-working home side rescue a point. The Ravens were left cursing their luck, and they will see this as a massive opportunity wasted, but all credit to the home team for their never-say-die attitude when chasing a game that looked out of reach.

A beautiful day in Macarthur, peaceful with not even the slightest breeze, welcomed Gladesville Ravens to Lynwood Park, a marvellous stadium on the outskirts of Campbelltown. The pre-game music over the loudspeakers had the bumper crowd in the multi-coloured main stand dancing, and the two teams emerged from the changing rooms to a hypnotic samba beat that could not fail to raise a smile.

The game started as a midfield stalemate, the home team’s defensive partnership of Pyper Pearson and Ellie Fenner sweeping up anything that Ravens conjured in the middle of the park. Early promise down the visitors’ left hand side saw Alexia Mavraidis, Angelina Zaiter and Alessia Rizzuto combine, but they couldn’t find a way through the resolute defence, who were all up for this game. The dirt bikes darted around the stadium perimeter as Maya Miller received treatment after an injury, and the game struggled to form any sort of pattern as the players’ touch deserted them. Rizzuto and Stef Lakic combined down the right to at last stretch the game, and Sophia Grindlay turned beautifully to race away down the same side, only to cross tamely and the chance was cleared.

That did lead to the first chance though, and Lakic whipped in a cross for Mavraidis to unleash an unorthodox volley that bounced wide. There didn’t appear to be much on when Lara Green found Jones with a throw-in on the Ravens left. She swivelled past her marker and advanced towards the penalty area unchallenged, delivering a searing shot that curled into the net past the outstretched hand of Hannah Spannenberg in the Macarthur goal. A fantastic goal, and a moment of quality to light up the game that had been devoid of meaningful attack up to that point.

Ravens threatened to take control, Rizzuto’s slick through ball for Jones was just too strong, but Macarthur were always a threat. There was confusion as Green and Ava Pirozzi conceded a free-kick wide on the Macarthur right. The shot was easily cleared, but a rasping drive from the edge of the area went sailing over the bar. A warning shot perhaps, and the Ravens had to heed the warning. Cannarella then showed the crowd great close control up the left, her shimmy bringing a roar from the stand, and we definitely had a game on our hands.

Aurelia Smith went scampering down the left on to a Mavraidis through ball, but the two couldn’t combine to make anything of the advanced position, then Lakic raced on to a long clearance from Isla Giron but again the roll of the ball on the fast surface saw the move break down. Mia Dixon was looking lively in the middle of the park for the home team, but she couldn’t reach a ball that was intercepted by Sienna Bell as Ravens broke again. Smith and Mavraidis then combined, Mavraidis racing through to take aim, but her shot was deflected and easily saved by Spannenberg.

The sharp tunes started thumping again from the Macarthur canteen, but the home side seemed to be blunt up front, and Ravens continued to ask the questions. Mavraidis was involved again, but her ball through was too strong, before Sinead Fisher and Bell linked to set up Jones for a long-range effort that was saved.

A peculiar free kick was awarded for the home team, Anika Watson having been struck in the face and deemed by the referee to have handled the ball. The shot went around the two-player wall and was well saved by goalkeeper Chloe McCredie, pushing the ball away for a corner. The resulting corner was lifted in and fell perfectly for a half-volley but Anna Wroughton was there on the line to hack the ball clear. That was the last action of the first half; Ravens had controlled possession, but there was always a chance of a Macarthur break in the back of coach Dali McDonald’s mind as the teams went to the sheds, Ravens a goal to the good.

Ravens were back on the attack as the second half got underway. Smith fed Mavraidis who was expertly tackled by Cannarella as she threatened to break through. A fantastic move involving Fisher, Bell and Rizzuto saw Bell deliver a teasing cross that was cleared. Bell then battled well in midfield to serve up a chance for Jones, her snapshot though well wide of the target on the spin.

When Mavraidis was tackled up the right, the defender sat on the ball and a free kick was awarded. Rizzuto stepped up and tested Spannenberg, Jones just unable to poke home the rebound. There was a genuine shout for a penalty soon after when Mavraidis was freed by Rizzuto. The deflected cross spun towards Spannenberg, but Jones was there first to clip the ball past the goalkeeper before being flattened, the ball bouncing just past the post as muted appeals fell on deaf ears.

Rams always had the chance at 1-0 down and a corner from the left bounced invitingly inside the six-yard box but was cleared. Wroughton and Grindlay then combined well, but a shot wasn’t forthcoming and the chance quickly disappeared. It was all smiles from Abby Duggan when she flicked a back-header back to McCredie, panic averted when McCredie raced out to read the unexpected move. The wind had finally picked up to what we expect from Sydney’s crazy weather, and the trees were swaying, suggesting a slight advantage in favour of the Rams. All of a sudden Ravens were struggling to get out of their half. Cannarella fed Mia Murialdo whose shot was cleared, and Smith had to shield a ball out with attackers snapping like hyenas at her back.

The controlled possession at the back continued though for the Ravens, but it was getting riskier as the game went on. The best form of defence was attack. Jones cut in and shot from the right, her left-foot shot rolling just wide, Green lofted in a shot following a Rizzuto corner, Spannenberg fielding easily, and a ball fell invitingly for Rizzuto who fired from distance, but well wide of the goal.

Miller raced up the right on a long run, but was marshelled well before delivering any sort of cross. Rizzuto then sent through a perfect ball for Green whose cross just evaded the swinging leg of Jones. The game was finely poised, waiting for a moment of class to settle the result. What we got was almost a carbon copy of the Ravens’ goal in the first half – a throw-in found Cannarella on the left who spun past Zaiter and advanced. She unleashed a fierce shot that soared over the despairing dive of McCredie and into the very top left-hand corner of the goal for a sensational equaliser. The celebrations were quite rightly loud and energetic, the Ravens players and coaching staff stunned by that bolt from the blue.

There was still time for a winner, and Ravens were back on the attack, smarting after conceding such a late equaliser. Mavraidis crossed and Jones battled well to win a corner. When the ball was cleared, Green took aim from distance, but the ball sailed over, and with it went the chance of regaining the lead as the whistle sounded for full time.

You will not see a better goal this weekend; if you get a chance, check it out online. It took something special to deny the Ravens today, and for all of their controlled possession in defence and probing wing play, the second goal would not arrive and the lack of a cutting edge cost them dearly. Coach McDonald will be delighted with the way his team kept possession and looked in control for large parts of the game, but the team esky did receive a hefty boot as Macarthur scored, and they will need to be more ruthless as the season progresses if they want to move away from the foot of the table.

Macarthur Rams are up against Institute on Sunday in what should be a difficult game, while Blacktown Spartans are the visitors to Christie Park as Ravens go in search of their first home points of the season at the fourth attempt. Be there at the Arctic Circle and enjoy some top quality GYL Under 16s Division One football.

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