Gladesville Ravens 4 Sydney Olympic 2
The Football NSW NPL Girls Youth League Under 16 Division 1 burst into action at Christie Park on Sunday as Gladesville Ravens found their scoring touch to overcome a valiant Sydney Olympic in an entertaining contest. A first appearance of the season for Monique Lekkas saw her open the scoring, and a brilliant goal by Sylvie Karena made it two. A header from Olympic striker Emma Dugandzic made a game of it, before Ravens pulled clear with a terrific strike by Sienna Bell and a sweeping move that saw Alessia Rizzuto finish clinically to make it four. A late consolation goal, a long range shot into the top corner from Samantha Wickremeratne, gave the score a more realistic look as Ravens won on home soil for the first time this season.
Heavy coats and beanies were out at the Arctic Circle, persistent rain clearing as the players warmed up in chilly conditions ahead of this big clash. A power failure had left Christie Park with no scoreboard and no lighting, rumours of sabotage to prevent the new ground announcer from making his debut, but the scene was set for a big game. Referee appreciation round gave the players and fans the opportunity to thank the officials with a round of applause, and this was observed immaculately.
Ravens started brightly, Aurelia Smith combining with Alexia Mavraidis and Maya Jones up the left hand side, but a wayward throw-in gave Olympic the first chance, Alana Ghany racing through to shoot wide. Ravens went on the offensive, and an unbelievable goal line clearance kept the scores level – Isla Giron lifted in a ball that bounced in front of goalkeeper Julia Mallam and when she collided with her defender, the ball broke kindly for Jones, who just had to beat the player on the line. Alexandra Capararo guessed right and somehow deflected the shot which struck the base of the post and the ball bounced clear. It was a huge let off for the visitors and the Ravens had their first sight on goal.
A corner from Lekkas was then too strong for the waiting pack in the penalty area. Jones raced to keep the attack alive and jinked along the touchline before firing in a cross that Mallam smothered at her near post.
Giron was then tripped in midfield, a free-kick awarded. Stef Lakic stepped up to deliver a low ball into the penalty area. Giron deflected the ball which caused it to bounce in front of Mallam, who spilled the ball at the feet of the incoming Lekkas, and she made no mistake, slotting the ball into the net from close range. Gladesville had the breakthrough and they had the impetus to go on and make this game their own. Mavraidis cut in down the left and fired in a looping shot that Mallam parried, and Jones was on the spot to prod the ball goalwards, but it bounced just the wrong side of the left-hand post and Olympic survived another scare.
Lara Green then showed us her tricky footwork to tee up Jones on the right. She advanced and let fly from distance but this time Mallam was equal to it. Lekkas then played in Mavraidis down the left, who cut in and rolled the ball under pressure to Lekkas, who struck left-footed, Mallam watching the ball wide. Sienna Bell sprayed the ball out to Lakic who then fired in a shot from distance, which Mallam fielded with Lekkas hovering. We hadn’t seen enough from Olympic in attack, but an intercept by Giron was shepherded back to goalkeeper Jemma Horley by Ava Pirrozi; Elise Biurra got a foot in to force it from her grasp and Ghany had the opportunity to fire home, but only found the grateful Horley’s hands, who smothered the ball. A free-kick late in the half following some hands-on defending from Pirozzi then gave Olympic a chance to test Horley again, but Ghany’s set piece was sent harmlessly wide of goal.
Ravens held the lead at the break then, it could have been more, but the defence was looking strong. Coach Dali was keen to attack at the start of the second half, but it was Sydney Olympic who started off on the offensive, Biurra racing down the left to flash a cross dangerously across goal.
Ravens then took command. Angelina Zaiter hustled the ball in the middle of the park and saw an opportunity to drive forward into space. She played in Karena, who immediately darted between the two defenders in her way and smashed home a fabulous shot from 12 yards. Mallam did get a finger to the ball, but the power took the ball into the net and Karena wheeled away to celebrate with her excited teammates.
Olympic kept up the fight. Ghany lifted in a free kick that Horley pushed into the air and frantic defensive work saw the ball cleared. Olympic kept pressing, and got their reward with a quite brilliant goal. Alexia La Macchia turned sweetly down the right and delivered a delightful cross into the penalty area. Dugandzic had ghosted into the box and connected perfectly with a precision header that floated over Horley into the net to reduce the arrears and we had a game on our hands.
Sinead Fisher played in Anna Wroughton as Ravens looked to extend their lead, but Mallam was quick to clear, and Lekkas took aim but shot well wide. Karena then hassled well to force Mallam into a stray pass and the Ravens pressing was relentless.
Olympic did get clear down the left, Biurra squaring a ball into the box that was bundled out for a corner. The corner was deep and Lakic was relieved to smash the ball away from danger. A fabulous run from Jones down the Ravens right then saw her bend in a cross for Wroughton who was crowded out, while at the other end the Ravens lead was again in jeopardy as Eva Buterin fired in a shot that Horley saved.
An unusual moment then presented Ravens with a great chance. Mallam stuttered her run to clear the ball and was adjudged to have taken the ball out of the area in her hands. There was confusion as Ravens realisd they had the free kick, right on the edge. Jones rolled the ball back to Lakic whose shot hit the encroaching wall and the ball bounced away for a corner. Could Ravens hold on to their slender lead?
A cheap foul by Bell then presented Olympic with a similarly dangerous chance on the edge of their own area. Ghany took the free kick and bent the ball over the wall to rattle the crossbar with Horley beaten, and the ensuing scramble saw Rizzuto force the ball away from danger. This game was quite possibly getting away from the Ravens.
Ravens got due reward for their persistence however, and Mavraidis was the key. She held up the ball in midfield looking for options, before squaring a pass to Bell. The tough-tackling midfielder took the ball into space and offloaded from 25 yards, the ball curling inside the post for a dramatic third Ravens goal. The delight on the faces of the Ravens players told the story.
Olympic should have reduced the lead immediately though, Holly Smith outfoxed Giron and they raced into the box shoulder to shoulder, firing straight at Horley who saved comfortably. That was a let-off for the home team and there was more to come as Ghany raced through, but Horley was out bravely at her feet, taking a knock for her troubles.
A snapshot from Mavraidis then cleared the bar, before La Macchia played in Dugandzic down the left, who cut inside and fired a shot against the base of the post, Raven’s defender Smith there to force the ball away for a corner. Smith then raced forward into space and played in Green, but her cross was behind.
Holly Smith then raced through and scuffed her shot well wide as time started to run out for the visitors. Up the other end, Rizzuto played in Karena whose cross was well blocked, before Bell played in Green behind the Olympic defence and she won a corner from the tackle with her defender. Rizzuto’s corner was across the goal, Karena racing in but she couldn’t connect to force the ball home.
There was definitely at least another goal in the game, and there was relief when it finally came from the Ravens to shore up the three points. What a move it was too, a free kick for offside rolled to Smith by Giron, the Ravens captain advanced up the right and played a long searching ball for Jones to run in behind. Jones took time to steady herself before rolling in an inviting ball for the incoming Rizzuto to sweep the ball into the net, Mallam given no chance.
With moments remaining, a suspicious foul throw found its way into the Ravens penalty area, and Wickremeratne smashed an instinctive shot over Horley and under the bar for a spectacular second goal for Olympic. That was the last action of a pulsating game of football that gave us a feast of goals, plenty of incident and excitement and was part of a fruitful day for Gladesville Ravens.
Ravens consolidate their position in mid-table ahead of Sydney Olympic, but there is a tough test to come next week with a trip to powerhouse Sydney University. Olympic may well be ahead of the Ravens by then, a rearranged midweek clash with Bankstown City and a home fixture with Macarthur Rams to come. Today though was a statement from Gladesville Ravens, a three-point haul at Christie Park for the first time this year and a confidence boost ahead of some very tough fixtures in the coming weeks.
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