No home comfort at the Ravens’ nest

Gladesville Ravens 0 APIA Leichhardt 3

Gladesville Ravens continued their goal drought in the Football NSW Girls Youth League Under 16 Division 1 as they were given a stern test by a powerful APIA Leichhardt at Christie Park on Sunday. A strike late in the first half by Giaan Pilgrim was followed by two quick-fire goals at the beginning of the second half from Maddison Aktila and Pilgrim again, as Ravens struggled to contain the electric wing play of the visitors and failed to create any clear chances themselves. That didn’t tell half the story though; sprinkling in a little controversy from the officials, this was an entertaining game that could easily have yielded a more handsome scoreline that would not have flattered the away team.

A bright and fresh late autumn morning at the home of football saw the Ravens return to action following a week of soul-searching and hard work. With striker Sylvie Karena out through illness but industrious midfielder Anika Watson returning to full fitness, there would be changes to the home team, while APIA boasted a strong central defensive partnership of captain Georgia Bivona and Trinity Gibson in front of goalkeeper Chiara Iurlo. Ravens started well. Angelina Zaiter played in Alexia Mavraidis, who made a great run down the right to force an early corner. Whilst the corner led to nothing, Lara Green then cut inside and struck from a long way out to register the first shot on goal, Iurlo right behind it.

APIA then flexed their muscles and the strong Claudia Lacalandra set off on a run to outpace Ava Pirozzi as the Ravens were caught in attack, Sienna Bell appearing from nowhere to block the shot for a corner. An agricultural challenge on Pirozzi as she advanced from defence saw the visitors set the tempo, but it was Ravens again who got the next shot on target, Bell lining up an effort from thirty yards that took a deflection to take the sting out of the shot and the ball rolled harmlessly through to Iurlo.

The complexion of the game suddenly changed, and the visitors turned up the dial. Lacalandra beat Aurelia Smith on the touchline and got around Pirozzi, but Horley was there to smother the cross. Lacey Wynne was causing as many problems on the left as Lacalandra was on the right, and it was a combination of the two that set Wynne away through the middle, who finished low past Horley only for the assistant referee’s flag to curb the celebrations. Wynne then cut in from the left and shot, Horley getting down well to divert the ball wide. The ball somehow ended up in the net, and in the uncertainty the referee was going to give the goal with the APIA team appealling, until Alessia Rizzuto unveiled a hole in the side netting and the Ravens net repair crew appeared with a roll of strong tape to rectify the situation.

When Tori Hronopoulos lifted in a free kick over the top for Wynne, Horley remained rooted to her line and somehow saved, then Wynne ballooned a ball into the area which found the Ravens defence all at sea, Horley scrambling to get back as Smith eventually cleared off the line. The Ravens goal was living a charmed life, and when Aktila raced through onto a through ball, Horley rushed out to confront her, but was adjudged to have taken out the attacker; after a long deliberation and expectant APIA appeals, a penalty was awarded.

The wind was playing its part today, the blustery breeze starting to gain strength, and Aktila dusted herself off to take the penalty. The ball was blazed over the bar, but the ball had clearly moved in the breeze and the referee had no choice but to order a retake. The Ravens’ luck appeared to have run out when Aktila stepped up a second time, but the ball cannoned off the bar and two APIA players got in each other’s way to finish the rebound, the ball rolling wide of the goal. Another let-off for the home team, and from the resultant goalkick, Pirozzi was scythed down, somehow the APIA attacker escaping a yellow card.

To their credit, the Ravens were holding their high line well, and the offside count was rising to frustrate their opponents. It was finally breached though, when Pilgrim raced through the middle, rounded Horley and finished well under pressure from Abby Duggan to give APIA Leichhardt the lead. Moments later it could have been two, as Pilgrim raced into the area, but Duggan was there to force the corner. The resulting cross saw Aktila rise and connect with a towering header, but Horley was right behind it and did well to save. A late handball by Zaiter then gave Olivia D’Alessandro the opportunity to whip in another free kick, but this one was behind and the whistle sounded to bring the half to a close.

The second half was only moments old when Lacalandra bundled through on the right. Zaiter did well to get a tackle in, but the ball broke invitingly for Aktila who made no mistake from right in front, Horley powerless to stop a second goal for the visitors so early in the second half. More bad luck followed for the Ravens as Isla Giron was caught trying to play her way out of trouble, Duggan raced in to make a fantastic covering challenge, but again the ball broke to Pilgrim, who smashed home from close range for a third Leichhardt goal.

Ravens now had a mountain to climb, only minutes after working out how they were going to get back into the game at 1-0 down. Good work down the right from Sinead Fisher and Mavraidis won a corner that Rizzuto delivered into the area. Fisher herself was close to getting a header on the ball, but the touch was too faint and the chance was gone. Sophia Grindlay then battled well to win the ball on the left and teed up Bell who got her shot away, but it was well wide of Iurlo’s goal.

Up the other end Giron’s header saw Duggan forced into an aerial duel with Lacalandra and she did enough to force the APIA striker to head over. Aktila was dazzling up the Leichhardt left, her footwork outstanding at times, and she was a constant source of danger for the home team.

The referee gave Bivona a lecture after felling Bell in the centre of the park, before the combination of Grindlay and Bell again saw Bell fire a shot on target, but Iurlo saved comfortably. When Lacalandra burst through on the right, Horley raced out from her goal and took a knee to the head for her troubles, but she was able to continue after a shake of the head. Lacalandra then played in Aktila, who turned sweetly to shoot, but again the offside flag was up. The lively Pilgrim then smashed a shot across goal from the right, the ball hitting the fence behind and hitting the side netting, the crowd in the main stand thinking it had gone in.

Smith was tied up in knots by the trickery of Aktila before Watson intervened to see the ball out for a goal kick, before Ravens had their most exciting moment of the game. A clever steal by Stef Lakic on the left saw her beat her player and race away towards goal. With the defence closing in on her, the option was there to shoot from distance, which she did, and her piledriver was saved by a relieved Iurlo in the APIA goal. Halle Bell then played in Pilgrim, but Horley was out bravely to smother, then the visitors’ Bell hassled Ravens into conceding a corner, but Saskia Emery’s delivery was too deep.

Ravens had done well to get this far without conceding any further goals, and they had offered at least some bright moments up front while they battled valiantly in defence. There were ten minutes remaining when the referee and assistant combined to deliver a sin bin to APIA’s D’Alessandro who questioned whether the officials were watching the game. Rarely seen at this level, the player was asked to leave the field. Play continued as she left the field and when the referee realised, he brought it back to restart amidst a sea of confusion. Ravens would be up against ten players for the remainder of the game, however a head count of the visiting team saw them continue with eleven players, Smith badgering the referee until the assistant had to intervene and point out the anomaly to the centre referee. It was chaotic.

APIA then had one last chance, the fleet-footed Aktila turning on the edge of the area, but her left-foot shot was wide of the goal. The referee brought the game to a close. The result was the right one, the manner of the goals conceded at the beginning of thr first half was concerning, but the way Ravens had battled on after that disappointment was testament to their never-say-die attitude and unwavering positivity. This had been an entertaining match, and Ravens will take the positives away from this one and analyse the performance ahead of their next home game on Sunday.

The Emerging Jets are in town next weekend, Christie Park hosting the cream of Newcastle’s crop, while APIA Leichhardt face Northern Tigers at Lambert Park. The games keep on coming thick and fast in the FNSW GYL, and with only two games of the first round of games remaining, we will start to see how the teams are progressing once they play each other again in the second round of games.

Thanks for reading. Not many photos this week, but if you enjoy what you read, give this a like and a share wherever you clicked. As always, let me know if I got the facts wrong. Catch you next time!

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