Northern Tigers 4 Gladesville Ravens 0
A spirited performance from Gladesville Ravens in the Football NSW Girls Youth League Under 16 Division 1 was not enough to get anything out of a game against powerhouse Northern Tigers on Sunday, as they left with a growing injury list and a deepening goal difference. Sophie Justinek opened the scoring and Amber Halliday slotted a second before half time. Halliday added a third in the opening stages of the second half, followed immediately by a towering header from Sienna Cooper-Durant as the Tigers threatened to run riot. Ravens rallied to make a game of it as the match wore on, but with a number of players leaving the field with injury, this was a costly game for the visitors.
Northern Tigers had already hosted the Ravens in a pre-season fixture and these teams knew what lay ahead. The visitors were on a losing streak, and the hosts were on a run of wins; surely this one would go to form. The Tigers’ defence boasted the impressive duo of Laura Januszek and Blake Hughes, while Ariana Garland-Powell would patrol the midfield to keep the Ravens at bay. Ravens were the first on the attack though, and Alexia Mavraidis made headway down the right, but her cross was plucked out of the air by goalkeeper Bethany Tate.
Hughes was involved early, first fouled by Angelina Zaiter then crunched in a head-on collision with Ravens’ tough midfielder Sienna Bell. A first chance fell to the Tigers when Garland-Powell threaded a ball through for Justinek, but Abby Duggan was swiftly across to cut out the danger. The game was only just settling into the early stages when the unlucky Mavraidis was forced off holding the back of her leg after a tumble in the Ravens’ area and she limped off in discomfort, the first casualty of the day.
Maya Jones then combined with Alessia Rizzuto and Stef Lakic up the right with a neat interchange, but the cross was cleared. Soon after, Cooper-Durant raced down the Tigers’ right and Aurelia Smith was forced to concede a corner. The corner was punched clear by Jemma Horley and ended up with Margarida Da Silva Martins E Vicente, who juggled the ball, flicked a pass through to Justinek who coolly slotted the ball home; alas the offside flag was up and the goal would not stand.
Duggan then did well to cut out the danger but was forced into conceding another in a series of corners; that came to nothing but Bell was then penalised for a push on the left. Hughes lifted the ball in dangerously, Horley pushed the ball away, but again the offside flag was up. A cross from Olivia Callaghan then saw Horley under pressure, but the referee’s whistle halted the Tigers’ progress again, another flag up for offside. This was becoming a feature of the game. Just as Ravens were starting to weather the storm of Tigers attacks, Martins E Vicente flicked the ball over Duggan and played a pass out to Justinek, who advanced on goal and finished well past Horley to open the scoring. It was a goal of such simplicity; the Ravens defence had left too much space and it was duly exploited.
When Tegan Murray made her way down the byline past Smith, she crossed and somehow the ball was not bundled home, Horley and Lakic doing everything in their power to block the shot before Horley dropped on the ball in relief. A free kick deep in the Ravens half was taken by defender Isla Giron and evaded the Tigers rearguard – Jones was on to it in a flash, and she cut inside to drive a shot towards goal, Tate saving comfortably at her near post. Hughes then delivered a long ball to Martins E Vicente, who had raced clear of the Ravens’ defence, but her close control and flick to try and beat Horley was just too cute and the ball was blasted clear by the retreating defence.
Ravens’ defender Ava Pirozzi was annoyed with herself when she brought down Garland-Powell on the edge of the area; the Tigers’ midfielder got up to take the free-kick and placed a shot around the wall and past the full-length dive of Horley. The ball crashed off the post and the quickest player following in was Halliday, who placed the ball into the unguarded net to make it 2-0.
There was still time for Martins E Vicente to lift a ball in to Halliday, but this time Horley made a save from the low shot and Ravens would go into the break two goals behind, but still in the game and far from being outclassed.
Northern Tigers had already fired in a warning shot right at the start of the second half, Justinek to Caitlin Janssen who fired into the side-netting, when they struck again. Callaghan raced up the right and beat Pirozzi. She composed herself and rolled a delightful ball back to Halliday who finished low to score the third. Cooper-Durant threatened to beat the entire Ravens defence herself soon after, but Duggan was quick to read the danger and cleared well, but the danger wasn’t going away. Sinead Fisher cleared for a corner and the long cross into the penalty area was food and drink for Cooper-Durant, who leapt to head powerfully into the net at the far post, the Ravens defence getting nowhere near her.
The second half had started badly for the Ravens, this would be a test of character. Rizzuto then went down under a challenge and was left holding her ankle; she was immediately replaced as the Ravens casualty list grew. Lakic did well to intercept and forced the ball away for a corner. The ball was whipped in, but Anna Wroughton was there to clear well.
The Ravens midfield then conjured up a moment of play that was like the clouds breaking on a rainy day. Sophia Grindlay turned beautifully to release Wroughton. She had options both ways and chose the marauding Lakic down the left. Her persistence saw her deliver the perfect cross at pace, and the incoming Sylvie Karena headed just over the bar, a difficult chance but a great move to give Ravens hope. Alas, in stretching to make the cross, Lakic had rolled her ankle badly, and was the next to leave the field in agony.
Ravens all of a sudden were full of verve. Bell made a great run down the right, Lara Green delivered the cross and Karena forced the ball towards goal but her header was cleared away. Bell raced away again down the right and was bundled off the ball, surprisingly no free kick given and she was at it again, sprinting to keep the ball in for Jones, whose pass to Grindlay saw the ball cleared.
Halliday then played the ball through for Martins E Vicente. The Ravens defence left the ball for the advancing Horley, who stuttered her run and was left one-on-one with the Tigers’ striker. Luckily she got a hand to the ball and the chance was cleared, a massive let-off for the Ravens who had gone to sleep.
Bell was then given a yellow card for one late tackle too many, her combative style always on the edge with the officials and she made sure she had evened the ledger with her opponent after an earlier foul on her by the Tigers’ defender went unpunished.
Tigers won a freekick out on the left. Martins E Vicente lifted in the ball to the penalty area, Cooper-Durant was there to challenge for the header but Horley was there. There was an almighty coming together of the two players and Horley was left on the floor holding her head. There was concern for the Ravens shot-stopper, the physio was quickly summonsed, there was confusion as the referee tried to prevent a replacement for the stricken player, but Chloe McCredie eventually made her way on to the field to replace her colleague Horley and the game was back underway, Ravens another player down and trying to soak up the last pressure from the home team.
The referee had seen enough and brought this intriguing game to a close. Gladesville Ravens had given a good account of themselves; the tenacity of Bell and the cool calm head of Anika Watson had given them plenty of positive moments, but in reality this was a defensive display that was designed to frustrate their opponents. The Tigers will look back on this one and wonder how they were caught offside so many times, and had they been more clinical, they could have made this much more uncomfortable for the visitors.
Northern Tigers now travel to Illawarra Stingrays on the weekend, a tough fixture, but it’s equally challenging for the Ravens who travel to Valentine Park to play the Football NSW Institute, as we dip into the second half of the season and start the run home to the finals.
Tune in next week for more top quality Football NSW Girls Youth League action, as Gladesville Ravens go into the lions’ den at the home of football.
Thanks for reading. Any inaccuracies in the report, feel free to shout out and help correct any mistakes. Long hair and shirt numbers don’t mix well!