Ravens tame Lions in sweet victory

Gladesville Ravens 1 Bankstown City 0

A clash of two out-of-form teams at Christie Park yielded a single important goal as Gladesville Ravens secured a priceless win in the Football NSW Girls Youth League Under 16 Division 1. The home team kept the Bankstown City defence busy the entire game, without finding the key ingredient, until Sylvie Karena showed composure to finish low into the visitors’ goal with time running out in a fascinating fixture. In the end, that single goal was enough to arrest an alarming run of results for the hosts, and gives them a boost ahead of some more key fixtures.

The Ravens family turned up expecting sweet treats at Christie Park, a cake stall to raise funds for the Japan tour later in the year keeping eager eyes off the warm-up and firmly on the mesmerising display of delicacies on offer to the fans. The anticipated opening of the new facilities at the home of football was however denied, but the building looks ready to go; exciting times ahead at the home of football. Bankstown City’s contingent of former Ravens players were welcomed back to their spiritual home with open arms, but would that extend to the action on the field? The home team welcomed back captain Alessia Rizzuto after injury, but were still without Alexia Mavraidis. Jemma Horley took the goalkeeping spot and the black and whites were keen to use the lucky white sock energy to get back to winning ways.

The game burst to life almost immediately, midfield dynamo Sienna Bell finding Karena who rifled a long-distance shot just wide of the left-hand post. Ex-Ravens player Charlotte Douglas and fellow central defender Matilda Sutton knew they would be in for a test, but goalkeeper Ivana Franulovic was confident to watch the ball wide at this early stage. Stef Lakic raced down the right soon after and crossed, but the ball was cleared, and was involved again, battling to win the ball on the right to cross for Sophia Grindlay, whose shot was comfortably saved. Carisa Herrera looked lively whenever Bankstown were in possession, but all the play was happening down the flanks, Lara Green up against ex-Ravens player Annika Lee, and Ravens were pressing hard to get an early foot-hold in the game.

Defender Aurelia Smith joined the attack, looking to play a one-two with Karena as wave after wave of Ravens attack swamped the City defence. Rizzuto’s ball to Green, at the second attempt, set the tricky winger away, her shot saved, but the offside flag was up. The danger that Ravens faced was the breakaway goal, and Bankstown showed that they had it in their locker. Sammi-Lee Nassar played in Claudia Cox who raced up the left, Smith happy to match her opponent for pace and shepherded the ball out, but th alarm bells were sounding.

Ravens came again, Smith this time up to Grindlay on the right, winning a corner. When the corner was cleared away, Cox found herself in acres of space with the Ravens defence struggling to get back, but the pacy midfielder was eventually hunted down and the brief opening was extinguished. Ava Pirozzi was dominating at the back for the home team, and was the source of much of the link play with her midfield. She advanced confidently and slipped in Karena, who jinked through three challenges to open up the defence, her shot saved confidently by Franulovic.

Rizzuto somehow escaped a yellow card for a blatant shirt-pull, right in front of the referee that had the City bench in uproar. It was Rizzuto involved in the next move too, playing a free-kick over the top of the City defence for Maya Jones. Franulovic had advanced, Jones went early with her shot, but the effort was scuffed and the frustrated Ravens front line were left contemplating when and how the opening goal would come.

The obvious route to goal for the Ravens was down both flanks, and when Lakic sprinted to keep a ball in and forced a cross towards the six-yard box, Franulovic seemed to have the ball in her grasp. However, she dropped it at Jones’ feet, who manouevred her way out from the melee and fired in a shot that was forced behind for a corner. A similar move, this time a glorious combination starting at the back, saw Angelina Zaiter power into the box and lay the ball into the path of Jones, but the shot was fired just past the left-hand post with Franulovic beaten.

The scores were level at half-time, and Bankstown were good value for the scoreline, despite being under pressure for the majority of the first period.

The second half saw the Ravens out early and the referee impatiently whistling for the City players to rouse from the changing rooms. The home team were eager to take this game to the next level. From the opening moments, it was clear which team would be forcing the play, and Pirozzi was the first to stream forward, releasing Sinead Fisher up the left, and her tantalising ball in was cleared. Isla Giron was upended soon after to give Rizzuto another chance to lift a ball into a dangerous area, but City remained firm in defence, and Anika Watson carved out an opening, but couldn’t get the ball through to Karena for the shot.

Rizzuto played in Anna Wroughton who forced a corner out of former Gladesville defender Jas Waters, but again the set-piece opportunities were being wasted by a static Ravens pack as another quality ball was hung up. Fisher raced through again on the left and this time took aim on goal, the shot blocked, and from the goal kick, some swift pressure from Karena saw her steal the ball and fire a warning shot over the bar from a difficult position. When Watson again stamped her authority in midfield and advanced with the ball, she slipped the ball in to Karena, but the shot was dragged wide. This was becoming frustrating for the home fans, hyped up on a sugar high, who were at least thrilled to be seeing some quality approach play.

Bell was having a running battle with Kahtia Bedano up the Ravens right, and the visitors did create chances of their own, Cox racing through but Horley was there to gather on the edge of the box. Bell then rampaged down the right to provide a searing cross to the near post, but it was just out of the reach of the in-rushing Jones. The moment that everyone was half-expecting then served as a stark warning for the home team. Giron was caught in two minds and played a stray pass, Cox was onto it in a flash. Abby Duggan raced in to block the shot, but there was former Gladesville star Sophie Steele racing onto the clearance, who just couldn’t get her foot around the ball enough to force a shot on target, the ball flashing wide to sighs of relief from the bumper home crowd.

The Ravens surged forward, but were urged not to rush the final pass. Green played in Karena up the left, who outstripped her defender and crossed, but the ball sailed across goal. Karena then found herself in a scrap for the ball with her defender, but couldn’t get the shot in when the ball finally broke free. City were dealt an injury blow when midfield enforcer Watson sent Joey Lu to the ground. Grindlay fired in a snapshot that was well saved down low by Franulovic. Duggan then advanced with pace, Green laid the ball into the path of Grindlay whose shot was again well fielded by Franulovic. The screw was being turned, but City always had the counter attack in their arsenal, and Cox was the main threat.

Finally the Ravens struck, and it was a well worked goal. Green slotted a pass through for Grindlay. She raced up the left and cut back inside, lifting a delightful cross in to Karena who had peeled away from the defenders. The Ravens striker took one touch which sent the ball high into the air, and as it dropped with Franulovic racing out to block, Karena calmly stroked the ball past the stranded keeper for an excellent team goal. The delight on the faces of the Ravens players told the story, an outpouring of relief as the outfield players raced in to celebrate the strike.

Ravens continued to push. Jones raced down the right, cut in and slid in Grindlay for a long-range effort, Smith joined the attack and fired in a low shot from a long way out that Franulovic saved, and Green cut in from the right but her shot was blocked. Zaiter then teed up a speculator from distance that went just over to oohs from the crowd, and Green continued her mesmerising runs up the left until the end of the game. A late change by coach Dali then saw goalkeeper Chloe McCredie appear for the final minute of the game, the referee bringing the game to a close soon after as Ravens kept the ball far from goal by the sideline for the final moments.

Gladesville Ravens picked up three important points today to hoist themselves back into the top ten of this difficult league, while Bankstown were condemned to a 15th straight defeat; the first points are coming though, two close games in a row, and they have what it takes to get results out of some of the teams around them. Both teams now travel to teams at the top of the ladder, City travelling to APIA Leichhardt and Ravens making the journey to Cromer Park to face Manly United. Can they build on today’s victory and give the seasiders a run for their money? Tune in next week for more Football NSW Girls Youth League action as the season hots up.

Thanks for reading. Great to see a host of ex-Ravens at Christie Park, and I hope everyone enjoyed their cake! Likes and shares are appreciated, we’ve got quite a readership! As always, fire through any changes if something is incorrect.

Our fearless ground announcer surveys the field for late changes to the line-up

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