Ravens show spirit in derby battle

Gladesville Ravens 0 Spirit FC 0

The width of the post and staunch defending from Gladesville Ravens kept their derby showdown with local rivals Spirit FC goalless in the Football NSW Girls Youth League Under 16 Division 1. Alexia Mavraidis’ shot on the counter attack smashed off the post for the home side, while goalkeeper Jemma Horley and her scrambling defence kept the visitors at bay at the other end. This was an El Artcico derby for the purists, and what we lacked on the scoreboard was made up for by the action and drama in a fascinating encounter.

The players were pumped up for this big clash, and a sparkling mid-winter morning at Christie Park brought hot conditions to what is normally the coldest place on earth. Ravens were without Stef Lakic through sickness, and there was a new role for Sylvie Karena, adopting the central defensive position. Ravens were straight on the offensive, Sienna Bell racing up the left, winning a corner in the opening moments. Alessia Rizzuto’s corner kick had Maya Jones and Karena scrambling to connect, but neither could apply a finish at the far post as the ball swirled by, a great chance missed.

Bell was again involved, smashing through two tackles before shooting from distance but the shot lacked any power. Karena then fed Mavraidis with a searching through ball but the offside flag stopped the dynamic striker in her tracks. Elana Raso was looking dangerous on the right hand side for Spirit and Juliet Harris was confident to take the ball forward from defence, but the high back line of the Ravens made the offside flag the twelfth player for the home team and Ravens continued to get into good positions.

A weak pass from defence was cut out by Jones as Ravens pressed from a goal kick, but she was hunted down before getting in the shot, while at the other end Ava Pirozzi had to be alert to intervene when Emily Visser threatened to break clear of the defence. The threat of Harris rampaging forward seemed to be nullified by the relatively aimless through balls that just didn’t seem to be working, but Raso finally got free on the right and fired in a cross that Ravens’ goalkeeper Jemma Horley did well to smother. The best chance of the half came through Sarah Lievano, who was played in on the right side of the penalty area, bouncing off a challenge by Pirozzi before the ball was somehow scrambled away.

Rizzuto then played in Anna Wroughton on the right, but she was harshly adjudged to have fouled her defender before she could get the shot away. Horley was then called into action, athletically tipping away a shot from Raso after she had stolen a yard in the area. The resulting corner couldn’t be turned in at the far post by Alicia Leggatt and Ravens survived.

Isla Giron found herself in an advanced position, the defender turning into an attacker for a brief moment, before a shot from distance by Wroughton was spilled by Kiara Fragomeli with Mavraidis waiting, but the Spirit goalkeeper was quick to snatch the rebound. Giron shot from distance but this time the ball was high and handsome, and Spirit almost snatched the lead late in the half as Karena gave the ball away to Lievano, but she blazed wide when well-placed and the score remained locked at 0-0.

The referee was being liberal with the cards, Sinead Fisher shown a yellow for a foul on Visser as the second half started at pace. Nikkita Fazzari headed just wide from the free-kick, and Spirit were on the front foot. Bell was back quickly to concede a corner as Sumalee Radzki threatened, and Giron was dominant from the cross, heading the ball away under pressure. Karena then concded a cheap free-kick on the edge of the penalty area as the pressure continued, Fazzari shot just wide of the post with Horley at full stretch.

Just as Spirit were threatening to overpower the home team, Ravens almost took the lead against the run of play. Angelina Zaiter sold her opponent an outstanding nutmeg after battling to win the ball, and she slipped the ball through for Mavraidis. Fragomeli was all at sea as the Ravens striker took the early shot, which swerved onto the post and out to safety with the crowd out of their seats. Lara Green was the next into the book for a seemingly tame foul as Spirit continued to push. Fazzari played in Raso but Karena intervened with a great tackle. Raso made headway up the right and chose to pass instead of shooting when the opportunity seemed clear, and Maddie Tannous raced up the right to force a great save by Horley, and the ball fell kindly for Ravens, bouncing off the Spirit striker for a goal kick.

Ravens weren’t without their moments. Wroughton slashed at a volley as a bouncing ball made its way across goal, but it was relentless from Spirit FC. Livano did well on the left and Horley managed to stick out a hand to save, with Abby Duggan in attendance to clear up. Roan Linton then advanced and shot spectacularly over the bar, before Ravens had their next big chance. A fantastic run down he right by Mavraidis saw her feed Jones. She beat her player with a neat turn and fired in the low cross, Fragomeli doing well to palm away, and there was no one there to follow up, the ball cleared by a relieved Spirit defence.

A dangerous moment saw Green hack the ball off the line as the away team threatened again, then a ball over the top by Visser found Tannous but the touch by Duggan was enough to see the ball fired into the side netting and Ravens escaped once more. Linton was the next into the book, and there were a series of dangerous free-kicks around the Ravens penalty area. Visser fired in a shot that may have courted a controversial VAR decision had we been at the World Cup.

Zaiter then combined with Sophia Grindlay to play in Jones, whose shot just went past the post, and Zaiter won a duel in midfield for Grindlay to fire in an effort, but it was no problem for Fragomeli. Pirozzi sliced wide to concede a corner, and Green managed to clear dramatically off the line. Ravens finished the game on the offensive though. Zaiter sold a delightful dummy to shimmy to the by line to win a corner. Busy midfielder Anika Watson rose at the far post to power in a header that only just cleared the bar, what a goal that could have been. Rizzuto then intercepted and shot from 40 yards, but the execution didn’t match the intention and Fragomeli easily saved.

The final whistle arrived as Ravens were frustrating their opponents with the high line, and a goalless result was just reward for today’s home team at the Christie Park San Siro, and they came close to pillaging the three points against all odds.

Spirit take on the Emerging Jets next weekend as NPL football clashes with the FIFA World Cup fixture, Netherlands v South Africa at Allianz Stadium at midday. Ravens travel to Sydney Olympic knowing that they will finish no higher than 10th once the season has concluded, but with Olympic firing in the goals in their last game, this will be an exciting encounter that could eclipse the World Cup for excitement and goals. Stay tuned for more NPL Girls Youth League action as the season enters the home straight.

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