Gladesville Ravens 0 Sydney University 1
Late drama in a fabulous game at the home of football Christie Park on Sunday saw Sydney University snatch a thrilling winner to turn this Football NSW Girls Youth League Under 16 Division 1 game on its head. Former Ravens player Georgia Lim followed up a save to bundle home to secure the three points that keeps her team in the hunt for a finals berth. Moments earlier, a phantom penalty had been awarded to the Ravens, however captain Alessia Rizzuto hit the post with the spot-kick to deny her team a shock lead against one of the league’s strongest teams. What a finish to an entertaining game on a weekend filled with penalty madness.
A perfect day for football gave us overcast conditions and moderate temperatures, two of the basic ingredients for a classic game of football. The key today for the home team would be a strong defensive unit, and with Sylvie Karena again deployed in the centre of defence, with Abby Duggan unavailable, they would seek to minimise the direct threat in front of goal. Sydney University had a formidable backline including the tough-tackling Lucia Bennett and Anne Zebec, and they would be a tough nut to crack for the hosts.
With so much expected from the visitors, the start to the game was very scrappy, neither team able to gain meaningful possession.
The students had the first chance, Karena brushed aside by brightly-booted Olivia Vanderlaan but her shot was easily saved by Ravens goalkeeper Jemma Horley. Ravens produced a good move, Maya Jones showing endeavour down the right to tee up Rizzuto, but her long-range effort was well wide of the goal. Karena and Vanderlaan continued their battles, but Ryah Mokoia set Vanderlaan away, and her shot, under pressure from Isla Giron, was tipped over by Horley.
Sienna Beram teased in the corner, Karena headed half clear and Rizzuto was forced to hack the ball off the line as Uni turned up the heat. Ravens held firm and started to play some tidy football in the middle of the park. Zara Yee and Vanderlaan combined to fashion a half chance, before Ravens had their own opportunity. Jones raced down the right to beat her player, and when she went to lift the ball in, the ball skewed off the side of her foot and almost caught out Siena Baudana in the visitors’ goal.
Sydney Uni then laid siege on the Ravens’ goal. Sari McKenzie slipped in Juliet Chiew, her shot well saved by Horley, but the flag was up. A glorious chance was then spurned when Giron and Horley lost communication with each other and Vanderlaan chipped wide with the goal at her mercy. Horley went down bravely at Vanderlaan’s feet soon after, and Ravens were certainly living dangerously.
A free-kick from the right by Rizzuto was cleared only as far as Aurelia Smith, who turned and fired on goal, Baudana watching the ball roll past the post.
Jakeelie Hook fizzed in a cross that Sinead dealt with well at the far post, Bennett played in Vanderlaan who was well marshalled by Karena, and Lim did well to play in Mia Clements, but she blazed wide when well-placed. Chiew’s ball to Vanderlaan looked offside, but for once the assistant’s flag didn’t catch out the University striker, but Horley was down well to save again and the half-time whistle was welcome relief for the home team.
Gladesville tried to take the game to Uni at the start of the game, Jones stealing a ball high up the field, but Anna Wroughton’s shot sliced wildly off her foot. The visitors were still looking the most likely to break the deadlock and enjoyed a lot of possession, but a free-kick when Sophia Grindlay was fouled presented a chance. Stef Lakic stepped up and lashed in a shot on goal from distance, Baudana opted to push the ball in the air, and caught the ball at the second attempt, under pressure from Jones. Suggestions that the ball was over the line were met with laughs by the officials, and a free-kick for a push was the outcome.
Hook was the tormentor of the Ravens defence from then on, cutting inside from the left to rasp in a shot that Horley tipped onto the bar, the rebound wide of the post. Hook then got into a great position down the left and fired over. Amy Barker then slalomed through the Ravens defence, showing glorious close-control, but her shot was charged down and Horley made the save. Ravens were under intense pressure and Anika Watson was forced off with an ankle injury.
There were moments for the home side, Jones to Grindlay to win a corner, but the dangerous corner kick had no one to apply the finish in the six yard box. A scramble outside the penalty area then saw Grindlay fire in a shot that was easily fielded by Baudana.
Hook continued to bully the Ravens’ defence. Ava Pirozzi did well to block Vanderlaan’s shot after she had controlled a great ball from Hook. Hook then fired in a fabulous shot from the left which just went past the post, before embarking on a mesmerising run down the left, but choosing to shoot when she could have played in a teammate and the ball bounced agonisingly wide. Sienna Bell was battling tenaciously in the middle for the home team, but Mia Nataly managed to get in a cross from the right and Beram was left all alone at the far post, but couldn’t connect and the score remained goalless.
A looping shot from Hook was palmed away by Horley, before Ravens had a sniff of a chance as Jones forced a mistake from her defender, Baudana quick to advance to snuff out the chance for Grindlay. Beram raced through to shoot over, Bennett met a corner with a full-blooded header that bounced and cleared the bar.
Angie Le Roux did brilliantly to nick the ball away from her defender, and her shot was pushed wide for a corner. Up the other end, Nataly was delivering the crosses, Horley doing well, but she couldn’t reach one of the cross-shots and the ball just cleared the bar. Vanderlaan spun in the area and smashed in a vicious shot that Horley saved, and gathered the rebound, while Beram was fouled leading to a Tayla Murgovski free kick that sailed over the bar.
The game’s turning point came late in the game. Pirozzi boomed a clearance upfield and Le Roux raced after it. Bennett came across to deal with the bouncing ball, giving Le Roux a hefty shoulder, well outside the area. The ball bounced up and hit the Ravens’ striker’s hand, before Murgovski deflected the shot behind for a corner. All manner of claims were being made from the players and from the sidelines and the referee quickly went to consult with the assistant.
Incredibly, a penalty was awarded, a decision that mystified the Uni defence and the players had to be shepherded away from the referee, and to be fair the referee and the assistant had got it horribly wrong. Rizzuto stepped up and rolled the ball against the post, the ball bouncing back to her. Unable to curb her immediate instinct and leave the rebound for the incoming Lakic, Rizzuto tried again a second time and the referee had no hesitation to whistle for a face-saving free-kick to Sydney University. No one had touched the ball since the penalty, a second touch is alas a free-kick.
The winning goal then completed the dramatic escape for the visitors; Horley’s kick went straight to Lim, who fed Beram on the right. Her shot was well saved by Horley, but the spinning ball was out of her reach. Lim continued her run and won the race to the ball, squeezing the shot under Horley to notch what had to be the winner, the whole Uni team racing to join the celebrations. It was tough luck on the Ravens, especially for Horley who had performed heroics. Rizzuto was able to lift in a free kick late on before Uni had a final chance from a corner; Beram rose well to head just past the corner of post and bar, her head in her hands not from the miss but from a clash of heads with Lakic. The Uni player was down, and the Ravens defender was soon after, both needing attention as the whistle sounded to end a fascinating game.
This had been a watershed moment for the Ravens. Pummelled by seven goals upon their last meeting, they had defended well and had been handed the opportunity to post a statement result when they were awarded that phantom penalty. On a weekend filled with penalties, this was one that was echoed in the FIFA Women’s World Cup penalty shootout, and Ravens need not be upset with the outcome.
Ravens now have an away fixture at Lambert Park against powerhouse APIA Leichhardt, on a day when all eyes will be on women’s football in Sydney, while Sydney University did the sensible thing and moved their game with the Football NSW Institute to a midweek timeslot. Three games remain and the action is getting tense at the top of the table. Ravens could have a big say in the final four placings on matchday 26. Stay tuned!
Thanks for reading. Football is beautiful, and I urge everyone to take advantage of the bargain A-League Women’s deals going around right now, ahead of the upcoming season. Some of the names that we see in these match reports will be figuring in the A-League in the future so let’s support it!