Match of the Round – Bankstown Wildcats v Illawarra Stingrays
Once again the weather gods served up a less than hospitable day for Round 3 of the Arrive Alive NSW Womens Super League. Whilst Jensen Park wasn?t lashed by the storms of last weekend there had been grey skies and drizzle during the day.
The pitch though appeared to be in tip top condition for this clash between two of the league?s undefeated sides, Bankstown Wildcats and Illawarra Stingrays.
Referee John Spiteri?s whistle heralded the start of this match with Illawarra settling into good early rhythm.
The Stingrays played a possession game early as they tested the Bankstown defence. The early pressure saw a nice run down the left by Michelle Heyman with the resulting centre to the Wildcats box being cleared by the defence.
Soon after a Bankstown received a free kick after a foul by Illawarra?s Courtney Danyi but Megan Hornery was called offside.
Illawarra were continuing to mount pressure with Michelle Carney making a strong run before serving up a fine pass to strike partner Michelle Heyman.
The tall Stingrays striker had her shot blocked by Wildcats keeper Danielle Bartels before the defensive clearance was seized upon by Courtney Danyi whose shot was gain stopped by Bartels.
Illawarra were really starting to gather momentum. A run down the right flank by Illawarra?s Cassie Holloway was stopped with a great tackle from Bankstown?s Lee Johnson.
The resulting corner saw Bankstown fail to clear the danger before Courtney Danyi was once again denied by goalkeeper Bartels. Shortly afterwards Michelle Carney lined up on goal for The Stingrays only to shoot high and wide.
It was all Illawarra. A fine interchange of passing by Tina Siskoska, Cassie Halloway and Caitlin Danyi saw Carney with yet another opportunity. Again Carney?s shot sailed wide. Shooting drills were starting to look the order of the day at the next Stingrays training session!
The Halloway girls, Erica and Cassie then combined with one half of the ?Twinies?, Caitlin Danyi, to exert more pressure on the stretched Bankstown defence. This time though The Wildcats were equal to the task.
Bankstown were trying to piece together some attacking football but the Stingrays defence looked very composed.
At the 15 minute mark Illawarra put together some fine lead up work through the Halloways, Caitlyn Danyi and Christie Akid with Akid breaking into the Bankstown penalty area. Her shot hit the post but rebounded to Michelle Heyman who slammed the ball into the back of the net to give Illawarra a well deserved 1-0 lead.
Bankstown lifted with a free kick being lofted into the box by Olympia Avramidis. Stingrays? keeper Sarah Gollop fumbled the ball but regathered quickly to thwart any Wildcat opportunity. Hornery and Johnson then combined for The Wildcats before Gollop safely held Johnson flighted ball from the left flank.
Illawarra worked upfield quickly though with Carney breaking through. She attempted to lay the ball back without success and Bankstown scrambled the ball clear. Carney again broke into the left of the box soon after but her pass to strike partner Heyman was cleared.
The Stingrays wasted a free kick, slamming the ball straight into the defence before a great ball by Heyman found Carney who could not control her attempted volleyed shot. Pressure was continuing to build on the Wildcats.
The pressure valve suddenly burst with a break down the right flank by Heyman. The classy Stingrays goal scorer beat a solid attempt at tackle by Bankstown Bethany Major before slotting away her second goal of the match. Illawarra now up 2-0 after only 21 minutes.
Bankstown weren?t looking for somewhere to hide. The girls tried hard to match the visitors. A good run by Lael Kassem saw her find Olympia Avramidis with a nice ball but Avramidis shot wide. Maria Kalogeropoulos, Hornery and Susie Gallagher then combined but Gallagher?s shot at goal lacked power and went wide.
Heyman again busted the Wildcats defence soon after before her great pass found Cassie Halloway on the edge of the box. Calloway?s shot was saved by the Bankstown keeper.
Illawarra continued to create scoring opportunities. A missed chance by Caitlin Danyi was followed by a fine run by here sister Courtney which resulted in a corner. This one caused panic in the defence but a desperate clearance saved the day. A Bankstown free kick saw a deflected shot from Kalogeropoulos before Illawarra were on the attack again.
The 30th minute sees a throw in by Courtney Danyi which is controlled by Carney before laying the ball back to Danyi. Her pinpoint cross brings a shot from Cassie Halloway which is initially blocked by the Bankstown keeper. However, the keeper loses control of the ball and Halloway doesn?t miss her second opportunity with a scrambled tap in. It?s 3-0 to Illawarra.
Whilst the remainder of the half supplies Bankstown with limited chances from long distance free kicks the Stingrays continue to thrive. Carney, Heyman, Akid and the Halloway girls create various scoring moments but a combination of poor finishing, desperate goalkeeping and last ditch defence keep The Wildcats deficit to 3-0 at half time.
Bankstown sub Megan Hornery with Sarah Tabbaa at the break.
The first 15 minutes of the second half is dominated by Illawarra. Erica Halloway, Michelle Carney, Christie Akid and Michelle Heyman taunt the Bankstown defence with some fine attacking raids.
Carney heads straight to the keeper from a corner. She follows up with a tremendous run from the halfway mark before cutting left into the box and laying off the pass to Heyman. A Ronaldo style back heel from Heyman is saved at full stretch by keeper Bartels. Siskoska and Cunningham continue to work well out of defence for Illawarra.
At the 56 minute mark Illawarra sub Cassie Halloway with Emma Stojic.
Minutes later Caitlin Danyi gets the ball in space on the edge of the Wildcats box. Her shot hits the cross bar and is cleared by the defence. Bankstown mount a challenge, getting a free kick after Siskoska is yellow carded for a solid challenge.
The free kick sails harmlessly to Illawarra keeper Gollop. A corner for Bankstown is pumped into the box by Avramidis. Gollop punches the ball away but not effectively. Kalogeropoulos?s header is then grabbed by Gollop to ward off the Bankstown threat.
This attack by The Wildcats is a false dawn however as, in the 64th minute, Illawarra break straight out of defence through Michelle Heyman who caps off a dazzling run with a well taken shot for her third goal and Illawarra?s fourth. If the match didn?t already look over as a contest Illawarra seem keen to cause further grief to their game but outgunned opposition.
They continued to push forward with fine lead up work seeing shots from Carney and Heyman.
Over exuberance by the Illawarra attack gives the linesmen Aleksioski and Maler plenty of flag raising exercise as the attack is halted by numerous off side calls. Akid also makes a nice break but the movement falls down with a bad final pass.
In the 79th minute a fairly innocuous looking through ball is chased down by Illawarra?s Michelle Heyman who, after beating the Bankstown keeper to the ball, lays a pass back to Carney who finishes well. It?s now 5-0 to Illawarra.
Heyman makes another break before combining with Caitlin Danyi. Her cross back into the box towards Heyman is plucked out of the air by Danielle Bartels to save more movement on the scoreboard.
At the 84 minute mark Carney is awarded a free kick on the edge of the box. She hits the dead ball solidly but the shot is saved by a diving Bartels.
A double sub for Illawarra at the 85 minute mark with the two Danyi sisters getting a well earned early mark, replaced by Rebecca Garland and Talitha Kramer.
In the 87th minute a good interchange of passes sees Akid burst into the box. She is clipped, goes to ground and referee Spiteri pints to the spot for a penalty. Akid makes no mistake with the spot kick and Illawarra have a 6-0 lead. Bankstown have a final flurry with successive free kicks but a desperate Illawarra defence fling themselves in all directions to assure a clean sheet. Final score, Illawarra Stingrays 6 Bankstown Wildcats0.
Illawarra stand in Coach, Brett Wallin, was not impressed with his side. He felt that they were ?very scrappy?. He commented that, at times, The Stingrays team work was good but overall their football wasn?t. Whilst he was happy that his team all worked hard Wallin felt that individual brilliance got his side over the line on the day. He praised strikers Carney and Heyman as a class act.
Bankstown Coach, Fiona Kannengiessar was not shattered by what she had seen. Fiona said that she?d expected it to be a very tough game for her team. She felt that The Wildcats had held their shape well. Fiona was happy with how her girls had ?gutsed it out?. She praised Illawarra as a good squad with plenty of class players. Her own team was young and would improve stated Kannengiessar.
A tough one for Bankstown. They were dominated by a Stingrays side that appear to have premiership contender written all over them. The 6-0 scoreline probably flattered The Wildcats but they hung in gamely. On what this reporter has seen so far in 2008 Illawarra are likely to put plenty of goals past most of their opposition.
In other Arrive Alive NSW Womens Super League results;
Blacktown Spartans scored an 89th minute winner to take the points from Southern NSW FC in Nowra. This is Blacktown?s first win of the season.
St George FC and Inter Lions played out a 1-1 draw at Peakhurst with St George snatching an 88th minute equaliser. A tough one for the Inter girls after being so close to their initial win in the elite leagues.
The other clash of two undefeated sides, Western NSW Panthers and Gladesville Ravens in Bathurst, ended in a scoreless draw. The Panthers had plenty of chances to score but failed to capitalise. Paul Wade has The Ravens playing with plenty of structure and discipline. Some classy goalkeeping by Ravens keeper Cheerington also helped keep them in the game. Panthers Captain Gillian Rosconi was their best with plenty of support from Shannon Waine and Jade Braun.
The match between UNSW and Northern Tigers was washed out and has been postponed until a date to be fixed.
Another fine round of football. The Illawarra Stingrays jump to sole leadership of the Arrive Alive NSW Womens Super League. Which team can raise the bar to challenge the girls from the South Coast? The Western NSW Panthers? Gladesville Ravens? Maybe the girls from Blacktown? Stay tuned for the answer in the upcoming rounds.
-By Ross Anderson