This weekend?s round of matches in the Arrive Alive NSW Womens Premier League promised plenty of quality football as the leading teams met in blockbuster clashes. The round lived up to all the hype with some exciting games that displayed all the talent of the league?s best players.
Match of the Round
Marconi Stallions versus NWS Koalas at Marconi Stadium
This was a match worth waiting for. The second placed Koalas against third team Marconi. These clubs also occupy the top two rungs of the ladder in the Club Championship so the whole day?s football held just as much significance as this match did to the first grade table.
The early play was in the Stallions defensive half with Koalas pushing forward. An early scare for The Stallions came with a shot from Koalas Alicia Cavanagh but the effort lacked power and drifted wide. Cavanagh may well have benefited from this ?sighter? however when, in the fourth minute her shot from 20 metres was misjudged by Marconi keeper Fiona Ryan and parried into her own net. This one must have hurt as Cavanagh was a long term Stallions star until 2007 when she moved to Koalas.
So, The Stallions were on the back foot early and needed to regroup. Captain Amanda Poulton decided to lead by example and, in the 8th minute, made a strong run out of defence deep into Koalas territory. However, her final pass/shot trickled harmlessly through to the keeper.
This foray into the Koalas defence was followed soon after by some fine build up by Wendy Graham, Temika Wearing and Trudy Camilleri of Marconi before Nicole Kimber?s shot from outside the penalty area went wide. Wearing herself threatened the goal with a free kick moments later but the ball sailed left of the post.
In the 14th minute Fab Perfilio made a strong run through midfield for Marconi before linking with Trudy Camilleri whose shot deflected to Koalas keeper Anne Rutlidge. The Koalas broke quickly from defence with Dani Calvi, Sanaa Hawkins and Alicia Cavanagh prominent in the raid.
Play was starting to work end to end with The Stallions forcing upfield before Jodie Bain?s sizzling shot from 30 metres flew just over the crossbar. The early set back hadn?t dampened Marconi?s taste for positive football as they searched for the equaliser.
Disaster struck for the locals however when, in the 19th minute of play, The Koalas raced away from defence. Anna McLean charged up the left touch line before finding Sanaa Hawkins with a pinpoint pass. Hawkins dashed into the box but her shot was off target.
However, in the scramble to clear the ball from the oncoming Calvi, Stallions Captain Amanda Poulton knocked the ball into her own net. It?s 2-0 to The Koalas but Marconi have been a little too hospitable to the visitors!
The Koalas then surge forward with some good passing leading to a cross from Rachael Doyle which is missed by Calvi but put into the side netting by the advancing McLean.
The Stallions try to respond through Aysa Adalis but her good run ends with a shot wide of goal. A minute later Trudy Camilleri shows silken skills inside the Koalas penalty area to weave her way into shooting range. Koalas? keeper Rutlidge is equal to the task however, holding the shot low to the ground. Perfilio and Camilleri are combining well for Marconi.
The Stallions earn a period of dominance as Koalas struggle to get out of their half. However the Marconi shooting lacks venom and the keeper is rarely called upon to save. The best chance of this period sees Kimber put Jodi Bain into the clear but her shot flies low to the NWS keeper.
Things are starting to get pretty physical out in the middle with yellow cards in quick succession to Rachel Jones of The Koalas and Jodi Bain of Marconi.
The 41st minute of the half sees Calvi release Hawkins with a quality ball but the Koalas striker loses control with her final touch. Marconi reply with a classy run around the edge of the box by Perfilio. She wins a corner which Koalas fail to clear before Poulton shoots high for Marconi.
The half ends with successive free kicks by The Koalas, the second of which finds the head of Gabby Dickinson in front of goal. Her deflection brings a great diving save from Marconi custodian Ryan.
Half time sees The NWS Koalas 2 leading Marconi Stallions 0.
Marconi start the second stanza as if they mean business. Coach Mauro Tacco obviously has his girls charged up and they win a corner in the opening minute of the half. Koalas struggle to clear the danger before Kimber shoots high from the edge of the Koalas penalty area.
Anna McLean replies for Koalas with a nice flick on to Hawkins who shoots into the side netting. Hawkins has been a constant threat to Marconi with her strong running and deceptive pace.
Jodi Bain makes a nice run for Marconi but another shot from distance goes well wide of goal. Koalas are getting plenty of bodies back behind the ball which is making it hard for Marconi to break them down. Most of The Stallions? shots now are coming from distance and not with a lot of accuracy.
In the 58th minute Calvi is subbed for Meegan Shepherd by Koalas Coach Claude De Francesco. Soon after, Perfilio is yellow carded after welcoming Shepherd into the game with a poorly timed tackle. The resulting free kick by Koalas Adrijana Cirjak lands at the feet of Hawkins inside the Marconi box. Her flicked shot at goal is brilliantly saved by a diving Ryan who has more than made up for her early error.
Adalis and Graham combine well for Marconi but again the resulting shot is poor.
Shepherd is then yellow carded herself after a hurtful tackle on Amanda Poulten. It?s no place for the feint hearted out on the stadium turf! The 65th minute sees some dazzling play by The Koalas with Cavanagh and Spirovski involved in letting McLean loose. Her cross finds Doyle whose header goes wide.
Marconi then sub Wendy Graham with Amanda Gergovski.
The Stallions continue in their attempts to find a hole in The Koalas defence. A nice ball from Bain finds Perfilio bursting through but the Koalas keeper narrowly wins the race to the ball. Rutlidge fumbles the ball but Marconi are unable to take advantage as NWS clear.
Marconi then have chances through Camilleri and Gergovksi. The former is unable to get control from a cross and her shot is ineffectual. The latter has s sizzling shot tipped over the bar by keeper Rutlidge. Time is running out for The Stallions.
Shepherd has struggled since being fouled just after entering the game. She is replaced in the Koalas line up by the experienced Leonore Carr. Carr?s introduction to the game sees a Marconi corner met by the head of Camilleri but Rutlidge?s diving save defuses the danger.
The Koalas strike duo of Hawkins and Cavanagh bust the Marconi defence wide open in the 78th minute. Their interchange of passing leaves Cavanagh with only the keeper to beat from close range but she inexplicably pushes her shot wide.
A let off for The Stallions! Marconi try some dazzle of their own through Gergovski, whose introduction has proven fruitful for the home team. She releases Kimber whose pass brings a fine header from the ever present Camilleri. Rutlidge, however, sails through the air to save the day once more for Koalas.
The final moments see chances for both sides but when the final whistle blows it?s 2-0 to the Koalas.
Marconi Coach Mauro Tacco is disappointed but feels that; overall, both sides have played well. He mentions good patches of play from both combatants. He laments his side handing Koalas two goal and feels that the visitors defended their lead well. Tacco is happy that his team produced positive football, feeling that they have put in a good effort.
Koalas Coach Claude De Francesco comments that it?s always a bonus to leave Marconi Stadium with three points. He expresses surprise that his team held a 2-0 lead after the first 45 minutes as he felt that they had not played well. ?Marconi are a well disciplined side? he says.
Claude is happy with his keeper Anne Rutlidge who he says marshalled her defence well. He describes the work of his back four as ?very tight?. It?s always nice to see a happy Coach and Claude fits the description after this one.
A tough, hard game but one with plenty of skill. Both sides have an immense well of talent in their squads and will surely be amongst the teams fighting out the finals come seasons end.
In other matches Macarthur Rams maintained their place on top of the table with a late winner from Kylie Ledbrook sealing a 3-2 win over Manly United. The Rams were down by 2 goals at half time but surged back through goals by Annalese Baker and Stephanie Haim within two minutes of each other before Ledbrook?s 88th minute decider.
Macarthur Rams 3 (A.Baker, S.Haim, K.Ledbrook)
Many United FC 2 ( K.Hensman, C. Jarvie)
A heart breaking loss for Manly but Rams showed their championship qualities with the style of their comeback. The loss drops Manly out of the top four (they have two games in hand) but it shouldn?t lose them any admirers. They?ve shown they can mix it with any of the league?s top guns. Rams will now be looking to avenge their first round thrashing at the hands of Marconi when the two sides meet at Marconi Stadium next Sunday.
Penrith Nepean United 2 (E.Stewart 2)
Sutherland Sharks 1 (M.El Hussieni)
Penrith Nepean moved into the top four with a hard fought 2-1 win over Sutherland Sharks. Penrith led 1-0 at half time through Stewart who added a second in the 65th minute of the game. El Hussieni responded for Sutherland in the 60th minute but The Sharks were unable to break their losing streak in this one.
Penrith are continuing to build on that upset win over Marconi. It?s certainly been a result that?s turned their season around. The Sharks will be looking to break back into the winner?s list in their match with cellar dwellers Central Coast Lightning next weekend.
Sydney University 2 (K.Neuper, J.Duncan)
Central Coast Lightning 1 (M.Walker)
The final match of the round saw the battle for the bottom spot on the ladder between Central Coast Lightning and Sydney University. Lightning hadn?t collected a point since their first round game with Sutherland. University were still without a success at all in their promotion season. University grabbed the lead through Neuper in the 31st minute.
They held on to the slender advantage until a Lightning equaliser from Walker in the 83rd minute appeared to signal a sharing of the points. Not to be denied Duncan snared an 88th minute winner for Sydney University to lift them off the bottom of the ladder. Scenes of delight for that first success of 2008!
What a round of football from the top tier of the women?s game in the state! Contenders flexed their muscles in close, hard fought tussles. Fringe sides lifted their rating with quality performances in success and defeat. Rams and Koalas continue to match motors at the head of the competition. Both sides offer plenty of value though their fashion of play has subtle differences. Manly and Marconi hover in the wings though, threatening plenty of tense moments for the leaders as the season progresses.
-By Ross Anderson