Coach Gerry Gomez had his Koalas primed for a big performance on their home turf but Grant Lee and his Manly United FC girls hadn?t travelled from the peninsula to run second.
The Koalas opened the game in an attacking frame of mind. We were only two minutes in when Emma Stewart took a short pass from Rachel Perrins, beat her marker with a superb turn, and fired across the face of goal. Manly keeper Alyssa Harris did well to hold the ball but The Koalas had made their intentions clear.
Manly were under plenty of early pressure but appeared to be soaking it up well. However, their own efforts to take the game to Koalas came to nought in the opening minutes.
Anna Nakao was pulling the strings for Manly from midfield, working hard in an effort to find space for Tiarn Powell and her strike partner Louise Neville.
Meanwhile The Koalas worked with a neat, composed passing game from which they were building their attack. In the 13th minute Carmel Dimarco made a strong run from the middle of the park before serving up a pinpoint pass to Emma Stewart. The Koalas striker raced onto the ball, dribbling into the box where her one on one with keeper Harris was brilliantly saved by the Manly custodian.
The Koalas rattled the Manly defence again soon after with Emma Stanbury racing down the right flank before crossing to the face of goal where Katarina Kraft?s flick to goal was safely held by Alyssa Harris.
Whilst Manly?s defence had been stretched a number of times the good news for the visitors was that they hadn?t conceded. Unfortunately though they hadn?t looked like scoring either as The Koalas defence was looking well organised.
Manly should have scored though in the 27th minute when Koalas keeper Liz Durack misjudged a high manly pass to the edge of her area. As she advanced Durack lost the ball, leaving the goal mouth exposed to Manly striker Tiarn Powell. Fortunately for Durack and NWS Koalas a defender managed to cover the error and cut off Powell?s shot at goal.
Territorially NWS Koalas were in control of the game but their inability to capitalise on this advantage would have been worrying for Coach Gomez.
A pass from Dimarco found Koalas defender Rachel Perrins running onto the ball. Perrins fancied her chances from 30 metres but keeper Harris held the ball easily above her head.
Manly won themselves a rare corner, which brought no joy but saw The Koalas move away out of defence. The Koalas put together some neat football which ended with Emma Stewart beating the keeper only to see her shot rebound off the post.
In the closing minutes of the half Emma Stanbury?s free kick from near halfway zeroed in on the Manly goalmouth but none of her team mates were able to get the vital touch to find the back of the net.
The second half commenced with Manly displaying much more resolve. In the opening minutes they camped themselves inside the Koalas half with Alex Kent firing in a dangerous shot from the right flank which caused a few heart flutters for Koalas supporters.
The next ten minutes saw something of a stalemate with neither side able create an opportunity. The Koalas still held the territorial advantage but Manly did look dangerous on the break. The Koalas were guilty off overcooking the situation once or twice when some straight forward football may have done the trick.
The Koalas were making some headway on the left flank through Anna McLean but Manly were able to defuse any threat with reasonable comfort. Manly attempted to get the ball in behind The Koalas defence for Tiarn Powell but their passes had a little too much sting, finding The Koalas keeper rather than the feet of the Manly striker.
Powell did eventually get a shot after pouncing on a loose ball in the Koalas half but her shot lacked real venom, being safely grabbed by the NWS keeper.
As the match wore it seemed more a matter of who would make the defining error rather than who would come up with a moment of individual skill that would turn the game. Both sides looked determined not to lose rather than committed to win, as silly as that may seem.
At the 70 minute mark Manly?s Kristie Crawford received a yellow card whilst the Koalas went to the bench for the first time, replacing Emma Stewart with Daila Borg. Manly also introduced Ellen Wheatley in an effort to find a way through The Koalas defence.
Manly?s best chance come moments later when a nice pass found Kristie Crawford in front of goal. She turned and fired off a brisk shot which required a leaping, tip over the bar save from Liz Durack.
The match went to and fro from here with both teams having opportunities to grab the ascendancy. Shots came and went with Manly lifting themselves to test The Koalas defence. But the home side, with Rachel Jones playing a dominant role, were up to the task of maintaining a strong defensive line.
Despite the best efforts of both sides the game ended with the scores locked at 0-0. Off to extra time we went!
The Koalas started the first period of extra time pushing forward. Despite their bluster they could not find a way to goal.
Manly soon won a corner. However, Manly?s Gemma O?Toole picked up a yellow card prior to the kick being taken. The corner was well held in traffic by Koalas keeper Durack with The Koalas then working their way out of defence.
This led to another period of NWS laying siege to the Manly half. The only problem was that the shots were disappearing over the ramparts rather than at the front gate.
The threat of penalties to decide the match seemed to have had the effect of putting some urgency into the game of both sides.
With the second half of extra time commencing, the two coaches were looking for that elusive ace up the sleeve. Manly appeared to be finishing the stronger. They attacked the Koalas defence with plenty of enthusiasm. A Koalas attack saw a player stumble in the box but cries of ?penalty? went unheeded by the referee.
Successive Koalas corners brought no result. Then, with seconds left on the clock, Koalas won a throw in. Jess Seaman raced across field before passing to defender Rachel Perrins who took possession of the ball some twenty five metres from goal. Perrins let loose a shot which, to the delight of her team mates but the chagrin of the Manly players, beats the keeper to find the back of the net. As The Koalas players embrace the referee blows the final whistle to give The Koalas a hard fought win.
What a match! No, it wasn?t a classic in the style of play on display. No, there weren?t memorable moments by the dozen. But, there was tight, tough, semi final football. The Koalas may not be fancy but they can tough out street fight and they did it again today.
Grant Lee?s girls can feel rightly disappointed. This was a game anyone could have won. Today though, it was The Koalas.
MANLY UNITED FC 0
NWS KOALAS 1 (R.Perrins 120m)
The result sees Manly United FC bow out of the finals series. The NWS Koalas now move on to play the loser of the Sydney University v Illawarra Stingrays Qualifying Semi Final.
Other semi final results on the day were as follows;
Northbridge FC 2 Macarthur Rams 0
Marconi Stallions 1 NWS Koalas 0
Sutherland Sharks 3 Macarthur Rams 2 (after extra time)
Manly United FC 1 Illawarra Stingrays 0
-By Ross Anderson
WPL ? Qualifying Final Review
Sydney University 1 ? 4 Illawarra Stingrays
Taking place at the picture-esque Wilson Park overlooking Parramatta River, Sydney University took on the Illawarra Stingrays for a place in the Major Semi Final against Macarthur Rams next Sunday afternoon.
The travelling side got the ball moving just after 4pm and were instantly on the attack. The striking partnership of Michelle Carney and Kim Bonilla were piling on the pressure in search of an opening goal against what was the best defence in the regular competition this season.
By the 20th minute, the Stingrays had managed to clock up their sixth corner and hit the crossbar. Sydney University on the other hand had only made it into the final third of the pitch twice. The conflict between these two titans looked to be heavy weighted in favour of the girls in pink.
Filled with half chances and counter attacking football, the first half provided little joy for either set of supporters or for the watchful eyes of Western Sydney Wanderers W-League coach Stephen Roche. The stand out player being Sydney University?s goalkeeper, Sian McLaren who continued to produce save after save for her side.
Moments after Sydney University took kick off for the second half, the Stingray?s prolific striker, Michelle Carney got hold of a loose ball whipping it into the bottom corner of the net to put the away side in front against the run of play.
It appeared that after a pep talk from their coaches at the break, both teams stepped it up a gear with their passing game. The Stingrays might have been 1-0 in front but it was the 21 year old centre midfielder Alesha Clifford for Sydney University who was pulling the strings during the game. Her ability to link defence and attack was vital to the home team?s search for an equaliser.
With eleven minutes from time, Sydney University got the goal they were looking for. The pacey striker in yellow Jenna Kingsley was played into space shrugging off her defender to go one-on-one with Stingray?s keeper. Knocking the ball past the keeper, the cheers from the supporters at the far end of the field could be heard from a mile away. Sydney University got the lifeline they wanted.
Sydney University?s joy was short lived though when moments after the Illawarra Stingrays got the ball moving again at the kick off, the referee blew for a penalty after a late challenge in the box. The mentally strong Ann Mayo stepped up to the spot, sent the keeper in the opposite direction and got the perfect ?swooosh? sound as the ball hit the back of the net.
Four minutes from time and it was the Stingray?s left winger Ann Mayo who got into a perfect position to have a strike on goal just inside the 18 yard box. A brilliantly shot into the bottom left hand corner of the goal meant Sydney University?s keeper had no chance of saving the strike. As much as Sydney University might have wished this game could have been over, there was more yet to come.
In the 90th minute, Michelle Carney got her second goal of the game and her side?s fourth of the afternoon. Turning her defender inside out, Carney fired a low, hard shot into the goal. Sian McLaren will be disappointed that she didn?t get a fingertip to the ball but the usually strong Sydney University defence was pulled apart by a much stronger Illawarra Stingrays.
Next weekend sees yet another tough task for the Illawarra Stingrays as they face off against Macarthur Rams at Lynwood Park in the Major Semi Final. Hopes aren?t all lost for Sydney University, they will get a second bite of the cherry as they will face off against NWS Koalas in the Minor Semi Final.
Full list of Qualifying Final Results from Sunday at Wilson Park:
Grade 12: Sydney University 1 ? 2 NWS Koalas
Grade 14: Blacktown Spartans 0 ? 1 Illawarra Stingrays
Grade 16: Central Coast Mariners 1 ? 1 Manly United (Manly United win 8-7 on penalties.
Reserve Grade: NWS Koalas 2 ? 3 Sydney University
First Grade: Sydney University 1 ? 4 Illawarra Stingrays
–By Pete Nowakowski