In the second week of the Womens State League finals, UNSW Lions booked their place in the grand final, while Bankstown were too strong for Sydney Olympic. Bankstown will now play Western NSW Mariners in the preliminary final next Sunday.
Minor Semi Final.
Bankstown City 2-0 Sydney Olympic. Saturday 14th, Jensen Park.
A goal each from Georgina Stylianou and Samantha Muscat on either side of the half-time break was enough for Bankstown City to win their minor semi-final over Sydney Olympic. In an action packed game, Bankstown were rarely threatened by an Olympic side riddled with injuries.
Knock-out finals are usually frantic affairs, but from the outset both sides looked calm and composed, knocking the ball around in short triangles and trying to keep possession. On their home turf, Bankstown looked the more comfortable of the two sides early on, with Samantha Muscat heading over the bar on just three minutes after some tidy build up play down the right by Amy Dahdah and Georgina Stylianou.
Much of Bankstown’s play came down the right flank, where Beatrice Sim-Sing and Amy Dahdah found plenty of room to move. On ten minutes, Amy Dahdah fooled Olympic fullback Jessica Travers, before being brought down by a covering tackle from Kate Mitrevski. From the resulting free kick Georgina Stylianou headed just over the crossbar. When Liana Babic’s shot from distance was saved five minutes later, it was clear that Bankstown meant business.
The first chance for Sydney Olympic came from a mistake from Bankstown centre back Ash Kirby, who coughed up possession in a dangerous area. However, Olympic striker Danielle Calvi couldn’t punish the home side, her shot well saved at the near post by Amanda Horiafos. Two minutes later, Lisa Mitchell tried her luck from range, but once again Horiafos was up to the task.
Bankstown were holding plenty of possession, but with Sydney Olympic sitting quite deep, Samantha Muscat was left isolated, and couldn’t make her darting runs in behind the defensive line. This meant that much of Bankstown’s play ended up being pushed down the flanks, where they tried to hold possession rather than whipping in crosses for Muscat, who is known more for her quick feet than for her ariel abilities.
But while Olympic didn’t have much of the ball, their central defensive pair of Kate Mitrevski and Kylie Manias were proving difficult to get around, and with Georgina Stylianou looking a little off the pace early on, Bankstown ended up wasting much of their dominance with the ball.
On 21 minutes, Bankstown had a big shout for a penalty turned down after Muscat performed a magical turn with her back to goal. But as she fell to the ground, the referee ignored calls from teammates and terraces alike.
On the half hour mark, Bankstown midfielder Maniso Michael forced Sarah Veli-Gold into a diving save with a thirty yard drive, before Sydney Olympic set up a quick counter attack through Lisa Mitchell and Danielle Calvi. However, Ash Kirby was up to the task, and tracked Danielle Calvi to cut off the danger.
While Stylianou might have started a little off her usual form, on 34 minutes she impressed the gallery, collecting the ball in a crowded midfield with both arms busy tying up her long brown hair. Unperturbed, Stylianou killed the ball at her feet before side-footing a quick pass to her teammate, rounding out the move by finishing the ponytail in the same motion.
Ten minutes later, Stylianou added a goal to her show-boating, collecting the ball from a throw-in and casually waltzing into the penalty box before sliding her shot underneath the goalkeeper from an acute angle. It was classic Stylianou, and the first-pump celebration from the usually cool customer showed how important the goal was.
With only moments to go before halftime, it was a terrible blow to Sydney Olympic, who had kept their concentration and their defensive shape for almost the entire first half.
The second half started with a bang for Sydney Olympic, who clearly weren’t happy with letting Bankstown get ahead on the scoreboard. In the first three minutes, both Sophie Caldwell and Kalista Tsoupis tried their luck before Bankstown fired back with a quick move which started from Liana Babic and ended up being tapped in, only for the goal to be disallowed for offside.
On 51 minutes, Babic delivered a short pass directly to Sam Muscat’s feet. Muscat, who had dropped deep to collect the ball, turned quickly, and after a couple of touches drove the ball into the bottom left hand corner. Olympic had given the striker too much space, and Muscat was remorseless, putting her side two ahead.
In the heart of Bankstown’s midfield, Babic was seemingly involved in every attack, winning the ball well and picking out her teammates with pinpoint passes. She was only matched by Tijana Cerro at centre back, who, despite the worried cries of her own fans, was happy to pass her way out of trouble using both feet.
The match then became a little scrappy, as Amy Dahdah was fouled twice in ten minutes after tricky runs down the right flank. Lisa Mitchell came off after 70 minutes of struggling with injury. It was a sad way to end for ‘Mitchy’, who fought hard all year and chipped in with her fair share of goals at important times throughout the season.
With just ten minutes remaining, Sam Muscat almost killed the game off after Maniso Michael put her through on goal with a slide-rule pass. With only the keeper to beat, Muscat chipped just wide of the post, before Amy Dahdah also missed a golden opportunity to put the game to bed. In the end it mattered little, as Bankstown registered their fourth straight win.
Sydney Olympic will be a little disappointed with the way the season ended, but will take comfort from the fact that they beat every team except UNSW, as well as beating Bankstown and Western NSW Mariners twice. Coach George Beltsos made no excuses despite the heavy injury toll, and promised to be back better than ever next season.
Meanwhile, Bankstown will meet Western NSW Mariners next Sunday in the all important preliminary finals.
Major Semi Final
Western NSW Mariners 1-4 UNSW Lions. Sunday 15th, Jensen Park.
On a neutral ground in Bankstown, UNSW Lions came from behind to beat Western NSW Mariners, with two goals each from Ayse Adalis and Monica Kavanagh enough to cancel out Erin Holder’s first half goal.
In a peculiar twist, UNSW and the Mariners ended up playing one another in both reserves and first grade. Curiously, one of Western NSW Mariners’ leading goalscorers Megan Embleton started for the reserves, but came off the bench for the firsts.
It was UNSW that started the strongest of the two sides, with the front three of Gabrielle Marzano, Ayse Adalis and Monica Kavanagh all firing early warnings at the Mariners keeper within the opening ten minutes.
Western NSW looked to be struggling to play their way out of defence, cutting off the supply lines through their midfield to the forwards. This forced centre-forward Gillian Rosconi to drop deeper to pick up possession, and while she looked dangerous in between the defensive lines, she was missing Embelton to play off in the final third.
On 25 minutes, Rosconi had the first chance for Western NSW, blasting over the bar from twelve yards after some terrific lead up play by Erin Holder down the left flank. Five minutes later, Adalis wasted her own chance at the top of the box after Marzano and Kavanagh played some neat football to create space for their star striker.
Despite their dominance in possession, UNSW were unable to find a lead, and were punished on the half hour mark as Erin Holder broke through on goal from an excellent ball from Kya Godbier. As UNSW goalkeeper Amanda Seskin came haring madly off her line, Holder got their first, and after rounding Seskin only had to tap the ball home into an empty net to give her side the lead.
Six minutes later, a quick move from Monica Kavanagh was finished by Ayse Adalis, but the goal was disallowed, as Adalis was offside. Unperturbed, Adalis equalised just a few minutes later. Collecting the ball on the left hand side of the penalty box, Adalis twisted and turned, leaving two defenders bamboozled before thrashing a shot home into the far corner.
Adalis’ trademark fist pump-jump showed how important the equaliser was on the stroke of halftime. Indeed, two minutes into the second half she was in the thick of it again, slipping a delightful pass through the defense for Monica Kavanagh to run onto. With only the keeper to beat, Kavanagh waltzed past and side footed UNSW into the lead.
Western NSW Mariners tried to get back into the contest, with Teigen Cox hitting the crossbar with a long distance drive on 55 minutes. However, five minutes later Kavanagh scored her second goal, after a quick one-two by Gabrielle Marzano and Shani Lauf put Marzano in space down the left wing. Marzano’s inch perfect cross was calmly nodded home by Kavanagh.
With that, Western NSW brought on Megan Embleton, but it was too little too late. Gillian Rosconi had drifted out of the game with a leg injury, while any attacks were quickly diffused by the always-composed central defensive pairing of Deirdre Barham and Xanthe Dumbrell.
With fifteen minutes remaining, Shani Lauf capped off a terrfic midfield performance, setting up Ayse Adalis with UNSW’s fourth goal of the night. Recieving Lauf’s quick forward pass, Adalis simply swivelled an poked the ball home from the top of the box, as if long range goals were simply part of her everyday routine.
Western NSW Mariners now must pick themselves up for the preliminary final next Sunday against Bankstown, who are flying high after their fourth straight win. UNSW go straight to the finals, and will be hot favourites to retain their title.
In the reserves, Parramatta Ladyhawks thrashed Sydney Olympic 4-0 on Saturday afternoon, with Sarah Mason-Trybel bagging a hatrick, while on Sunday Western NSW Mariners defeated UNSW Lions 4-0 at Jensen Park. UNSW and Parramatta Ladyhawks now face off for the right to play Western NSW in the grand final. We could still potentially see Western NSW Mariners play UNSW Lions in both the reserve grade and the firsts grand final.
– By Joe Gorman
(Photo by Pete Nowakowski)