The Women’s State League Grand Final pitted the top two teams together as SD Raiders FC came up against the premiers APIA Leichhardt Tigers FC in what promised to be a tight and competitive match.
SD Raiders FC vs APIA Leichhardt Tigers FC
In a game that promised much it did not disappoint as SD Raiders FC recorded their second successive grand final victory with a hard fought 1-0 extra time win over APIA Leichhardt Tigers FC.
APIA came into the contest keen to avenge their Major Semi-Final loss to the Raiders only two weeks ago while the Raiders were looking to record another win over the premiers.
It was APIA who started the game the better of the two teams as they looked to settle into their passing rhythm. Christy Ferreyra who returned to the APIA lineup had the first opportunity of the game only a couple of minutes in after being played through but she could not generate enough power to trouble Raiders goalkeeper Rhianna Muscat.
Ferreyra was presented with another chance only a couple of minutes later but again her shot was straight at Muscat in the Raiders goal. The early stages of the game suggested it could be a long afternoon for the Raiders as they struggled to retain possession as APIA looked to assert their dominance.
Raiders though held their structure as they soaked up the APIA pressure with set pieces looking the most likely route for Raiders to put any pressure on the APIA defence. The next chance fell to Rebecca Watts of APIA as she saw her header well pushed aside by Muscat in the Raiders goal as APIA kept pushing for the opening goal.
Raiders tenacity in defence though was about to be tested further as in the thirty fourth minute Dominique Caridad was shown her second yellow after a scuffle in the box. This now made Raiders task of winning and holding APIA out even more tough. Kylie Manias was the next one to have a chance for APIA as she saw her header float over the bar from a corner.
Ferreyra who had experienced a frustrating first half saw her toe poked effort saved again by Raiders keeper Muscat as the half time break loomed. From the ensuing corner, APIA came the closest yet to break the deadlock as a looping effort after a scramble in the box fished hitting the bar before being cleared away by a desperate Raiders defence.
Raiders though held on and the halftime deadlock remained as the score read 0-0.
APIA certainly had chances but were not ruthless enough as the Raiders looked to sit deep and hit APIA on the counter especially when they were reduced to 10.
The second half began with APIA again looking to press for the opening goal with Erin Clout testing Muscat early in the second half with a free kick but the Raiders keeper again made a comfortable save. APIA struggled to break down the Raiders as the second half wore on as their inability to keep hold of the ball and make their 1 extra player count began to frustrate APIA.
Raider’s actually presented a threat of their own as they still looked to counter attack and utilise their pace up front. Ferreyra was presented with another opportunity fifteen minutes into the second half but her struggles in front of goal continued as she dragged her shot wide after the ball fell to her inside the box. Clout was the next one to try her luck with about twenty minutes remaining on the clock as she hit a stinging drive over the top of the Raiders goal.
It was shaping as one of those days for APIA as they struggled for any real rhythm during the second half as the Raiders defended resolutely. The final chance of the 90 minutes fell to Ferreyra but she saw her shot flash inches wide after she cut in from the left. 90 minutes could not seperate both teams as an extra half hour would now need to be played to see if a winner could be found.
The first half of extra time continued in the same style as the previous 90 minutes as the Raiders held firm against the APIA pressure and actually came closest to scoring as Rhea D’Mello made a lung busting run down the left before crossing a ball into Catherine Cannuli a second half substitute saw her shot go inches over the APIA bar.
The first half of extra time could not separate the teams as we entered the second half with penalties looking the most likely way to decided a winner. The game though was then flipped on its head as barely a minute into the second half of extra time a lovely flick on put Raiders forward Cannuli into space as she held off the APIA defenders before slotting her shot calmly and clinically beyond APIA goalkeeper Gillian Raymond to give the Raiders the lead.
APIA were now forced to chase the game as they stared down the barrel of grand final defeat. Watts was inches away from equalising for APIA in the 114th minute when she saw her fierce drive rattle off the crossbar with Muscat in the Raiders goal rooted to the spot.
The final chance of the match fell to Clout but she skewed her shot wide and with that APIA’s grand final hopes were dashed as the Raiders held on for what can only be decided as a gutsy win.
Raiders coach Catherine Cannuli was only full of praise for her team especially after playing the majority of the contest with only 10 players.
“It was never going to be easy, we went down to 10 men and we were playing like we had 11. Credit to the girls that kept disciplined and were more composed on the ball in the 2nd half I felt our girls wanted it more and in the end and never gave up”.
APIA coach Matteo Maiorana even though disappointed with the result and performance of his team also acknowledged the tremendous season his team has had and was looking forward to the new challenges that would follow for 2018.
APIA Leichhardt Tigers FC 0
SD Raiders FC 1 (Catherine Cannuli 106’)
Sunday September 17th 5pm, Valentine Sports Park
APIA Leichhardt Tigers FC: 16.Jennifer Bennett(2.Stephanie Glanville-Fyfe109’), 8.Carla Canini, 7.Erin Clout, 12.Madeline Latham(19.Jessica Martinez 80’) , 15.Kylie Manias, 20.Gillian Raymond(1.Courtney Halpin 109’),13.Marie Sim-Sing(22.Nicole Carmichael 74’), 38. Sarah Urquhart(5.Olivia Cicco 110’), 14.Rebecca Watts, 4.Samantha Scarlato, 9. Christy Ferreyra
SD Raiders FC: 8.Sheree Bryant(26.Catherine Cannuli 86’),13.Dana Buttigieg, 10.Dominique Caridad, 22.Stephanie Conejeros Berjerie(44.Andrijana Djuric 89’) 4.Rhea D’Mello, 14.Brooke Hankin, 15.Courtney Krope(53.Brooke Williams 110’),11.Caterina Moio,1.Rhianna Muscat, 54.Lara White, 33.Helena Ngauora(57.Sabrina Pusateri 45’)
Substitutes not used:21. Mikhaila Mikulec-Purdon
Yellow Cards: 13.Dana Buttigieg 20’, 10.Dominique Caridad 27’,
Red Cards: 10.Dominique Caridad 34’
-By Sebastian Kalos