Balcatta Etna 2-4 Northern Redbacks
By Ben Gilby (28/3/22)
Above: Northern Redbacks celebrate with the NPL WA Women’s Night Series Cup after coming from 2-0 down after 14 minutes to defeat Balcatta Etna. Photo: Fotoenzo.
In their final game as a standalone club, Northern Redbacks came from 2-0 down to holders Balcatta Etna to win their fifth Night Series Cup at A&D Litis Stadium in Leederville.
On her 270th appearance, Carla Bennett put in a superb personal performance for the Redbacks to deservedly win the Tracy Wheeler Medal for Player of the Match – but with a quarter of an hour gone it looked anything but a likely win for Carlos Vega Mena’s team.
Balcatta took an early lead with barely three minutes on the clock when Monique Prinsloo was found on the right. The ball came back for Kimberley McCartney who lifted a cross in from the far right-hand side which looped into the far corner of the net.
Redbacks responded well with Bennett finding Olivia Wood who sidefooted an effort goalwards which came off the left-hand post.
The cup holders looked threatening on the counter-attack and doubled their lead with 14 minutes played when Shivani Battaglia’s short goal kick went towards McCartney who headed forward. Andrea Teixeira played a low pass back which was too wide to find Battaglia and agonizingly rolled into her own goal.
Despite being 2-0 on the scoreboard, it was the Redbacks who were having the best of the possession and territory. Bennett was a constant thorn in the Balcatta side.
Redbacks got back into the encounter with 28 minutes played. Wood found the ever-dangerous Larissa Walsh on the left, the ball was eventually recycled to Shawn Bilham who hit a low effort from outside the box. Balcatta keeper Gabby Dal Busco appeared to have dived too early and the ball bounced over her into the net. It remained 2-1 at the break.
The second half was all Redbacks. Renee Leota, who represented New Zealand in the 2008 Olympic Games, was becoming increasingly influential. Her pass to Wood ten minutes into the second half was well saved by Balcatta custodian Dal Busco.
Redbacks began to rack up the corners. From one ball in from the right, Walsh narrowly missed making contact with Dal Busco beaten. There were further opportunities with Jacinta Coleman and Bennett consistently linking up well.
It took until the 68th minute for Balcatta to get a shot on goal through Cass Harvey, but it only served to inspire the Redbacks who won a free-kick out on the left. Bennett played a ball in low for Walsh but Dal Busco gathered.
With just under 15 minutes left, Redbacks finally got the equalizer they richly deserved. Bilham found Leota who let fly with a long-range effort which Dal Busco did well to push away for a corner. The resulting set-piece found Leota who hit a volley which again was pushed away for a corner. This time the flag-kick came into the mix and after a pinball scramble in the six-yard box, Quyen Done looked to have had the final touch to force the ball over the line.
Balcatta were holding on for dear life now. They had one major scare to survive four minutes into stoppage time at the end of 90 minutes when Bennett’s free-kick 15 metres into their half was headed on by Wood for Leota to hit a shot which Dal Busco pushed out for a corner.
Redbacks started extra-time on the front foot, and within three minutes hit the front for the first time all evening. Leota’s through ball found Walsh beautifully who rolled the ball home comfortably to put her team 3-2 up.
The remaining play was largely an even arm-wrestle with both sides creating half-chances, but matters were finally decided with two minutes left. After a period of Balcatta pressure, Walsh gained possession to the left of centre and found Bennett who lifted a shot from outside the box and bounced into the net. Fittingly, it was the club’s all-time record appearance holder who scored the final goal in the club’s standalone history and secured their last trophy under the Redbacks banner.
It was just reward for a dominant performance over the 120 minutes by Northern Redbacks and a fitting end to Western Australia’s most successful ever all-female club’s history.
They will kick-off the new NPL WA Women’s season under the merged banner of Perth RedStar. With more talent coming into their side including Kim Carroll, they will be going all out to take out silverware from the very start of their new era.
Balcatta Etna have assembled a strong squad ahead of the NPL WA Women’s big kick-off next weekend and will be looking to make up for this disappointment over the coming months.
Scorers: McCartney 3′, Teixeira (OG) 14′.
Scorers: Bilham 28′, Done 74′, Walsh 93′, Bennett 118′.
Referee: Caleigh Ormerod.
Attendance: 500 (Maximum allowed under WA COVID rules).