Ben Gilby provides his weekly round-up of all the action from the Western Australia NPL Women’s competition. As usual, there is a detailed report on one game and a wrap of all the other matches along with photos (18/7/22).
Above: Balcatta Etna (blue) and Murdoch University Melville keep their eyes on the prize at Grindleford Reserve yesterday. Photo: JASP Photography.
MAIN REPORT OF THE WEEK:
Balcatta Etna 2-0 Murdoch University Melville
Balcatta Etna took the win in a hugely important game in the context of the race for the final place in the end-of-season Top Four Cup at an overcast Grindleford Reserve on Sunday.
Balcatta, who have been on the wrong end of results against clubs above them in the table in recent weeks, named an unchanged team from the one who suffered heartbreak in the midweek Hyundai State Cup semi-final against Perth SC. This meant that Isabella Comito remained in goal replacing Gabby Dal Busco who has COVID.
In that last four tie, Balcatta led The Azzurri for a long time in the game before eventually being denied a place in next weekend’s final in a penalty shoot-out loss.
Murdoch University Melville (MUM FC) came into this match in their best form of the season. Much changed from their trophy-laden campaign in 2021, MUM FC’s new squad had been showing their potential in sporadic flashes throughout the campaign, but now are putting some consistent results together. They knew that victory here would see their transformation from a side hovering just above the bottom two to being inside the top four complete.
Murdoch were able to welcome back Sadie Lawrence, a key part of their successful campaign last year who then went on to put in some impressive shifts for Perth Glory in the A-League Women. Lawrence would be on the bench along with Rosie Lehane who had returned from England.
The action started with a bang as Balcatta Etna earned a corner with their first attack of the game with just 30 seconds on the clock. The ball came in at the second attempt from Lauren Continibali and was flicked back at the near post by Monique Godding for Elizabeth Doust to volley home. Despite MUM FC keeper Monique Todd’s best efforts, it went in. There were just 50 seconds on the clock.
Balcatta continued their forward momentum, earning plenty of joy along the right-hand side. Murdoch University Melville weathered the early storm and had a great chance themselves with 11 minutes played. Meghan Hulsman was played through, beat Doust, and got in on goal, but her shot was over the top.
The home side continued to press. Continibali got past Lucy Hope and found Carys Davis who played in a teasing cross towards the near post which Todd repelled for a corner. Balcatta’s sixth in just 23 minutes.
Murdoch began to get a foothold on matters and captured their most consistent period of possession and territory. They were not without chances in the first half. Hooks, Charli Wainwright, and Hulsman were all the leading lights in this period. The home side’s defence remained well-organised and tough to break through. On the occasions that MUM FC did get through, they found Balcatta goalkeeper Comito in good form.
Within 10 minutes, another corner led to Balcatta Etna’s second goal. Continibali played it in. Monique D’Opera went up at the near post with MUM FC’s Poppie Hooks who headed clear, but the ball fell to Doust and the centre-half drove the ball into the net to complete her brace.
There was one further chance before the break as Murdoch’s Sophia Neal found Nikita Strickling who hit a low shot that Comito gathered well on the bounce.
Despite forcing seven corners by half-time, Balcatta had only managed three shots on target to Murdoch University Melville’s five. The difference was in the ability to turn chances into goals.
The second half opened with a worrying incident for the hosts as Davis looked to turn her right ankle and needed to be replaced by Aaliyah Jorquera.
Despite this, Balcatta remained on the front foot. They were confident on the ball with some impressive passing movement. Their pressing was effective and they remained solid at the back to minimise any threat from their visitors.
Clear-cut chances were a lot harder to come by after the break. The home side managed to get the ball into the net again when D’Opera pulled a ball over from the left for Godding towards the far side of the box to smash home, but it was correctly ruled out for offside.
Hooks remained a threat for MUM FC and the teenager showed some flashes of creative genius. With 20 minutes to go, the Perth Glory A-League Women player strode into the Balcatta half and unleashed an absolute rocket from over 30 yards that hit the bar and bounced down, but the whole of the ball failed to cross the line.
Murdoch rallied and Neal’s corner was directed goalwards by Lawrence. The ball found its way to Wainwright on the far side of the box. She showed great skill to jink past the Balcatta defence to earn another corner.
Realistically, MUM FC never looked like forcing a goal. A combination of a well organised home defence, and a lack of razor-sharp finishing from the visitors ensured that Balcatta kept a clean sheet.
This was an absolutely huge win for Balcatta Etna. It keeps them secure in the all-important fourth spot, and depending on results elsewhere, could possibly see their aspirations raised higher.
Teams: BALCATTA ETNA: Comito, M.D’Opera, T. D’Opera, Harvey, Godding, Davis, Doust, Continibali, Veroni, Cawley, Nossent. Substitutes: Seerden, Jorquera, Alberts, Bulgaru, Gama.
Scorers: Doust 1′, 33′.
MURDOCH UNIVERSITY MELVILLE: Todd, Gillies, Hooks, Wainwright, Neal, Shore, Mathers, Hulsman, Preiato, Strickling, Hope. Substitutes: Lehane, Townsend, Lawrence, Meeden.
Referee: Stewart Beattie.
Round 15 Wrap:
Hyundai NTC took on Perth SC on Sunday afternoon on a heavy surface at E&D Litis Stadium. Despite continuing to play some excellent football, the teenage development side have slightly fallen out of the Top Four Cup qualification race in recent weeks.
However, having beaten Perth SC in both previous NPLW encounters this season, accounting for half of their wins for the entire campaign going into this match, there was always a chance that their hopes of post-regular season football could be reignited.
The Azzurri dominated the first half, and within two minutes had the ball in the net as, following an exchange of passes at a short corner on the right, Liana Cook bundled home at the far post, but was ruled to be offside.
This was to be a repeating pattern throughout the first half. Perth SC were caught offside three times in the opening four minutes of the match, and a total of six times throughout the opening 45.
The NTC defence were playing a very high line that was making it exceptionally tough for the visitors to break through. The only thing that the hosts were not able to do in the first period was to consistently get their dangerous, strong, and pacey attack going.
Jaime Duncanson was the key player for The Azzurri, looking to create along the left and take on defenders with pace. However, no matter what Perth SC tried, the youngsters of the NTC stayed supremely disciplined and well-organised at the back. It remained goalless at the break.
The opening period of the second half saw the hosts finally get going from an attacking perspective, and just before the hour mark went ahead with a superb move. Anna Powell received the ball and advanced towards the box before playing a perfectly weighted pass to Louise Tana to fire home near the right-hand post.
As time wore on, the game become increasingly stretched. Powell steered the ball into the net, but NTC were denied a second goal by the offside flag. Towards the end, Perth SC rallied, but other than one shot that flew just over the bar, were unable to trouble Lilly Bailey in the NTC goal.
This was a really tough loss for Perth SC. Of their five NPLW WA defeats this season, three have been to the NTC. What looked like comfortable qualification for the Top Four Cup is now potentially under threat. Fourth-placed Balcatta Etna are just a point behind, and the NTC in fifth, are only three points in areas. Fascinatingly, Balcatta and the NTC still have to play each other twice.
If the NTC can maintain defensive discipline and unleash their attacking threat, they are more than capable of playing Top Four Cup football. One thing is certain, they are always hugely enjoyable to watch.
Fremantle City took advantage of Perth SC’s slip up to go five points clear in second place with a 6-1 win at Subiaco at Rosalie Park on Sunday afternoon.
Subi welcomed W-League and Matildas star Ella Mastrantonio into their ranks as they looked to continue a season of growth. However, ultimately, it was not to be on the day.
Freo went ahead with 12 minutes gone when Kat Jukic confidently dispatched a penalty down the middle. Despite the hosts forcing a couple of corners in the interim period, the visitors continued to have chances with a looping effort from the edge of the box.
However, with 20 minutes on the clock, they got their second. Sofia Osborne laid off to Kayla McCulloch who played a perfectly weighted through ball for Mikayla Lyons who drew Subi keeper Zara Board and slot home.
Within four minutes though, the hosts were back in it. Mastrantonio picked up possession in midfield and dinked an inside pass for another former Perth Glory W-League player Mariana Tabain. The ball was then recycled around and back to Tabain on the edge of the box to feed Chelsie Winchcombe who found the far corner of the net with a low shot.
Subiaco’s hopes of a comeback were dashed within two minutes and it was McCulloch once more providing an inch-perfect slide rule pass into the path of Jukic who hit a shot into the right-hand corner. Fremantle then turned the screw, forcing five corners in as many minutes.
The home side responded with Keziah Burgis advancing up the right and finding Tabain who finished from an acute angle, but the assistant referee’s flag went up, adjudging Tabain to have come from an offside position.
Fremantle City came out after the break and within five minutes killed off any realistic hopes Subi had of getting anything from the game. Lyons’ short corner was played back to Jess Darmago who returned the favour. The ball into the box from the left was palmed down for Board into the path of Matilda Boyle whose shot was blocked but the rebound fell perfectly for Janice Kiama to score.
The game was wrapped up with two further strikes. First, more good work from Darmago on the left saw the Freo flyer pop across a superb cross for Jukic who was unmarked at the back post to turn a defender and fire into the far corner to complete her hat-trick.
The sixth game with just over a quarter of an hour to go when Tash Rigby found Darmago on the right who played the Perth Glory captain in once more to fire a cross over for Boyle to head home.
Curtin University‘s home game with Perth RedStar will be played tomorrow evening (Tuesday) at Edinburgh Oval.
|Fremantle City||16||8||4||4||39||23||28||+ 16|
|Murdoch University Melville||15||5||3||7||15||18||18||-3|
NEXT WEEK: HYUNDAI STATE CUP FINAL: Perth RedStar v Perth SC (Sunday). No NPLW WA matches next weekend.