Kieran Yap provides his weekly round-up of all the action from the Victoria 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 (19/7/22).
Above: Action between Heidelberg United (yellow) and Alamein when the two sides met earlier in the season. Photo: Sally Tsalikidis.
MAIN REPORT OF THE WEEK:
Heidelberg United 3-2 Alamein
Heidelberg United’s match against Alamein was an intriguing match-up. Heidelberg shook off a dramatic Nike FC Cup semi-final loss to South Melbourne with a comfortable 2-0 win over Bayside United.
However, that was against the bottom side. Round 16’s opponents presented a very different challenge. Alamein are fourth place in the table but have been one of the more consistent sides this season. They have beaten the sides below them with regularity, but their only win against another top four side was against The Bergers, and that was in Round Two.
Heidelberg are enjoying a strong season. With five games remaining, they are the only side to defeat league leader Calder United and have both attracted and developed top-level A-League Women’s talent at the club.
This match was the only one of the round between two top-four sides. With their position eyed off by both Box Hill and South Melbourne, Alamein needed a win.
Alamein started well, but it was the home side that had the first chance of the afternoon. Danielle Wise was set free on the counter-attack by Stephanie Galea. She remained composed as she carried the ball into the area and held off the attention of Mia Lantieri-Barley but her near post shot was saved by Evelyn Goldsmith.
Although Alamein had controlled the midfield, it was a reminder of the quality that Heidelberg have to turn a game.
It was the visitors that eventually struck first. A turnover in defence gave Katerina Nikpour a chance to shoot. The ball was blocked but deflected to the edge of the box where Sidney Allen fired home a volley to make it 1-0.
It was a deserved lead on the balance of play. Alamein went into the break ahead, but also with 11 shots on goal compared to Heidelberg’s four. They had won the midfield battle and played the game on the front foot. Heidelberg were still dangerous and all four of their efforts had been on target but needed to change the game’s momentum in the second half.
Johnno Clemente’s side wrestled back control and by the hour mark had scored twice. A long throw earned Heidelberg a corner kick. Galea’s ball in was excellently placed to the back post and Grace Jale rose highest to nod it into the net in textbook style.
The recent Canberra United recruit was mobile and dangerous from the second the half kicked off. She is creative and hard working when dropping deep, but remains deadly in the box and only needs half a chance to score. She was given far more than that by the Alamein defence and levelled the scores.
Jale added an assist to her name in the 59th minute. A long ball forward from goalkeeper Natasha Stathopoulos bounced beyond the midfield and the former Wellington Phoenix player only needed one touch to set Wise through on goal.
Wise accelerated into space and flicked the ball beyond the goalkeeper with her left foot to change the dynamic of the match within 15 minutes.
Danielle Wise is one of the NPLW’s most in-form attackers. Her runs from deep and ability to find space with her pace and close control has made her a difficult player to stop and her 12 goals in 16 games should have the attention of A-League scouts.
Grace Jale’s momentous week continued. In the 73rd minute, she pressed high up the pitch and robbed the Alamein defence of the ball. The New Zealand striker exploded towards goal and steadied before placing it beyond the keeper to make it 3-1. She had an involvement in every Heidelberg goal and all three were very different.
She linked up once again with Wise minutes later, but the well-struck shot by Wise was powerfully struck, though easily saved.
Alamein pushed to regains a foothold in the contest, but the home side were brimming with confidence. There were no obvious tactical or formation tweaks after halftime, but Heidelberg looked like a completely different team.
The game did not end tension-free. Alamein pulled themselves back into the contest with an 86th minute goal. Heidelberg’s back four was defeated by a well-timed through ball and Betti Michael finished well. But there was not enough time to find a late equaliser.
This loss puts the pressure on Alamein. They remain marginally ahead of South Melbourne, and travel to play them at Lakeside Stadium in the next round.
Heidelberg were impressive again. Not just for the win, but also how they re-energised themselves and gained control of the match in the second half. Their finishing was ruthless and Jale was imperious.
They look like a near-certain bet for second spot at worst. FV Emerging is their next opponent before a rematch with top-placed Calder United.
Teams: HEIDELBERG UNITED: Stathopoulos, Burrows, Galea, Georgopoulos, Jale, McKenna, Parbery, Roach, Torre, Wallhead, Wise.
Scorers: Jale 55’, 74’. Wise 59′.
ALAMEIN: Golsmith, Lefevre, Allen, Heysen, Vatcky, Jackson, Renehan, Story, Bercelli, Lantieri-Bartley, Nikpour.
Scorers: Allen 30’, Michael 86’.
Referee: George Iliopoulos.
Round 16 Wrap:
In other results, South Melbourne continued their second renaissance of the season with a 4-2 win over Bayside United. Francesca Iermano scored again, and Bella Stringfellow notched her first hat trick for the club.
Bayside made a game of it. Claudia Budiongo scored a first half equaliser and another in the 59th minute to give her side a fighting chance.
Calder United’s game with FV Emerging was suspended. The league leaders dropped to second on the table but have two games in hand.
At the Veneto Club, Bulleen Lions defeated Box Hill United 5-0 in a ruthless display. Paige Zois curled a free kick home to open the scoring, then Tyla-Jay Vlajnic and Lia Privitelli both scored spectacular braces in the win.
Vlajnic’s two goals were powerful left-foot finishes, while Privitelli chipped the keeper on both occasions, her second was after an Alana Jancevski pass that curled beyond the defence and landed in the path of the Bulleen skipper.
Five goals of the highest quality served as a reminder that Bulleen’s form dip was only temporary.