Calder United Seal Nike FC Cup Glory

South Melbourne 0-3 Calder United

by Kieran Yap (11/8/22)

Above: Calder United left the 2022 Nike FC Cup. Photo: Jack Dilks/171819

Calder United have won the 2022 Nike FC Cup following a 3-0 win over South Melbourne.

There were no NPLW games in Victoria this weekend. The schedule was cleared as the final two sides of the knockout competition faced off at Valley Park.

The weather was perfect, and a crowd quickly built to match the occasion. South Melbourne were as well supported as always, but Calder United drew a number of dedicated supporters, many decked out in Western United gear. The two clubs are closely aligned, and Calder swapped their traditional white strip for the green and black of the A-League Womens’ newest side.

It was standing room only by kick-off. The atmosphere was colourful and buoyant. The Victory Vikings were in attendance, as they are at every major women’s football event in the state.  The A-League Women’s active support group had players on both sides of the contest.

Five teams separated these two clubs on the ladder. Calder are in first place with a game in hand. South Melbourne has been inconsistent, yet sometimes spectacular and always compelling, but are in seventh position. None of that really matters in a cup final, particularly given that South Melbourne arrived at the big day having beaten Heidelberg United 3-2 in dramatic style.

South Melbourne set up to stop Calder’s attack early. Grace Taranto started deep in defence, and Kat Goff, so often a goal threat, was played at full-back. The plan seemed to be to counterattack using the pace of South’s dangerous wingers.

Above: The final was played in front of a big crowd at Valley Park. Photo: Jack Dilks/171819.

The underdogs had the first chance of the game. Janna Lawson cruised along the left flank and whipped in a wonderful cross. Caitlin Pickett attacked the ball well, but her header was directed into the side netting. It was a start to the game that the enthusiastic crowd delighted in.

Calder United took a few minutes to settle into the match, but their class soon showed. This is a side that is very talented and evenly spread across the entire squad. Despite scoring the most goals in the NPLW, they do not have a single player in the top 10 goal scorers of the league. Stopping them is easier said than done.

Nine minutes in, the first goal arrived. Alana Cerne raced behind the South Melbourne defence to get on the end of a long pass. The finish was something special, as she lofted the ball over the onrushing Janna Farrow in goal.

Cerne’s pace and technique were on full display with the goal. She had recently been announced as Western United’s first official signing and showed why she will be a danger in the A-League Women.

Cerne played a big part in the second goal. A corner kick was well cleared by Farrow, but the ball fell to the star midfielder just outside of the box. Her half volley was on target but Aleksandra Sinclair flicked it on with a header to leave Farrow stranded and make it 2-0 after 23 minutes.

As the game progressed, Calder’s confidence and dominance grew. Fleet-footed attacker Stacey Papadopoulos was a constant menace. Some of her turns, dribble and flicks were a delight.

Above: Calder United (green) look to drive forward against South Melbourne in the Nike FC Cup Final. Photo: Jack Dilks/171819.

For South Melbourne, Francesca Iermano was busy, while Georgia Kandilas pressed with commitment, but they were lacking the final pass or any confident finishes.

The contest was effectively over in the 51st minute. Sinclair latched onto a panicked clearance but was bundled over in the box for a penalty. The spot kick was emphatically tucked away by Melissa Taranto.

Calder United were happy to make South Melbourne chase the ball for the rest of the afternoon. The introduction of Ava Groba and Emma Robers only caused more headaches for South’s under-pressure defence.

When the final whistle sounded, it was greeted by rapturous celebrations from the Calder players and fans.

The only downside for the afternoon was a late injury to Melissa Taranto. With the NPLW finals approaching and both Harriet Withers and Adriana Taranto missing from the matchday squad, that will be cause for concern.

South were brave. Farrow kept them in the match early with some terrific close-range saves and new Canberra United signing Holly Murray was tireless in a defensive midfield role.

Above: Calder United celebrate in the dressing room post-match. Photo: Jack Dilks/171819.

In the end, goals were too hard to come by and a defence missing Claudia Mihocic could not keep the league’s top-scoring side at bay.

South should be proud of their cup run. The 3-0 defeat will be disappointing, but reaching the final was an important achievement in a difficult season. The club has undergone significant change in its playing roster this year and the Nike FC Cup campaign was a better indication of what they are capable of than their league form.

Calder United have claimed the trophy for a fifth time in succession. They played with confidence, style, and purpose. They attack well and defend diligently. They were expected winners in this game but showed no fear of the occasion and played the way that they always have this season.

It is not yet known how many of these Calder United players will feature next season for Western United But they could be thrilling to watch. This was their first trophy of 2022. They may still claim two more with the minor premiership and the championship still to be decided.

Congratulations to Calder United on a terrific Nike FC Cup campaign in 2022.

Teams: SOUTH MELBOURNE: Farrow, Goff (Keppens 82′), Hrnopoulos, Iermano, Kandlilas (Tolios 63′), Lawson, Murray (Carman 82’), Papatsanis, Pickett, Sandhu (Houndalas 59′), G. Taranto.

CALDER UNITED: Dall’ Oste, Cain (Robers 46′), Cerne, Dakic, Deralas (Groba 59′), Matthews (Talevski 78′), Papadopoulos, Rossi, Sardo, Sinclair, M. Taranto (Grima 89′).

Scorers: Cerne 9’, Sinclair 23’, M.Taranto (pen) 51′.

Referee: Caitlin Williams.

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