The weekend saw the first two matches in the NPLW WA Top Four Cup. Perth RedStar took on Perth SC in the major semi-final with Fremantle City hosting Hyundai NTC in an eliminator. Impetus’ Ben Gilby reports on both games (5/9/22).
Above: Perth SC goalkeeper Rebecca Bennett looks back as Carla Bennett’s shot is to hit the bar before bouncing down and over the line to give Perth RedStar the lead. Photo supplied to Impetus by: Rob Lizzi.
Perth RedStar 1-0 Perth SC
Perth RedStar’s march towards a clean sweep of all four trophies available to them continued as a Carla Bennett goal just before the hour mark saw them into the Top Four Cup Final.
Perth SC will have a second opportunity in midweek to make the season finale in the Preliminary Final, and had chances themselves, particularly in the closing stages, but the home side’s ability to lift their performance and do what is necessary at the right times deservedly saw them over the line.
RedStar were full of rapid energy from the start, looking to disrupt Perth’s passing game by getting in quickly and pressing the Azzurri players on the ball.
Carla Bennett, who was a major player in the sharp press on the visitors, created a moment of attacking threat with eight minutes on the clock when her dangerously curled in free-kick from the left needed Perth SC keeper Rebecca Bennett to palm it away.
The visitors were getting more time out wide, and the influence of Jaime Duncanson to create along the left and pull teasing balls into the box developed. Just before the 20 minute mark, it was Faye Phillips on the opposite wing who was able to feed Caitlin Doeglas. The former Perth Glory player got a shot away that Maya Diederichsen did well to get her body behind and smother.
As the game hit the half-hour mark, clear-cut chances were becoming fewer and further between. Getting a firm foothold of the midfield would be the key area to decide the outcome. For the home side, that was about getting their rapid-fire passing that clinically dissects the opposition. For the visitors, it was about making the best possible use of their wide players to create.
One such rare opportunity presented itself as Carla Bennett profited from loose play from Jaymee Gibbons to advance and square to Sarah Carroll, but as the A-League Women star was about to pull the trigger, Gibbons brilliantly got back to deny RedStar with a perfectly timed tackle.
Three minutes before the break, there were a flurry of half chances. Jessica Byrne brought down RedStar hot-shot Larissa Walsh on the left-hand edge of the box and Kim Carroll’s free kick went into the arms of Rebecca Bennett. Within seconds, a delicate exchange of passing in midfield from the Azzurri led to Abbey Meakins feeding Liana Cook at the left edge of the opposite area, and her shot went just over the top.
Meakins was involved moments later as she lifted in a long-range free-kick and earned her team a corner which was comfortably claimed by Diederichsen. It remained goalless at the break.
Within moments of the second-half opening, RedStar had a golden opportunity. Kim Carroll floated in a free-kick from a central position around 35 yards out, whilst Carla Bennett missed her attempted header, the ball found Olivia Wood on the right and her low ball in was scooped over the bar by Sarah Carroll.
The home side continued their strong start in the second 45 by earning a corner. Carla Bennett floated it in from the left, Walsh flicked it on and a superb twisting half-volley from Sarah Carroll was met by an equally fine save by Rebecca Bennett.
The pressure continued and just before the hour mark, Duncanson was forced off possession which saw the ball played in for Walsh who fed Carla Bennett outside her. The RedStar’s legend advanced into the box and let fly with a shot that cannoned down off of the bar and over the line to put the hosts in front.
Perth SC worked hard to respond, but the home side were stubborn, strong, and resolute. RedStar could have doubled their tally two minutes before the end but Jayna Ridley was not quite able to direct her shot from close range in the way she would have hoped.
The best chances for the visitors came at the death. Two minutes into stoppage time, Doeglas was fouled just outside the box on the right. Phillips’ free-kick was met by a flick header from Alyssa van Heurck which went wide. Doeglas was involved seconds later as she hit a shot that deflected up and bounced high in front of RedStar keeper Diederichsen, only just clearing the bar at the cost of a corner.
The corner came in and wasn’t cleared by RedStar. The ball came rapidly – too rapidly -across to Meakins for a close-range header which failed to hit the target.
The Azzurri now have to do it the hard way if they want to win their first piece of NPLW silverware. A midweek Preliminary Final needs to be won before another showdown with Perth RedStar in the Top Four Cup Final if they are successful, next Saturday. That is a physically demanding challenge, but one Pete Rakic will have his team up for.
Teams: PERTH REDSTAR: Diedrichsen, S.Carroll, Walsh, C.Bennett, K.Carroll, Billam, Wood, Dunn, Teixeira, Coleman, Doan. Substitutes: Studman, De Leo, Ridley, Goud, Leota, Mogridge, Odonohoe.
Scorers: C.Bennett 58′.
PERTH SC: R.Bennett, Harvey, van Heurck, Phillips, Cook, Meakins, Papalia, Gibbons, Doeglas, Byrne, Duncanson. Substitutes: Zampogna, Lincoln, Spatafore, Tanner, Flannery.
Referee: Sailota Phiri.
Fremantle City 0-2 Hyundai NTC
Hyundai NTC are one game from their first ever Top Four Cup Final after producing an impressively controlled performance to defeat Fremantle City at Wauhop Park on Friday night.
For Fremantle, this was a tough loss to take having been positioned inside the top four for virtually the entire season, but the NTC, who only confirmed their place in the Finals on the last week of the regular season, has consistently proved this season, that on their day, their combination of skill, firepower, and strength can be a test for anyone.
It was the visitors who started this encounter on the front foot, full of energy, and looking to push the home side back. However, Freo conjured up the first opportunities on goal. Jamie-Lee Gale, from the right, found Jess Darmago whose first shot was repelled by the midriff of onrushing NTC keeper Lilly Bailey before the custodian smothered the instant rebound.
NTC’s Sophie Meaden and Violet Longmore were influential along the right flank, combining to deliver dangerous balls into the box that kept Fremantle keeper Dayle Schroeder busy.
With the encounter largely even at this stage, it was increasingly becoming a case of the team who took a chance when it arrived being the one who would come out on top. When the opening goal came after 24 minutes, it had a big slice of luck about it.
A long NTC throw on the left led to a dangerous cross-shot which was pushed out by a firm hand from Schroeder and fell to Ischia Brooking on the edge of the box. Brooking drove her shot which was deflected off of a defender and wrong-footed Schroeder as it flew into the net.
The teenage side remained on the ascendency after the goal. They were exceptionally well organised, mounting a high press and getting in Fremantle faces quickly to force the home side back and win back possession.
NTC saw out a combative period before the break as the hosts forced back-to-back corners, the second of which Bailey leapt high under pressure to claim the ball.
Freo created a half chance within five minutes of the re-start as Tash Rigby got away down the right and pulled the ball across for Mikayla Lyons whose shot went over. Rigby’s influence was growing on the game, and as it did so, Fremantle began to mount their most consistent spell of pressure in the game.
Rigby was driving down the right as well as looking to cut inside to deliver inch-perfect crossfield balls. Just after the hour mark, the hosts forced a corner, and Gale’s flag kick from the left curled viciously in just beyond the far post.
The action was fast and furious now and Tanika Lala broke through for the NTC, headed the ball down, but as she was about to pull the trigger, was denied by tackle inside the box. Lala showed her worth shortly afterwards by winning a corner after it took two Freo defenders to deny her a shot on goal.
Grace Johnston was working hard and largely succeeded in reducing the threat that Darmago poses week-in-week-out for Fremantle. Bailey was well protected in the NTC goal and had very little to do in the way of shot-stopping in the second half as the youngsters weathered the mini Fremantle storm.
Natalia Vega Mena and Anna Powell combined in the box with 20 minutes to go, with the later forcing Schroeder into a save. Substitute Nelli Johnson was also putting in a powerful cameo shift, tracking Freo attacks confidently and offering herself in offensive situations as well.
With five minutes remaining, Freo won a free-kick on the left, some 20 yards from goal. It was curled in, and Bailey claimed under heavy traffic with the additional gain of a free-kick herself. NTC responded themselves by winning a corner which almost brought about a match-clinching second goal from Ava Richards.
Freo’s final chance came in the last minute of regulation time as a powerful drive was blocked on the line by Georgia Cassidy.
Within two minutes the game was settled by a piece of trademark skill by Lala. Johnson’s throw-in for the NTC on the left inside their own half found the young gun up the same wing. Lala showed strength and pace to beat her marker, cut inside, and hit a perfectly angled low shot between two would-be defenders on its way to rolling home at the far post.
This was a deserved win for the NTC who have an impressive mix of skill, organisation, game management, and physical presence. They are always an enjoyable team to watch, and now head into a clash away to Perth SC in midweek for a place in the Top Four Cup Final.
Teams: FREMANTLE CITY: Schroeder, Smith, Rigby, Nadilo, Gale, Lyons, Waltman, Darmago, Boorman, Boyle, Leek. Substitutes: McCulloch, Buxey, Kiama, Siah, Archibald, Nolan.
HYUNDAI NTC: Bailey, Richards, Anderson, Cassidy, Johnston, Lala, Brooking, Powell, Vega Mena, Meaden, Longmore. Substitutes: Harnwell, Woolley, O’Halloran, Cuthbert, Johnson.
Scorers: Brooking 24′, Lala 90+1′.
Referee: Stewart Beattie.