Calder United 2-0 Bulleen Lions
by Kieran Yap (14/9/22)
Above: Calder United celebrate with the trophy after winning the NPLW Victoria Grand Final against Bulleen Lions. Photo: Jack Dilks/171819.
Calder United have capped off a remarkable NPLW season by winning Victoria’s Grand Final 2-0 over Bulleen Lions.
It was Calder’s third trophy of the season following their first-place finish and a Nike FC Cup triumph. Mark Torcaso’s team was rebuilt in short time and dominated the league, scoring 55 goals while conceding just seven in 2022.
The Grand Final was a case of the unstoppable against the unpredictable. Bulleen had been hampered by inconsistencies throughout the season. Caitlin Friend had forged a squad built on a strong pedigree and some exciting youngsters.
At the start of 2022, Bulleen had six players who were in A-League women’s sides last season. Tiffany Eliadis, Lia Privitelli, and Paige Zois from Melbourne Victory, Tyla Jay Vlajnic and Rebekah Stott from Melbourne City, and Alana Jancevski from Perth Glory.
They were complimented by some less familiar but eventually impressive players like the deceptively powerful Aroha Little and the fearless Rosie Rodger.
Importantly, all of the A-League players had come from clubs that either went deep into the season, or had highly unusual campaigns, like Perth’s COVID bubble or Victory’s congested February.
Towards the end of the season, Paige Zois was called up to international duty while Vlajnic and Stott secured unmissable European opportunities. That Bulleen secured third place comfortably and won their semi-final is an amazing achievement by the club, players, and managers.
However, even at full strength, they may have been no match for this Calder United squad, nobody this season was.
Calder United began the season in form and maintained that throughout the season. the Grand Final win was their seventh straight victory. Up until the finals, they had only lost twice and dropped points on five occasions in total.
Scoring against them felt unlikely, preventing them from scoring was almost impossible. They only failed to score on two occasions this season and although the team was littered with individual talent, choosing one standout player is difficult.
So the two teams met in the Grand Final and it felt as difficult to bet against Calder as it did to count out Bulleen. The game was hotly contested, but not a classic contest, and an even first half saw the three best chances fall to Bulleen, while Calder went into the break 1-0 up.
Raquel Derales had the first shot on goal for Calder. The scorer of the semi-final winner made space in the box but was on a difficult angle when she shot. Emily Shields was able to make the first save of what would be a busy afternoon.
Zois returned fire for Bulleen. Calder seemed to put a lot of effort into swarming the Young Matilda and preventing passes to her feet. She was able to run towards goal and get a clean shot away but Alyssa Dall’ Oste was untroubled.
Calder’s opening goal was both fortuitous and deserved from the build-up. A corner kick was only half cleared by Bulleen. Emma Robers maintained possession on the edge of the box and instead of blazing back into a crowded area, she played it back out wide to Alana Cerne.
Cerne whipped in a dangerous cross and the ball deceived Shields to fly into the back on the net. It was a goal crafted from patience, discipline, and luck. To win a Grand Final, all three are handy.
The goal arrived in just the 16th minute, but Bulleen suddenly seemed rushed for a short period. They were more hurried to get the ball forward, but once they regained composure they enjoyed two good chances to end the half.
Both came from the left foot of Alana Jancevski. Her low cross from the wing somehow missed everybody in the area when any touch would have scored. Then in the closing minutes, her free kick was on target and dipping, but Dall Oste’ was able to hold onto it to deny a lurking Eliadis.
The talented forward was finding it hard to find time and space on the ball. She does not need much, but Calder were in no mood to risk her having any.
Calder attacked more throughout the second half. Alexis Rossi hit the woodwork with a spectacular long-range effort. Then Shields made a miracle save from Melissa Taranto’s follow-up. She was called into action seconds later from a header that was clawed away at full stretch.
Cerne played the pass of the game to Taranto again in the3 60th minute. She dropped the ball perfectly over the defence from deep. Taranto’s volley connected well and only the post prevented it from being 2-0.
The second goal came at a bad time Bulleen. The Lions were starting to get a foothold back in the game and were desperately unlucky not to score Lia Privitelli’s flick at a corner kick.
Minutes later, Calder drove forward. Stacy Papadopoulos, who was almost unstoppable on the wing all day, found Melissa Taranto in the box. The forward stopped and turned to find a shot. When it wasn’t on she played it back to the winger.
Papadopoulos played a dangerous ball across the face of goal where Taranto was on hand to tap it home. It was a wonderfully crafted goal, where individual skill and team chemistry combined.
Importantly, it left Bulleen with only 15 minutes to score twice, against a team that had barely conceded all year.
Jancevski offered the best hope of that. Her long-range effort looked dangerous off the boot and she looked disappointed when it whizzed over despite the high degree of difficulty.
In a show of force and intent. Torcaso withdrew fullback Montana Matthews and replaced her with striker Ava Groba.
Bulleen could not attack without risking a third, Groba’s pace would leave them vulnerable and she almost scored after a counterattack, before Aleks Sinclair nearly sealed it with a near miss.
After five minutes of injury time, Calder United were crowned Champions with the trophy presented by Tony Gustavsson.
With the core of this squad set to feature in the A-League with Western United, they may surprise a few teams next season. They have talent, they are well organized, and will be complemented by some senior experience.
Bulleen pledged to be back next season. Caitlin Friend’s first full season in charge was an admirable one. They were in championship-winning form in the COVID cancelled year and did well to rebound for this one.
But this was Calder’s day as it was their season. They were undeniable, tenacious, and skilful. Julia Sardo received player of the match awards, but Montana Matthews is also due some appreciation.
The full-back has routinely kept dangerous wingers quiet while being confident carrying or passing the ball forward. She has had a breakout season in the NPLW and surely as A-League football in her future.
The Grand Final was no exception. Up against Lia Privitelli, she had her work cut out for her, but was diligent and combative without the ball, while willing to take risks with it. She is a bit special.
That concludes Victoria’s NPLW coverage for 2022. It has been an absolute pleasure to write about these players and clubs this season, and a privilege to see some of Australia’s best and future stars in action up close.
Attention now turns to the upcoming A-League Women’s season. With a new club in the mix, many of Victoria’s players will feature. Anybody who watched this league will be excited to watch them seize the opportunity.
Teams: CALDER UNITED: Dall’Oste, Cerne, Derales (Cain 64’), Robers, Dakic (El-Hayek 90’), Taranto, Sinclair, Papadopoulos, Mathews (Groba 82’), Sardo, Rossi.
Scorers: Cerne 16’, M. Taranto 75’.
BULLEEN LIONS: Shields, Natoli, Zois, Burn, Privitelli, Eliadis, Little, Johnson (Rodger 76’), O’Bryan, Dolzan, Jancevski.
Referee: Caitlin Williams.