Rams Take The Honours Despite Aquino’s Heroics

Northern Tigers 0-0 Macarthur Rams (19/9/22)

Macarthur Rams win 6-5 on penalties

by Ryan Miller-Woods

Above: Macarthur Rams lift the NPLW NSW trophy after a dramatic Grand Final win over Northern Tigers. Photo: NPL NSW.

Macarthur Rams earned an incredibly hard-fought victory with a 6-5 win on penalties (0-0 after 120 minutes) against a massively determined Northern Tigers in the NPLW NSW Grand Final at the Valentine Sports Park.

To say that Macarthur had to earn it would be a massive understatement as the grit and sheer determination of the Tigers kept them the scoreline not only scoreless for a full 90 minutes and extra time. So many of Macarthur’s chances throughout the match were prevented by the spectacular and amazing performance by Northern Tigers’ goalkeeper and Player of the Match Morgan Aquino who truly played out of her skin from start to finish.

For Macarthur to have gone a full 120 minutes in the Semi-Final and then repeat that in this match as well is honestly so very impressive. Northern Tigers went into this match as the slight favourites to take home the bragging rights after their dismissive and very comfortable 3-0 victory over the Regular Season Premiers Sydney University in normal time.

The first major chance of the match for Macarthur with Melissa Caceres cutting into the Tigers’ box and laying the ball off to Leena Khamis just puts it over the bar for a Tigers’ goal kick.

Above: Valentine Sports Park, venue for yesterday’s Grand Final. Photo: Northern Tigers.

Khamis was involved again when Patricia Charalambous crosses the ball into the box but her header went just wide of the near post. Perth Glory A-League Women keeper Aquino was called into action again when Bethany Gordon’s cross went towards Murtagh whose first-time volley is amazingly pushed out of play and over the crossbar.

Murtagh created another opportunity when finding the unmarked Charalmabous in the box which called onAquino yet again to make an incredible save.

Near the end of the first half, Isabel Gomez for the Northern Tigers starts the most promising play that her side have had in the match, as she hit a long pass to Ashlee Brodigan who cut in from the right past McComasky. Possession was lost, but Beth Bernardi found Shadeene Evans, Impetus‘ charity partners Moriarty Foundation’s inaugural scholar, who returned the favour with the ball being passed forward to Josie Wilson who crosses it in but then goes out and over the fence for a Macarthur goal kick.

At the start of the second half, Evans produced a moment of magic as she is found by Gomez. The ball is returned to Evans who chests the ball brilliantly and has an amazing attempt that sails just wide.

As the whistle goes for the end of the second half, the scoreline remained goalless. There was little in the way of goalmouth action in the opening period of the extra half-hour, but come the second stanza, McNulty for the Tigers had a first-time shot that sailed over the crossbar. The final chance of 120 minutes, and the destination of the trophy would be decided from the penalty spot.

Above: Morgan Aquino – the Perth Glory A-League Women goalkeeper had a sensational match for the Northern Tigers, including successfully dispatching a penalty in the shoot-out – but she would finish a runner-up. Photo: Paul Kane/Getty Images via Perth Glory.

Macarthur took the first penalty in the shootout with Alex Huynh who slotted her penalty beautifully into the bottom left corner. McNulty for Northern Tigers is the next player to take a penalty whose penalty is almost saved by the legs of Shamiran Khamis for Macarthur but importantly for McNulty and the Tigers, it still went into the back of the net.

Holly Williams for Macarthur was the next to step up to the penalty spot and she subsequently hit her effort perfectly into the top left corner. Evans for the Northern Tigers saw her shot goes just wide of the left post. Kylie Ledbrook followed up for Macarthur and her shot was saved by Aquino.

Brodigan for Northern Tigers steps up next and slotted her penalty directly into the bottom right corner. Charalambous succeeded for Macarthur with her shot easily going into the back of the net. Gomez for the Northern Tigers calmly and casually walks up to the penalty spot that while Shamiran Khamis for Macarthur went the right way, Gomez perfectly placed her shot in the bottom left corner.

Gordon for Macarthur is the next up to the spot who places her penalty with a nicely found the net before goalkeeper Aquino stepped up for Northern Tigers and comfortably scored. She returned to her regular spot between the sticks but couldn’t keep out McComasky’s effort for Macarthur.

Bart for the Tigers then approached and placed her shot into the bottom left corner. Leena Khamis succeeded. Someone had to miss again, and that pain fell Abbey Green’s way for the Northern Tigers as Shamiran Khamis saved to ensure Macarthur became the 2022 NPLW NSW Champions.

Above: Isabelle Gomez (left) in action for Wellington Phoenix in the A-League Women – she had another superb game in defeat for the Northern Tigers. Photo: Western Sydney Wanderers.

There were not enough superlatives to describe the superb performance of Morgan Aquino. Time and time again, she played out of her skin and was really on another level during the match itself. It goes without saying, that there was no more deserving player to be the Player of the Match than her.

Gomez was absolutely amazing in the midfield, especially during the second half and really showed a lot of grit and determination with every ball that she played and every challenge that she made as she massively proved to be an incredibly crucial and integral player for the Tigers in this match. With how she played, she seriously proved why she has been an absolute star within the Northern Tigers throughout this entire season.

Shadeene Evans is also worthy of praise. The way that she played up front really was extremely beneficial to the Tigers with the chances that she made during the match. On another day for her, she could have very much been on the scoresheet. The skill that she showed with the chances made was honestly something entirely.

It was a deserved win for Macarthur Rams – but the superb Northern Tigers pushed them all the way. It was a fitting end to an excellent season.

Teams: MACARTHUR RAMS: S.Khamis, L.Khamis, Charalambous, Murtagh, Sunaga, Huynh, Malone, Caceres, B.Gordon, Foletta, Mccomasky. Substitutes: Williams, C.Gordon, Ledbrook, Duggan, Bishop, Clarke.

Penalties: Huynh (Scored), Williams (Scored), Ledbrook (Missed), Charalambous Gordon (Scored), McComasky (Scored), L.Khamis (Scored).

NORTHERN TIGERS: Aquino, Wilson, Green, Gomez, McNulty, Bart, Evans, Steinmetz, Bernardi, Brodigan, Kilbride. Substitutes: Cabezas, Fraser, Rickard, Mcmahon, Montenegro, Bartels.

Penalties: McNulty (Scored), Evans (Missed), Brodigan (Scored), Gomez (Scored), Aquino (Scored), Bart (Scored), Green (Missed)

Referee: Chloe Gray.

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