Perth SC 2-2 Perth RedStar
Perth SC win 7-6 on sudden death penalties.
Above: Perth SC celebrate with the NPLW WA Night Series trophy after their dramatic win over Perth RedStar. Photo: Rob Lizzi.
by Ben Gilby (19/3/23)
Perth SC came from 2-0 down with six minutes of normal time remaining to defeat Perth RedStar in a sudden death penalty shoot-out in a highly dramatic NPLW WA Night Series Grand Final at Floreat Athena’s E&D Litis Stadium.
The Azzurri showed real grit and determination to become the first side to defeat Perth RedStar since the merger between Northern Redbacks and ECU Joondalup. As well as being two goals adrift during the 90 minutes, they also missed their opening penalty in the shoot-out. This was a trophy for Perth SC that was earned the hard way.
Carlos Vega Mena’s RedStar side won every trophy available to them last season. Despite losing key players Shawn Billam (retirement), Larissa Walsh (Calder United), and Carla Bennett (serious injury), the RedStar conveyor belt of home-produced talent and canny signings has put together another strong team.
Perth SC boss Pete Rakic has also put together a strong-looking squad for the new season, as the Azzurri look to mount a serious challenge across all competitions this campaign. Coming in are talented players such as former Perth Glory A-League Women players Poppie Hooks (from Murdoch University Melville), Gemma Craine (returning from 12 months injured), plus Monique Godding from Balcatta Etna and Ellie La Monte who comes back to WA after a 17 goal haul for Launceston United in the NPLW Tasmania last season.
The opening half-hour was largely cagey. There were a limited number of half-chances. First, with six minutes on the clock, Liana Cook floated in a free kick for Perth SC on the left-hand side of the box that led to Jaime Duncanson getting an effort away that Maya Diederichsen in the RedStar put out for a corner. The resulting flag kick saw Hooks fire in a shot that drifted wide.
RedStar began to threaten more often after the 20-minute mark with former Football Fern Renee Leota denied a shot on goal as Perth defender Alyssa van Heurck got in a fine tackle just as the trigger was about to be pulled. Cook also got back well to deny Leota another chance after reading Olivia Wood’s through ball expertly.
However, just after the half-hour mark Leota ran towards the box and was challenged just inside the area, and referee David Avison pointed to the spot. Up stepped Sarah Carroll, who dispatched a low shot into the right-hand corner of the net, just beyond the outstretched boot of Perth SC keeper Rebecca Bennett.
Perth SC looked to respond instantly with Duncanson getting through and hitting a fierce low ball across the box that no one in a sky-blue shirt could get on the end of. Shortly afterwards, Abbey Meakins let fly from long range, but Diederichsen dealt with the danger.
In time-honoured fashion, once ahead, RedStar looked to make the most of it. Grace Monteiro turned and played in a high cross from the right that Wood, centrally positioned on the edge of the box headed backwards for Chiori Ikeda. The Japanese player showed great skill to first control the ball, and then backheel it for compatriot Reina Kagami to take a touch and sweep a low shot into the net to double the defending champions’ lead.
Just before the break, Carlos Vega Mena’s side had one further opportunity as Wood’s long-range shot was well held by Rebecca Bennett.
Pete Rakic made an important half-time substitution, bringing on Craine, and his Perth SC side began to slowly edge back into the contest after an early mix-up in defence that saw an attempted clearance deflect off a sky-blue shirt and fall to Carroll whose shot from the edge of the area was cleared.
Just before the hour mark, Meakins combined with the industrious Ella Lincoln who forced a superb diving save from Diederichsen. Ten minutes later, the Azzurri came close once more as Duncanson’s corner from the left spun in viciously, and with Diederichsen beaten, came back off of the crossbar.
RedStar also saw an effort come back off of the bar within two minutes when Coleman found Wood, who rocketed a shot off of the woodwork.
Perth SC had survived, and then mounted an attack of their own as Judy Connolly was played through, only to be brought down in the box by Andreia Teixeira who was shown a yellow card and a penalty awarded. Abbey Meakins’ low spot kick found the net to bring Perth back into the game.
Perth RedStar fashioned the next chance – a golden one to seal victory with 18 minutes remaining in a sequence that, after the match, could be looked back on as the moment this game turned.
Leota found Akida from the left-hand side who forced Bennett into a save, with the rebound coming for Coleman, placed centrally in the box who looked certain to have hit the third RedStar goal to finally kill off Perth dreams – but Bennett came from nowhere to produce an astounding save.
Buoyed by this, Perth SC came forward, and with just six minutes remaining on the clock, a ball through found Football West NTC product Connolly who turned Carroll twice and guided a shot into the far right-hand corner to level the scores. With no extra time in this final – the destination of the trophy was to be decided by a penalty shoot-out.
First up was Meakins for Perth, but her effort was saved by a flying Diederichsen to the left. With the next eight penalties all successful, up stepped Kagami who knew that if she scored, Perth RedStar would retain the trophy. However, Bennett dived to the right to push the ball away, and Perth SC were back from the dead once more.
The shoot-out now moved to sudden death, and with the pressure ramped up, five successful penalties were taken. RedStar captain Jay Coleman then stepped up and agonisingly put her spot kick wide of the left-hand post. It was a cruel way for such an enthralling encounter to be decided.
Perth SC celebrated a hard-won trophy. They will take huge confidence not just from winning silverware, but the way they did it, and the huge character they showed. However, Perth RedStar will come back from this – they will go all out to repeat their successes of last season, starting next weekend when they host Hyundai NTC in a repeat of last season’s NPLW Top Four Cup Final to begin the 2023 NPLW WA campaign. It’s going to be a heck of a ride.
Teams: PERTH SC: Bennett, Cook, Van Heurck, Papalia, Gibbons, Godding, Meakins, Hooks, Connolly, Lincoln, Duncanson. Substitutes: Craine, McMurdo, La Monte, Caceres, Phillips.
Scorers: Meakins (pen) 71′, Connolly 84′.
Penalty Shoot Out: Meakins (missed), Connolly, Phillips, Duncanson, Bennett, La Monte, Cook, Hooks.
PERTH REDSTAR: Diederichsen, Carroll, Studman, Kagami, Ikeda, Wood, Dunn, Teixeira, Monteiro, Coleman. Substitutes: Doan, Ridley, Ritchie, Woolley, Mogridge, O’Donohoe, Insch.
Scorers: Carroll (pen) 32′, Kagami 42′.
Penalty Shoot Out: Carroll, Teixeira, Wood, Ikeda, Kagami (missed), Dunn, Ridley, Coleman (missed).
Referee: David Avison.