Goals galore in the opening round of the NPLW Victoria

By Kieran Yap (22/3/23)

Above: South Melbourne and Heidelberg United in action. Photo: Jack Dilks for Heidelberg Utd.

The NPLW has kicked off in Victoria, and although some of last season’s bigger names are still competing in the Dub, there was plenty of talent on show. Seventeen goals were scored across round one, with six of them coming in the opening game between Box Hill United and Calder United.

Match of the Week:

Box Hill United 3-3 Calder United

Box Hill started the game with intent and opened the scoring in the second minute. Sienna Techera’s cross from the left was turned in on the volley by Anais Josefki. The speedy striker continuing the form from last season that earned her a call-up to train with Melbourne Victory.

Calder United responded in the 18th minute. After trying to play their way through the Box Hill defence, Bella Sewards unleashed from long range with a high dipping shot that nestled into the back of the net. This was a spectacular strike, and remarkably, only one of the goals scored in this game that could be a goal-of-the-season contender.

The scores stayed level until the 58th minute when Techera scored her first for the season. A quickly taken free kick set her into space on the left, and she cute inside before firing a shot across goal to make it 2-1. It was a low hard strike that caught everybody by surprise, Techera wheeled away thumping the crest of her shirt the celebrate.

The lead only lasted until the 62nd minute when Lucy Richards found Sienna Cappola in the penalty area. The composed finish drew Calder United level for the second time of the afternoon, but there was still more drama left in this match.

Calder are on the hunt for a third consecutive title this season, and Montana Mathews’ free kick was a reminder of the talent that they have even without the A-League stars currently at Western United.

This was a rocket of a strike, a straight arrow, a ballistic missile. Mathews elected for power over placement and crashed her effort in off the underside from at least 30 yards out.

There was one more twist in this game when Box Hill found a stoppage-time equaliser. Laura Picket spread the ball wide to Emma Langley. The fullback was cut down as she drove into the penalty area and Asuka Doi levelled the scores from the spot. There was less than a minute to play, and the game ended in a 3-3 draw.

Round up:

Alamein hosted the Preston Lions on Saturday, and the newly promoted side was first to score. Miri Nishimura’s 21st-minute free-kick set the Lions off the to perfect start in the top division.

Mia Cane equalised in the 87th minute to secure a point for the home side. Sidney Allen’s corner kick was well placed and Cane attacked it perfectly to open her account for the season.

Bayside United got their season off to the perfect start with a 3-0 defeat of Southern United Football Club. Olivia Bamford’s corner kick was not properly cleared by the Southern defenders and Lauren Antonello struck from close range through a crowded penalty area.

Claudia Budiongo’s cross caused havoc in the box, and after two blocked efforts from Antonello, Bamford finally buried the chance to make it 2-0 in the 27th minute.

The third came in the 63rd minute. Miwa Sasaki was credited with the goal. Her free kick looked to have bounced harmlessly off the woodwork but was judged to have crossed the line. It was quite an opening-day performance from one of last season’s struggling teams.

The blockbuster of the weekend saw Heidelberg United travel to face South Melbourne. Heidelberg were one of last season’s most impressive teams, but are undergoing a rapid rebuild. Star striker Danielle Wise departed for this weekend’s opponents.

Although South have recruited aggressively as they usually do, Heidelberg fans should feel encouraged by this performance. The 1-1 draw is a sign of a promising season. Steph Galea’s penalty opened the scoring after Nicole Blackett was brought down after a clever turn in the area.

South found the equaliser early in the second half. Jenna Lawson and Wise both tried their luck from close range before Tayla Christensen finally beat Melissa Maizels in goal. The Melbourne Victory champion can look unbeatable at times, and South Melbourne needed three direct shots in a matter of seconds to eventually score against her.

Like many teams, Heidelberg may be reinforced by A-League talent in the coming weeks, but they look strong despite their departures. Wise and Grace Jale are big losses, but they have Katerina Nikpour who was a threatening, tricky attacker for Alamein last season. They will likely challenge again.

Last season’s runner-up Bulleen Lions FC are expected to be contenders for the crown again, and are rumoured to have some big names arriving after the completion of the A-League Women. This season did not get off to the perfect start.  A 2-2 draw to the promoted Boroondara-Carey Eagles will excite the visitors more that the league powerhouse.

The opening goal was a little fortunate, but still the result of some good work. Bulleen battled hard to keep the ball in their forward third, and Aroha Little’s high cross from the right was spilled over the line by Deanna Bottalico.

Their lead doubled before halftime. Another cross from the right was knocked in by the impressive Rosie Rodger. The energetic attacker was crucial to Bulleen’s press in the first half and the goal was well deserved, although a little surprising as The Eagles had the height in defence to deal with her.

Boroondara hit back in the second half. A fast direct run down the win from Kristina Hall was squared to Kurea Okino who finished from close range.

Hearts were in mouths for the visitors when Katie Beck’s cross was almost deflected in for an own goal. Bulleen’s promising attack ended with a corner that was cleared by the Boroondara’s defence.

Bulleen continued to attack, but could not find the extra goal. It would prove costly as the under siege Eagles levelled the scores in the 88th minute. Substitute Irene Paracki delivered a perfect ball into the feet of Okino who turned in a tight space to fire home her second of the game.

The results of the opening round see both Grand Finalists without a win, although there are enough signs to point to promising campaigns.

The biggest shock was the 3-0 victory by Bayside United. Last season’s perennial strugglers created chances and finished them off. They sit on top of the table after an impressive first hit out.

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