Bulleen off the mark and Okino’s clinic: NPLW Victoria Round Four

by Kieran Yap (10/4/23)

Bulleen Lions recorded their first win of the season, Heidelberg United defeated a dangerous Box Hill United and the NPLW Victoria might have a new star striker as Round Four once again delivered some incredible games.

Above: Heidelberg United (yellow) and South Melbourne face off. Photo: Jack Dilks.

FV Emerging 4-4 Bayside United SC

Two weeks ago, this column wrote that FV Emerging’s 6-1 loss to South Melbourne should not be a huge cause for concern. The development team can sometimes be inconsistent and may take some time to grow into the season, but the talent remains indisputable. Against Bayside United FC on Friday night, they showed what they can do.

The 4-4 draw will be viewed as a two points lost by the youngsters, but the performance was commendable, and the winning mentality is already instilled in this side. Bayside United have also done more than enough to show they are in this league to fight for every point.

This game was nothing but goals, both teams attacked from the start and FV Emerging were on fire early. Anika Dovaston received the ball in midfield and after spreading it wide, she eventually received it back from Alana Cortellino.

The ball in, might have been intended as a cross, but deceived the keeper to open the scoring. FV Emerging were 1-0 up in the third minute.

Emilie Keppens scored twice for Emerging by the 16th minute to give them a shock 3-0 lead.

On both occasions, quick and directed attacks allowed the striker to get behind the defence, and her composure was matched by the finishes.

Bayside hit back in similar style. A long ball forward by Sienna Fogarty found Olivia Bomford. She got close to goal before tucking it into the bottom corner.

Bomford was involved in Bayside’s next goal. She brought the ball down at the edge of the box and played it low into a dangerous area. New recruit Caitlin Storay beat the defenders to the ball and nicked it beyond the goalkeeper to score Bayside’s second and make it 3-2 before half-time.

FV Emerging regained their two-goal cushion in the 56th minute. Cortellino was put into space after some patient passing. She raced in from the wing and laid in on a platter for Keppens to bring up her hattrick.  This was an easier finish than her other two goals, but another example of the strikers strong instincts.

Bayside were not finished yet. Julia Budiongo kept them in the contest with an incredible half-volley. FV Emerging spent the rest of the match under siege, and although it looked likely that they would hold on for the win, a dramatic equaliser eventually arrived.

In the 97th minute. Kayla Deaver reached a high cross. At great personal risk, she attacked the ball and nodded it into the net to rescue a late draw for Bayside United.

South Melbourne 1-3 Bulleen Lions

Bulleen Lions and South Melbourne braved arctic conditions on Saturday. Although South have been early standard bearers this season, they entered this game with attacker Caitlin Picket in goal. A combination of international call-ups and injury put her in the hot seat, against a team hungry for their first win.

South looked set to continue their strong form early. Tayla Christensen scored from their first opportunity in the 25th minute. She held off the challenge of Lani Johnson to lift the ball over Gaby Garton. The goal has been recorded as an own goal to Johnson, but the view provided looks like Christensen’s goal.

Bulleen sprung to life in the second half. The tricky and creative Rosie Rodger was at the heart of their equaliser. Her twisting run did not result in a shot on target, but the ball fell to Audrey Oastler who tapped it home from close range.

Oatsler’s second and Bulleen’s third arrived just minutes later. Sensing an opportunity, she launched an effort from more than 20 yards. Pickett could do little to stop the strike, and Bulleen had the goal that would deliver them a first win of the season.

Heidelberg United 3-2 Box Hill United

Heidelberg United appear to be switching into top gear already this season. Results are improving and their trademark aggressive style with and without the ball is once again a joy to watch. They came up against a dangerous Box Hill United. The pace of Anais Josefski up front made the visitors a potentially tricky opponent, but The Bergers struck first through Nicole Blackett.

The chance was made through their pressing efforts. Box Hill struggled to play the ball from defence, and once it fell to Blackett 18 yards from goal, she did not hesitate. The first time shot, crashed into the net to set the tone for a fast-paced afternoon of football.

Asuka Doi almost equalised for Box Hill with a towering header that somehow bounced off the crossbar, but Steph Galea doubled Heidelberg’s advantage soon after.

The captain was played through from deep and clipped the ball over the keeper in style. It was Galea’s third goal of the season, and she looks in deadly form so far.

Doi provided Box Bill with a lifeline in the 54th minute. She was unmarked from a corner but was not in a particularly dangerous area. Her header looped high and long over Melissa Maizels to make it 2-1 and it was game on once again.

Heidelberg’s cushion was restored with another long pass. This time it was Patricia Charalambous who was on the end of it and finished calmly to make it 3-1.

It would not be a Box Hill game without Josefski turning on the afterburners. Her powerful, run between the Heidelberg back four took her wide of the goal, but her cross won a penalty after it was judged to be a handball.

Doi tucked away the spot kick to give Box Hill some hope, but the game ended 3-2.

Southern United 0-3 Preston Lions

A wonder goal from Hailee Mesiti set the tone for Preston’s win away from home. The Lions kept up the pressure after a corner kick, and a high looping shot from the edge of the area found the back of the net.

Miri Nishimura’s effort from 18 yards extended the lead for the visitors. As with the first goal, it was a mix of class and persistence.

Preston effectively sealed the win when Rachel Stirton beat her defender to a low cross. her shot was somewhat scuffed, but wrongfooted the keeper to make it 3-0. This was the first match of the season that Preston had scored more than one goal. That they had it from three different scorers will be very encouraging for the coming rounds.

The result takes Preston into the top three with a game in hand over fourth-placed Alamein, and keeps them clear of Bulleen and South Melbourne on points.

Boroondara-Carey Eagles 3-0 Alamein FC

Kurea Okino was in imperious form as Boroondara-Carey defeated Alamein FC at home. The Japanese striker chased down a hopeful pass and buried the chance to open the scoring in the second minute.

Another lofted pass gave Okino a half-chance in the 55th minute. She bustled past two Alamein defenders and shot high into the roof of the net from close range. Her hattrick was brought up in the 77th minute to complete the days scoring. The half-volley was another fantastic finish by the league’s top scorer. It was a deadly mix of technique, power, and placement to give the keeper no chance.

The conclusion of Round Four sees Boroondara-Carey Eagles in top spot, but Heidelberg United steadily catching up. It was Alamein’s first loss of the season, but Bulleen Lion’s first.

Box Hill slid down the ladder, but Preston Lions continued their undefeated run. No clear patterns have emerged, anybody can still win on their day, and the league table remains intriguing and unpredictable so far.

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