Okino dominates and Iaria delights in NPLW Victoria Round Six

by Kieran Yap (26/4/23)

Above: Bulleen Lions (white) and Bayside United contest possession during their round six encounter. Photo: Bulleen Lions.

Three very different wonder goals and another Kurea Okino masterclass defined Round Six of Victoria’s NPLW. While Alamein got back to winning ways, Preston Lions faced their toughest test of the season so far.

South Melbourne 1-0 Box Hill United

Box Hill United came into this game in need of a win. They have been one of the league’s most watchable teams so far this season. The attacking talents of Sienna Techera and Anais Josefski mean that they can threaten any side, meaning goal scoring has not been their issue with 11 in five games coming into this week.

Up against South Melbourne this week, they faced a similarly in-form attacking team, but one with a stronger defence. Although Box Hill were competitive throughout and stayed in the game until the end, one goal was enough to make the difference.

Box Hill’s attack was cut off by Brianne Reed who produced a clever turn before surging forward. The defence did well to scramble back and regain possession briefly, but Danielle Wise was persistent. South Melbourne’s star signing showed all the tenacity and technique that won her the 2022 Golden Boot with a terrific burst of pace and powerful strike for the only goal of the game in the 51st minute.

Box Hill did not give up too many easy chances, but the fluidity in attack that they have been known for this season was missing. South Melbourne’s defence and midfield proved too organized to break down when it mattered.

Alamein 3-1 FV Emerging

Alamein started the season off strong with a series of high-scoring wins, but a 3-0 humbling to Boroondara-Carey Eagles, then a 0-0 draw with Heidelberg left them in need of a response this week.

Their opponents, FV Emerging were no easy opposition. They were coming off a 5-2 win over Box Hill United in which they played some incisive, passing football. The kids were confident, and Alamein could not afford to take them lightly.

FV Emerging struck first. A Candice Kilderry free kick caused havoc in Alamein’s defence and the ball bounced around until it fell to Alana Cortellino. The trick winger created some space for herself and fired a shot into the far corner from a difficult angle. The youngster is improving week to week and is quickly following in the footsteps of Caitlin Katic who had that position before her.

Alamein fans had to wait until the second half for a response. Chinatsu Shindara’s long ball forward evaded the FV Emerging defence and Elaina Vatcky was on hand to tuck the chance away at close range.

The home side would add to that equaliser in stunning fashion Sarah O’Donohuge lined up from very long range and rifled a shot into the net. Sophie Dehne dove at full stretch but could do nothing to prevent it.

The result was put beyond doubt when Sidney Allen’s free-kick was bundled in for an own goal. It was a strong turnaround in form by Alamein, but FV Emerging continued to show that they can match it at this level. Only defensive composure kept them from a result.

Bayside United 2-0 Bulleen Lions

A Miwa Sasaki double was the difference in Bayside United’s surprise win over Bulleen Lions. The loss was Bulleen’s first of the season. The first goal arrived in the most direct way possible.

Goalkeeper Coco Majstorovic bombed a long ball forward. The bounce eluded the Bulleen defenders for Kayla Deaver to run onto. The winger twisted into the box and created enough space for the shot. It was too fast for the goalkeeper to handle, and Sasaki pounced to bundle it home from close range.

Bulleen fought hard and created chances. Rosie Rodger in particular was impressive and dynamic once again, but Bayside sealed the win with minutes left on the clock.

It was another long ball and another finish by Sasaki, but this time she carried the ball into the area and struck low and hard to leave Emily Shields with little chance of stopping it.

The win leaves Bulleen Lions in seventh place despite impressive performances. There is still plenty of time for this team to click in front of goal.

Heidelberg United 1-1 Preston Lions

This was the most intriguing game of the round. Johnno Clemente’s Heidelberg United and the newly promoted Preston Lions were two of the remaining undefeated teams in the competition. Katrina Nikpour started for the home side in the strikers role and was partnered in attack by the in-form captain Stephanie Galea. It was the skipper who opened the scoring once again.

It was one of the best goals of the season so far. The move began deep in defence with Heidelberg passing short and directly to open up space. Nicole Blackett eventually received it on the overlap and slipped in Nikpour on the left flank. The ball across goal was dangerously hit and Galea only needed a touch to score but attacked it with pace. Preston had not touched the ball for the entire move.

It was an attacking game and although it was surprising that no other goals were scored until the 73rd minute, it was still a disappointing one for the home side to concede.

Preston earned the chance. Melanie Camilleri is a constant threat and her pace and persistence caused momentary panic in the Berger’s defence. As she cute inside she was brought down just inside the penalty area. It was an unfortunate foul to give away. Camilleri was not quite in a shooting position and moving away from goal, but the threat was there.

She picked herself up to dispatch the spot kick herself. The scores stayed level and at the end of the round the two sides remained the only undefeated teams in the NPLW Victoria.

Boroondara-Carey Eagles 3-2 Calder United

Another goal of the round contender was not enough for Calder United to leave the Veneto Club with anything, but they may have uncovered the latest new star of the league.

This game was an attacking feast, with the first goal coming in the ninth minute. Rebecca Lim intercepted Calder’s attempt to play the ball out from the back and raced into the area. She cut the ball across goal for Mawa Sumaoro to finish unmarked in the bottom corner.

Calder equalised less than 10 minutes later. Bella Sewards and Alexis Mitchell combined at the edge of the area to make space. Mitchell slipped a pass through the Eagles defence and the fast-arriving Kiewa Hieda to finish.

The Eagles retook the lead through another run from Lim. She skipped past multiple players and found her way to the by-line. When she cut the ball back for Kurea Okino, the striker still had plenty to do. Despite being closely marked, she turned and got away a shot at the near post that found the back of the net. It was her 10th of the season so far.

Calder drew level in the second half again. Sewards delivered a long high pass beyond the Eagles’ defence and Fiorina Iaria brought it down with one sensational touch of the outside of her foot. With the next touch, she flicked it beyond the keeper and into the back of the net for one of the best goals this season.

It was a shame that this game had to have a winner, but there were no surprises who scored the deciding goal. Okino outpaced her defender and outmuscled her to the ball over the top. The finish felt inevitable at that point and the league’s leading scorer had her 12th of the season in just six games.

The end of the round’s hostilities see the Boroondara-Carey Eagles at the top of the table, closely followed by the undefeated Preston Lions. Alamein climbed back up to third, but Calder United will need to find points to match their play soon.

Table From: Football Victoria.

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