Feature image: Smile for Peter
Round Four of the NPLW saw 22 goals shared amongst four games, and just one clean sheet kept between eight teams. Amongst the action this weekend was a return to form for Calder United, a dramatic last-minute winner for South Melbourne and two stirring comebacks, including Galaxy’s 4-4 draw with the Senior NTC.
The regional outfit showed plenty of character to forcer their way back into a tie that for all money looked dead and buried, with the National Training Centre holding a three-goal lead with just 20 minutes left on the clock.
Junior Matilda Kyra Cooney-Cross struck twice in the first half, either side of a goal from Laura Spiranovic to see the scoreline read 2-1 at half time.
The NTC soon further extended their lead, with Kelly Hei Lam netting her first ever goal in the NPLW, before skipper MelindaJ Barbieri put away a spot kick to make it 4-1.
It was, to say the least, a shock scoreline between two sides whose form have been polar opposites to start the season.
The first vs. last clash threatened to break two ducks at the same time, with Galaxy staring down the barrel of a first loss of the season, while the NTC could smell their first competitive win of 2017.
However the introduction of Lulu Al-Huneidi off the bench sparked a miraculous comeback for United, which started with a deflected goal on 70 minutes which was officially credited to Galaxy’s super sub.
Adriana Taranto made it 4-3 just two minutes later, allowing Leigh Gray to pounce for a dramatic equaliser in the 88th minute.
The visitors at Knox Regional Football Centre missed a number of late chances to secure the full three points, but in the end it was a respectable point for both sides in an enthralling contest.
The goals didn’t stop there as a scintillating display of football from Rachel Alonso helped set up Calder United’s mammoth 5-0 win over the in-form Southern United.
The Melbourne Victory forward netted a hat-trick and assisted once in a brilliant solo performance that included two belters from long range.
A perfect afternoon for the reigning NPLW Champions was soured by what appeared to be a serious knee injury to international Emma Meckfessel, who was substituted out of the fixture late in the first half.
The American had nearly headed her side into an early lead, but her effort from Alonso’s corner crashed into the crossbar before eventually being cleared.
Alonso tested the waters with a stinging free-kick, which forced a good save from Christina Fonua, however the forward got her own back soon after with a belting finish from 25-yards on the half-hour mark that crept underneath the crossbar.
The second half saw the floodgates open as Calder piled on a further four unanswered goals.
Cindy Lay was played through by Gulcan Koca for the opening chance of the half, but she was unable to test the goalkeeper from a one-on-one opportunity.
Koca herself then got onto the end of a parried save from a Barilla shot to steer in her side’s second of the afternoon, as the game began to escape the grasps of Southern.
Chances continued to flow for the hosts as Alonso was first denied her second by a brilliant diving save from Fonua before Stacey Papadopoulos blazed over the bar with a close-range volley.
The pressure eventually told as a darting run into the box from substitute Brydie Siryj resulted in a ball out wide to Alonso, who cut in to dispatch her second into the top right corner.
Her hat-trick was completed eight minutes from time as she found the top-left corner with a well-flighted free-kick, which left a scrambling Fonua no chance.
Scoring was rounded off by defender Kasha Meyer, who was able to bundle home at the near post from Alonso’s 87th minute corner.
Chances were kept to a premium for Southern, who had one chance of note in the second half falling the way of Courtney Hueston, but her one-on-one effort was denied by the returning Bethany Mason-Jones.
A stoppage-time winner from substitute Caitlin Greiser delivered South Melbourne a dramatic 3-2 victory over Bayside United at Kingston Heath.
Hosts Bayside had earlier pegged back a South Melbourne lead on two occasions, with a Melina Ayres double cancelled out by goals from Emily Harbis and Sienna Fogarty.
It was both Fogarty and Harbis who looked the most threatening in the first half for Bayside, with the pair combining on seven minutes, only for the former to blaze over the bar from close-range.
Harbis wriggled her way between two South defenders on 14 minutes to find herself free on goal, but her left-footed effort was unable to beat the post, grazing the upright on its way out.
Bayside came close again to registering an opener through Fogarty but her stinging right-footed effort from 25 yards was denied by a solid stop from Molly-May Ramsay.
Instead it was South who struck against the run of play on 38 minutes as Ayres pivoted on the edge of the area before placing a low shot into the bottom left corner of goal, beyond the reach of Ingrid Phillipe in goals.
United found a response on the cusp of half-time through Harbis, who was able to create a yard of space on South defender Antonia Niteros with a sharp turn of pace, before sliding a low shot into the right side of goal.
On the flip-side of the break, it was South who burst out of the blocks as Ayres secured her third brace in as many weeks.
Her clever run was picked out by Natalie Martineau from midfield, before hammering home a powerful effort from just inside the area.
With their lead restored, South pushed on to further extend it and they had the ball in the back of the net once more through Tiffany Eliadis, however it was chalked off for a line-ball offside call.
Bayside had a flurry of chances in their search for an equaliser – Emma Runnalls fired narrowly over from outside the box, substitute Amy Malander had her shot from a one-on-one saved by Ramsay before finally Jessie Kotsikas’ follow up effort from distance was held by the South keeper.
The pressure eventually told as Fogarty fired in a stunning half-volley equaliser from the edge of the area, the assist coming – quite literally – off the back of Malander, who was fortuitously placed to block a clearance into the path of her Bayside teammate.
With the game in the balance, South deployed two attacking substitutes in Britt Thomas and Greiser, who both had a key say in the deciding goal.
Thomas had earlier flashed a shot wide of the post, while Greiser saw a goal chalked off for a clear hand ball in the build-up.
The two then combined, with Greiser crossing for Thomas, only for the resulting shot to be skied over the crossbar from five yards out.
Ramsay was requited once more at the other end to smother a Malander effort, before South struck at the other end.
Thomas’ weak cross from the right flank was poorly dealt with by the South defence, who were unable to clear their lines as the ball bounced between keeper and defence.
Greiser was on hand at the back post to tap home her second goal of the season and deliver the three points to the visitors.
They were forced to defend one last opportunity however, with German Sarah Wieck sweetly connecting onto a volley from a tight angle, which forced Aimee Medwin to clear her shot off the goal mouth.
It leaves Bayside languishing in ninth place, and one of two sides yet to register a win for 2017.
The win helped South gain ground on ladder leaders Galaxy United who was only able to claim a point this weekend.
By Daniela Panetta
Heidelberg United and Alamein FC split the points as their enthralling encounter ended 2-2 at Olympic Village on Saturday afternoon.
Alamein were able to cancel out a 2-0 lead to earn their share of the points, with the Bergers going two goals up courtesy of a Cortnee Vine brace.
She found the net early in the first half to open the scoring and added to her tally to extend Heidelberg’s lead to 2-0 by the 54th minute, while Caitlin Doeglas and Kelsey Minton took scoring honours for Alamein as they came back to earn a share of the spoils.
The home side took the lead as Vine found the net nine minutes into the contest.
She found the bottom left corner of goal as she released from close range after an excellent run towards goal, beating the Alamein players around her.
United started the match with more possession, but it didn’t take long to transition into an end-to-end battle.
Both teams were eager to attack early but it was United who looked stronger in attack in the opening stages.
The first half was filled with momentum changes, with Alamein building into the match as the half went on, creating chances but struggling to finish them.
Alamein started the second half stronger, with numerous chances in the opening minutes of the half but it was the home side who managed to extend their lead against the momentum.
Vine added to her tally for the day, burying a long strike on the volley into the top left corner in the 54th minute.
Alamein was quick to resurrect their afternoon as they cancelled out the lead in just 60 seconds once they managed to find the net for the first time in the 75th minute with Doeglas and Minton finding the net in quick succession
Doeglas finished off a nicely placed ball as she struck centrally from the edge of the box to find the top left corner.
Almost instantly, Minton cancelled out United’s lead as she headed home, getting on the end of a pass across goal.
The urgency lifted as the final whistle approached but the sides couldn’t be separated.