Photo: Cindy Nitsos
A historic day of football saw AAMI Park host its first ever NPLW fixture as South Melbourne reigned supreme against Alamein FC. The only other club to return a full complement of points was the Senior NTC, with the other three fixtures ending in a stalemate, which had big implications for the title race.
A Melina Ayres brace helped spearhead South’s triumphant AAMI Park debut with a 3-1 win over Alamein FC.
Despite registering three points, there were concerns after Lisa De Vanna was forced off after just 15 minutes with a hamstring injury, but not before she could have an impact on the contest.
A wonderful reverse ball from De Vanna split open the Dashers defence, allowing Ayres to net the go-ahead goal with just nine minutes on the clock.
The marksman’s clever diagonal run was matched with a confident finish into the bottom right to put South into an early lead.
Their advantage was doubled by De Vanna’s replacement in Caitlin Greiser just 10 minutes later.
Alex Gummer played her role in the build-up to the goal with a booming left-footed ball over the defence to free Natalie Martineau, who carried the ball wide before squaring up for Greiser.
The young forward’s finish was emphatic, cannoning a first-time effort in off the crossbar to double their advantage.
A good save from Molly-May Ramsay denied Amy Kane an Alamein lifeline, while it was Jaimee Williams’ tracking run in the second half that prevented them from falling further behind.
Alamein keeper Erin Hudson also had her work cut out to prevent Greiser from point-blank range before her side chipped away at the deficit through an Allison Coleman header; the American’s first goal in the NPLW coming at an important moment of the match.
Their joy was short lived however as Ayres rose highest at the far post from Gummer’s corner to restore their two-goal buffer and deliver South the points.
It sees South leapfrog both Calder and Galaxy into top spot, with the pair only able to take a point from their match-up on Sunday afternoon.
Two second half goals saw top-of-the-table pair Calder United and Galaxy United earn a share of the spoils in a score draw.
Adriana Taranto converted the first of the contest for Galaxy, but Calder were able to hit back through Rachel Alonso’s ninth goal of the campaign.
Galaxy shot-stopper Emily Kenshole was impressive throughout and was forced into action early to deny a long-range MelindaJ Barbieri drive.
Annabel Martin also did her share of defensive work, popping up to cut off a dangerous Cindy Lay cross as the side’s went into the break with the ledger squared.
It took just 14 minutes for Galaxy to find the first of the afternoon through Taranto, who was set up by a smart switch of play from Laura Spiranovic.
The Galaxy midfielder was able to apply a good finish across the face to put Galaxy a goal to the good.
Alonso responded just 10 minutes later with a trademark finish from outside of the box, driving a low effort into the left corner beyond the reach of Kenshole.
There were chances at either end to win the tie, however the keepers came up trumps with Bethany Mason-Jones smothering a Spiranovic effort, while Kenshole did the same to deny Brydie Siryj, then Lay on two separate occasions.
The round’s other fixtures saw Southern United and Bulleen Lions play out a scoreless stalemate, Heidelberg United fight back to draw with Box Hill, while the NTC were able to pick up the points with a 3-0 scoreline over Bayside United.
Molly Burke opened the scoring in the first half for the NTC, while Kyra Cooney-Cross doubled their advantage with her 14th goal in 16 outings this season.
The rout was completed in injury time as youngster Alana Jancevski iced the contest with a 90th minute effort.
It sees the NTC leapfrog Bulleen into sixth place with the latter held to a draw by Southern, who themselves gained ground on the race for a top-four berth.
Southern currently sit four points off a finals spot, with a tough fixture against Galaxy United to come next weekend.
At Olympic Village, Melanie Camilleri was able to net a first half opener for visiting Box Hill, applying pressure on Bergers keeper Katie Neville to force an error before touching home.
The equaliser came just moments after the resumption of play in the second half as Ally Ladas stroked home a penalty to help the hosts secure a point as they continue their upwards trajectory in the league.
It was decent consolidation for Box Hill, fresh off a victory against Galaxy United last weekend.