Belconnen United FC 3 (Nicole Jalocha 21’, Karen Clarke 74’, Cairlin Munoz 87’) def. Canberra FC 1 (Diarna Genovesi 33’)
By Mat Stramandinoli
A best on ground performance from Belconnen United’s Maddy Whittall helped the Blue Devils to a clinical 3-1 victory over defending champions Canberra FC in the 2018 WNPL Grand Final on Sunday afternoon at McKellar Park.
The first 15 minutes were a frantic affair as both sides struggled to settle or take control of the game, with just a handful of attacking forays the most either side put forward.
The Premiers soon began to settle though, and both Ellie Raymond and Whittall created dangerous opportunities but a touch too many allowed the Canberra FC backline to recover with Alice Churchill doing an excellent job of covering the early raids.
But just after the 20 minute mark United had their lead as a blocked shot came out to Nicole Jalocha on the edge of the area. She took a touch to her right before curling an effort through the congested box and past Nat Vasta into the corner to give her side an early lead.
Canberra FC jumped into action almost immediately though and restored parity 12 minutes later. A timely one-two down the left set Rachael Goldstein free and she cut the ball back perfectly for Diarna Genovesi to sweep home from right in front and put her side back on level terms.
Late chances from wingers Jasmine Maguire and Raymond in the half couldn’t find the target, denying United a lead at the break and ensuring the two sides went in tied at 1-1.
Nerves appeared to play a part at the beginning of the second half as well, with both sides struggling to find their groove early on.
Canberra FC had plenty of the early running with Grace Gill in particular directing proceedings through the middle, but Whittall was creating the biggest chances as she came close twice in a five-minute span as the game entered the final half hour.
A set piece a long way out seemed to present Belconnen with a good chance for a cross, but Karen Clarke’s ball in had other ideas as it sailed over Vasta and into the top corner to put United ahead with 15 minutes to play.
That put them firmly in control and they began to chase a sealer as time wound down, and eventually found it through star midfielder Caitlin Munoz.
The veteran stood over another free-kick and curled a superb effort over the wall and into the corner to leave Vasta with no chance and put her side ahead by two goals.
That’s how it ended at McKellar as United completed a remarkable, undefeated 2018 treble and grabbed their revenge from the 2017 Grand Final.
They now shift their focus to a big meeting with Sydney University next Saturday at McKellar Park in the NPLW Challenge Cup.