The hierarchy was respected in WNPL, with the four winners all higher on the table before the game claiming expected victories. The main consequence of the round, Canberra Croatia and Canberra Olympic have now officially, mathematically secured their tickets for the finals.
The weekend kicked off at McKellar, where third place Belconnen United only needed the first half to see off fourth place West Canberra Wanderers. The Blue Devils are a strong team, and don’t need gift to score usually, so when the Wanderers’ defence unfortunately offered the first two goals, they made Scott Conlon’s task easier.
The first goal came off a defensive pass in the box that Reilly Yuen had the smarts to anticipate, finding herself alone in front of Jelena Josipovic. By herself the number 22 did not hesitate and picked the bottom corner. Minutes later, a corner kick scrambled by the defence found Yuen again, who happily finished from point blank range.
The third goal came off a corner kick too, with Tia Burridge, like a fox in the box, ideally positioned to deflect a header in the empty net. Up 3-0, the Blue Devils could take a breather, but seconds before half time, Reilly Yuen was sent off for what was deemed to be an uncontrolled tackle on Josipovic.
Down to ten players, Belconnen was able to keep their margin, despite several attempts by Ginger Oliver, Hattie Cram, and company to bring their team back into the game. A few saves by Jayla Murphy and a couple of missed opportunities by the Wanderers let the Blue Devils increase the gap between both team to seven points.
On Sunday it was a battle at the bottom of the battle that opened the festivities. Tuggeranong United hosted the Wagga City Wanderers and secured their second win of the season against the team from the Riverina. Two goals, both scored roughly at the half hour mark in each period, sufficed to bring all three points to the home team.
The cagey first half was unlocked by a through ball from Allison Seeney in behind the Wanderers’ defence. Sophie Burns’ pace made the difference. The striker was faster than Ebony Warner, swerved around the keeper and tapped the ball in the empty net.
The Wanderers fought well and tried to equalise, and could thank Warner, once again repelling a few Tuggeranong chances to keep her team in the game, at least until Zoe Terry’s stunner with nineteen minutes to go.
The right back started from the halfway line, ran through the defence, and after a one-two with a teammate, armed from the edge of the box a shot as powerful as it was precise, leaving the Riverina keeper no chance. It was a second win of the season for Tuggeranong, who sit 7th with eight points.
At O’Connor Enclosed, title contenders Canberra Olympic saw off the Canberra United Academy, coming away with a 5-1 success. The team coached by Sarah West believed in a positive result for a bit more than a half, until Ashleigh Sykes’ talent came to shine on the afternoon.
Sykes teammates were the first to strike via striker Nicole Jalocha, who took advantage of Georgia Ritchie’s clumsy handling two minutes in to tap the ball in the back of the net. A defensive mistake at the other end offered the Academy the equaliser. Katrina Peric and Janet King’s miscommunication offered Bessie Riethmuller the ball in front of the empty net, and the young striker did not hesitate.
Olympic kept pushing to regain their advantage and were rewarded just before half time. Victoria Jamieson’ cross was successfully headed in by Vanessa Ryan, Nicole Begg’s troops this time would not let their lead go. Sykes’ hat-trick in 15 minutes (51’, 54’, 65’) made sure of it.
The first goal came from the spot kick after Michaela Thornton was fouled. The second followed a set piece, and Sykes, like a real poacher volleyed in a ball not cleared by the defence.
The last goal of the day was Sykes’ special, a run from the halfway line, and the use of her pace and intelligence to run around her defender and beat the keeper one on one. The O’Connor residents mathematically secure their spot in the finals with this win. The third leg of games will need to be a successful one for the Academy if they want a chance at joining them there.
Canberra Croatia took no prisoners at home when visited by Gungahlin United romping to success and scoring half-a-dozen without reply in the process. What started as a tight encounter the first time around ended up being a way one match-up at Deakin Stadium.
Isabella Barac put her team on the right path by scoring within the first two minutes, alone in the box. Brittany Palombi’s right foot imitated her past the half hour from point blank range. The goal of the afternoon was scored right before half time, when Jennifer Bissett’s shot from the edge of the box hit the crossbar at the top left corner before going in the net.
The Gunners tried to answer but instead conceded three more goals in the second half. First, a speedy counterattack by Brittany Palombi was stopped by Kailey Tonini, only for Grace Gill to take the rebound and score in the empty net.
A few minutes later it was Rhiannon Fensom’s header on a corner that gave Deakin their fifth goal. In the dying seconds of the game, Shania Settin made it six with a superb shot from 25 meters that dipped right under the crossbar. The reigning champions are keeping their formidable rhythm in 2022 and are now officially qualified for the final stage. The Gunners sit fifth on the table, nine points behind West Canberra.
Saturday 23 July
Belconnen United 3 (Yuen 13’, 27’, Burridge 39’) West Canberra Wanderers 0
Sunday 24 July
Tuggeranong United 2 (Burns 31’, Terry 73’) Wagga City Wanderers 0
Canberra Croatia 6 (Barac 2’, Palombi 36’, Bisset 45’, Gill 62’, Fensom 69’, Settin 90’) Gungahlin United 0
Canberra Olympic 5 (Jalocha 2’, Ryan 43’, Sykes 51’ (p), 54’, 65’) Canberra United Academy 1 (Riethmuller 28’)
|4||West Canberra Wanderers||14||6||3||5||-11||21|
|6||Canberra United Academy||13||3||2||8||-13||11|
|8||Wagga City Wanderers||14||1||1||12||-74||4|
Words: Jeremy Magan