Canberra Croatia is the new sheriff in town in the Women’s NPL, after a tight weekend that ended with two draws and two away wins, the League Champions coming out of the mix in top spot by virtue of a better goal difference than Canberra Olympic.
The action started with a superb performance from Gungahlin United at McKellar Park, where they dominated Belconnen United 2-0. In the rehearsal of the Federation Cup final, the Gunners somewhat surprised everyone by finally getting all three points against the Blue Devils, a first in Capital Football Women’s NPL era.
The battle was decided by set pieces, with two goals almost scored at the same time either side of the break. Gungahlin’s first corner at the 14th minute ended with Rachael Corbett’s header parried away twice by Ellie Summers, only for Ella Brown to be the quickest on the rebound and tap in the side net.
The Blue Devils tried to answer, often hitting the impenetrable wall formed by Ayla Robertson, Maddie Perceval, and Jada Lamond, and seldom forcing Emily Kelly to show off her skills to save her team.
At the hour mark, another out swerving corner kick found Corbett once again, but this time the midfielder’s header ended out of Summers’ reach and in the back of net, securing her team the victory.
The other two teams in the top four, Canberra Olympic and Canberra Croatia, split the points at O’Connor Enclosed on Sunday, with a goal apiece at the final whistle.
The home team had started the game perfectly, with Vanessa Ryan volleying a cross from Madison Cachia out of Maddy Angel’s reach for the first goal after only twelve minutes. The reigning champions did better than resist after that, creating a few opportunities to increase their lead.
The visitors would be patient and wait for their time to come, finally finding an answer with a quarter of an hour left to play. With Olympic struggling to put the danger away under pressure, Isabella Barac collected the ball in the box, before selflessly finding Charli Mitchell in the six-yard box.
The striker did not hesitate from short range and netted her seventh of the season, joining teammate Brittany Palombi and Blue Devil Bessie Riethmuller in the lead for the Golden Boot race. The draw places Croatia at the top of the table too, with as many points as Olympic, but a better goal-scoring tally.
They had to wait until Round 8 but the West Canberra Wanderers have finally earned their first points this season, with a late 2-0 success away over Tuggeranong United that even puts them above their opponents on the table.
The only points the home team accounts for this year were obtained in the first leg of this tie, when Rainey Niles scored the winner in the season opener. Paulo Romero would be disappointed his players were not able to reiterate the feat.
Both teams fought well all game long, answering blow for blow in the first half. On another day, they could both have been awarded a penalty in the opening five minutes, for a Wanderers push and a Tuggies’ handball in their respective boxes. Instead, keepers Samantha Briggs and Amy Wiggan got to work to send their teams back to the locker room goalless.
West Canberra clearly increased the intensity in the second half, creating the better chances. The deservedly were rewarded late in the game. A corner kick from Nikita Perry allowed Cara Ceruti, alone at the far post, to head in the first goal at the 88th minute.
Ninety seconds later, Perry again initiated a move that ended with Kate Walker finishing from within the six-yard box, sealing the fate of the game and offering a long-awaited breather for the visitors.
The last game of the weekend ended with more late drama, Canberra United Academy grabbing a last-minute equaliser at Hawker Football Centre against ANU WFC. The Academy had the opportunity to stay within reach of the top four with a positive result at home, but instead had to battle long and hard to avoid a fourth defeat this season.
After a goalless first half, the deadlock was broken just after the hour mark by an inspired Isabella Hopkins. From 30 yards out, the visitor’s midfielder saw Eliza Evans off her line and lobbed the home team’s keeper from a distance.
Several time this season Rob Illingworth witnessed his players taking the lead, but only once were they able to get the three points. His hopes to record a second success were squashed sixty seconds before the full-time whistle.
The Academy’s efforts to go level were denied by Claire Joseph on a couple of occasions, until the fateful 90th minute. An in-swerving corner kick taken by Riley McQueenie dipped at the far post, landing on Alexandra Serras’ back on its way to the back of her own net.
Saturday 27 May
Belconnen United 0 Gungahlin United 2 (E. Brown 9’, R. Corbett 60’)
Sunday 28 May
Canberra Olympic 1 (Ryan 13’) Canberra Croatia 1 (Mitchell 76’)
Tuggeranong United 0 West Canberra Wanderers 2 (Ceruti 88’, Walker 90’)
Canberra United Academy 1 (Serras 90’ (og)) ANU WFC 1 (Hopkins 63’)
|5||Canberra United Academy||7||3||1||3||8||12||-4||10|
|8||West Canberra Wanderers||7||1||0||6||5||20||-15||3|
7 Charli MITCHELL (Canberra Croatia), Brittany PALOMBI (Canberra Croatia), Bessie RIETHMULLER (Belconnen United)
5 Kiera BOBBIN (Belconnen United), Michaela THORNTON (Canberra Olympic)
4 Tatum MAZIS (Canberra Croatia)
3 Tia BURRIDGE (Canberra Olympic), Olivia GURNEY (Canberra Olympic), Ginger OLIVER (Gungahlin United), Roxie SWART (ANU WFC), Darby WHITELY (Gungahlin United)
2 Isabella BARAC (Canberra Croatia), Ella-Rose BROWN (Gungahlin United), Rachael CORBETT (Gungahlin United), Hattie CRAM (Belconnen United), Alyssa DI-CAMPLI (Canberra United Academy), Nicole JALOCHA (Canberra Olympic), Sheridan MCELLIGOTT (ANU WFC), Alexandra NEALAND (Canberra United Academy), Rainey NILES (Tuggeranong United), Nikita PERRY (West Canberra Wanderers), Erika PENNYFIELD (Gungahlin United), Marija RATHOUSKI (Belconnen United), Sarah WHITFIELD (West Canberra Wanderers)
1 Tehya ASPLAND (Canberra Olympic), Latisha BABIC (Canberra United Academy), Talia BACKHOUSE (Belconnen United), Amy BONGIORNO (Canberra Croatia), Cara CERUTI (West Canberra Wanderers), Sharon CHAO (Gungahlin United), Tamara COCHRANE (Canberra United Academy), Alexandra COOK (Canberra Olympic), Natalie DE MARCO (Gungahlin United), Rhiannon FENSOM (Canberra Croatia), Charli GREGSON (Tuggeranong United), Isabella HINDMARSH (Belconnen United), Isabella HOPKINS (ANU WFC), Sarah MATTHEWS (Tuggeranong United), Katrina PERIC (Canberra Olympic), Alina ROBERTS (Belconnen United), Vanessa RYAN (Canberra Olympic), Madeleine STEINACKER (Belconnen United), Pearl TEIN (Belconnen United), Kate WALKER (West Canberra Wanderers), Madelyn WHITTALL (Canberra Olympic), Elisha WILD (Canberra United Academy), Juliet WILLIAMS (ANU WFC), Zoe WILLIAMS (Tuggeranong United), Reilly YUEN (Belconnen United), Jasmine ZABEL (Canberra Olympic), Own GOALS