Round 17 Women’s State League saw leaders APIA Leichhardt Tigers hold off Mount Druitt Town Rangers 5-3, SD Raiders edge University of NSW 2-1, St George account for Parramatta FC 12-0 while Western NSW Mariners had the bye.
APIA (36 points) now need just one more point from their remaining three games to secure a second-straight premiership, with St George (11 points behind with four matches left) the only team mathematically capable of stealing top mantle.
A gritty SD Raiders win catapults them into second spot but only by a point over UNSW (25) and St George (25) and with the lowest goal-difference of the three sides. Districts also face APIA in a top-of-the-table clash this weekend.
The Mariners (19 points, also with four runs left) are still in with an outside shot of making the post-season dance, and threateningly boast a very handy goal-difference that’s better than the three sides ahead of them, and they play bottom-team Parramatta this weekend before facing top-four rivals St George and Uni in decisive meetings.
University of NSW 1 (Yadira Rengifo 30’) SD Raiders 2 (Dana Buttigieg 20’, 70’), Sunday 30 July 3pm, David Phillips Complex
SD Raiders stunned University of NSW 2-1 with a goal in each half at David Phillips Complex snatching second place on the ladder (by one point to St George and Uni).
It was a great start from Southern Districts and some excellent build-up play resulted in a Dana Buttigieg goal 20 minutes in, but the Uni response was swift as a brilliant counter-attack 10 minutes later saw competition-leading scorer Yadira Rengifo bag her 20th this winter – the two sides locked 1-1 at halftime.
Raiders looked more settled in the second and it was Buttigieg again who proved the difference, running onto a great ball over the top to go one-on-one with the Uni keeper and score to make it 2-1 with 20 minutes left, Districts holding on for a slender victory. Buttigieg has netted 16 times in a glittering season.
Uni have lost twice since going 10 matches unbeaten (seven wins, three draws), conceding a third of their total 30 goals in their last three outings, and with Mariners knocking on the top-four door ‘the Students’ need to set up a barricade.
On the flipside it was Southern’s fourth win in five runs, their second win over Uni at David Phillips this season, and they’ve conceded just three goals in their last five matches; no wonder why coach Catherine Cannuli is feeling pretty chuffed.
“We kept them out and stayed compact… it’s good to get three points on the board and go into second,” she said. “It’s now impossible to chase down APIA so our focus is to finish strong and come into the finals in good form.”
“[In response to yet another tight game, eight of 15 games have been one-goal results, winning five of them] We coach the girls to not stop playing just because you’re winning and to go for more goals, but even when it’s close you’ve got to stay composed so I was proud of the girls. I’m looking for them to score, but also doing the right things in defence and not make silly mistakes.”
Cannuli, who played and scored for the Matildas in a short national team stint, had a glint in her eye when talking about the historic midweek 1-0 win against USA – stating that the path to the top is paved right through the NSW State League.
“It’s my second year coaching and all the teams are competitive, which is great experience for everybody. It’s a step up from club football and a competitive competition that senior women can play in,” she said.
“To see the Matildas succeed against the Americans [for the first time in 30 years of heartbreaks] showed we can match it with the top teams… but the future is right here in this competition, especially the junior grades.”
Mount Druitt Town Rangers 3 (Stephanie Lagudi 15', Jessica Thorley 65', Brooke Conroy 76') APIA Leichhardt Tigers 5 (Olivia Cicco 5', Christina Ferreyra 25' 75’, Jessica Martinez 35', Lucy Gilfedder 89'), Sunday 30 July 3pm, Popondetta Park
APIA Leichhardt Tigers were made to sweat hard for an exciting 5-3 win against Mount Druitt Town Rangers at Popondetta Park.
Second-from-bottom Rangers played out of their skins to keep the competition leaders honest, but the game will probably be more remembered by the number of spectacular goals scored.
The Tigers started brightly and Olivia Cicco’s superb fifth-minute volley from outside the box looked like Leichhardt’s earlier 7-1 and 6-1 wins over Mount Druitt might be eclipsed; but the home side showed intent by spoiling APIA’s fluent passing game and taking advantage of some slack defending to equalise through Stephanie Lagudi 10 minutes later.
It only got better from there as Christy Ferreyra scored a goal of the year candidate after beating two Rangers and hitting a brilliant shot into the top corner to restore APIA’s lead before anyone’s pie had got cold.
Jess Martinez then scored her first goal in Tiger colours with another amazing effort, dribbling past four defenders and scoring to hand APIA a relieving 3-1 halftime lead.
Whatever’s in the Popondetta bubblers did the trick as Mount Druitt returned to the field full of zest, Jessica Thorley smashing in a 40-yard freekick belter that incredibly lobbed a perplexed APIA keeper Courtney Halpin to cut the gap to 2-3 on the hour-mark.
And even a second Ferreyra goal in the 75th-minute wasn’t enough to see off a spirited Rangers as a minute later Mount Druitt converted a spot-kick that brought it back to 3-4.
Both sides threw everything at it in the final 20 minutes before the Tigers finally sealed it with a 90th-minute Lucy Gilfedder goal.
APIA coach Matteo Maiorana faced a two-season low-point in the tight victory but applauded the great fight put up by Rangers.
"It was a really disappointing performance today. It’s the first time we’ve conceded three goals in two seasons; a poor week of preparations certainly didn't help and I was concerned coming into this weekend after a massive week for the club,” he said.
“Rangers are a difficult team. If you take them lightly they can hurt you. Thankfully Christy [Ferrerya, who notched up goal number 18 to sit two behind Uni’s Yadira Rengifo on the scorers chart] and Becky [Watts] had excellent games, which got us over the line.
“Today's results also put us 10 points clear in first grade and 15 points clear in the all-important club championship, so it was another good day overall".
St George 12 (Indira Bogaljevic x2, Antonia Sarikakis x2, Marissa Nicopoulos x6, Lauren Gardner x2) Parramatta FC 0, Sunday 30 July 3pm, St George Stadium
St George made thrift work of Parramatta FC in a cosy 12-0 win at St George Stadium that puts the Saints a point off second (with a game in hand) and open up a six-point gap to top-four chaser Western NSW Mariners.
A methodical St George led 4-0 at the break and an eight-goal second half made it a profitable seven wins from their last eight matches – Marissa Nicopoulos finishing with six goals while Indira Bogaljevic, Antonia Sarikakis and Lauren Gardner netted doubles.
Saints coach Carlo Tini wouldn’t read too much into the scoreline; he’s more content having a team that’s playing well and improving each weekend.
“I’m very happy with the progress St George is making – happy to be in the top-four, and happy to be six points away from Western,” he said.
“Against a team coming last you still have to get the players up for it mentally… and we kept our shape, kept the ball, and did a great job staying focussed on the game.”
Tini relished the tight competition that sees one point separate second from fourth (and their goal-differential separated by seven), stating it would only offer more experience for his developing side.
“APIA will win the premiership but second place still gets a second chance in the first week of the finals, so between the three of us [Raiders, Uni, Saints] every point is important – and you should have to fight extremely hard to achieve that goal,” he said.
“Last year I promoted a lot of 17 year olds straight into first grade and we lost a lot of games [finishing sixth] because they were too young; but we’ve been patient and, now they’ve matured, the young girls are really starting to shine. “
Next week’s games
Women’s State League round-18 games kick-off 3pm on Sunday: SD Raiders host APIA Leichhardt Tigers in a top-of-the-table clash at Ernie Smith Reserve, Western NSW Mariners play Parramatta FC at Proctor Park, St George FC face Mount Druitt Town Rangers, and University of NSW have the bye.