South Melbourne’s WPL team has defied the odds to upset minor premier Boroondara Eagles and win the Sportsmart Womens WPL grand final at the Veneto Club last Sunday.
Trailing twice in the match, South showed grit and a determination to fight back to first take the match to extra time and then to a penalty shoot-out which it won 5-4 to make it back-to-back grandfinal wins for the Lakesiders.
The Eagles went into the match a firm favourite against a South Melbourne side it had easily brushed aside in the two home and away matches this season, scoring 10 goals and just conceding twice.
And it looked set to follow the trend when it scored after just four minutes through ace striker Taryne Boudreau’s looping header from an Amy Jackson free kick.
Both teams then each missed a great chance to add to the score. First, South’s Brittany Dudley-Smith wasted a chance created by South’s Tiffany Eliadis when her weak shot was anticipated by diving Eagles’ keeper Anna Lanning. Then Aliesha Newman narrowly missed with her shot after a neat Boudreau pass put her through on goal with just South keeper Frances Land to beat.
South did well to restrict the Eagles to just the one goal by half time and they started promisingly after the break, with Eliadis firing her shot straight at keeper Lanning.
South did find its equaliser with 20 minutes to play through an individual effort from Carol Howe, whose powerful run evaded two challenges and ended with her firing home a right footer inside the near post.
By full time, Souths had done well to restrict the free scoring Eagles to just one but with just five minutes of extra time, the Eagles’ forward ace Boudreau had her second of the game, this time a remarkable 35 metre effort which looped over South keeper Land. But Souths wouldn’t let go and responded immediately when a Saphri Lines cross from the left flank found its way into the net via Eagles’ defender Alex Gummer’s misjudged header for an own goal.
In the dying minutes of extra time, the Eagles could have won it were it not for the woodwork, which denied Jackson’s free kick. Second later Boudreau volleyed over the bar from close range when it seemed easier to score.
After five penalties apiece in the ensuing shootout, the teams were locked at 4-4.
Up stepped the Eagles Rani Cavaretta but blazed her effort over the bar. Souths skipper Alex Cheal kept her composure, firing her shot low into the bottom right corner for the championship trophy.
“To go two years in a row and captain such an amazing team is a real honour,” commented the winning skipper. “I couldn’t be any happier. We were the underdogs. We weren’t expecting too much. We were just going out here to give it our best shot and we end up winning which is an awesome achievement. We’re very good at conceding early. So I think we’ve had a lot of practice of trying to lift our heads and get on with it. Most games we concede early and fight our way back into it. It’s almost like a routine.”
South Melbourne coach Socrates Nicolaidis commented after the match: “I think it was more important to really encourage the girls to play a style of football we can be proud of and bring to the game here in Victoria. Our goal was always to play the last game of the season and we achieved that. It’s a bit sad we had to play penalty kicks. Both teams had a comedy of errors, but I’ll take the win. They found it within themselves to take it to another level.
“We said inside the dressing room, ‘whatever happens, work out who you want to play for’. So we all put a name across our forearm, who we wanted to play for today. And I told them, ‘when times get tough, turn around, take a look at who you’re playing for, look around at your teammates, because it could be the last game as a club together’. But they did it.
We’re very proud.”
Source: FFV TV