by Jeremy Ruane
with the compliments of www.sportswebsoccer.com
Central United, a club forever synonymous with Chatham Cup success, marked their National Women’s Knockout Cup debut in style on May 15, overpowering Bay Olympic 9-0 at Olympic Park in this Central Auckland derby to advance to the second round of the competition.
Both teams received a bit of a shock before kick-off when they learned that they would be playing ninety minutes, rather than their usual eighty, and that there would be no rolling substitutes, another feature of social grade football with which they are familiar.
But those are the terms and conditions which come with the territory when bidding to take on the big guns of the game in this country, so both Bay and Central got stuck in from the outset in this tussle, with little between the teams early on.
Perhaps it was the arrival of the club’s biggest fan which prompted United to step up a gear around the quarter-hour mark, for there was certainly only one team in it from the moment “Bucketman”’s familiar “Yellow Yellow” cries began to resound around the velodrome.
Long-range shots were the way of things initially, with Klara Klippel and captain Ashleigh Marinovich stinging the gloves of Sara Larnder either side of a thirty-five yarder from Mianna Laing which only just missed the target.
That proved to be a range-finder for the set-piece specialist, who floated home a thirty yard free-kick over Larnder and under the bar to open the scoring in the eighteenth minute.
Within sixty seconds, Central had doubled their advantage, the goal owing much to their outstanding central defender, Megan Bethell – a wise head on young shoulders, this lass, whose bursts out of defence and confidence and ability to take on and beat opponents were features of United’s performance.
It was a combination of those facets of her game which ignited United’s second goal, Bethell accelerating clear of opponents before feeding Marinovich, whose eye for a through ball, allied to the pace of striker Abi Collins, led to the unhinging of Bay’s defence on more occasions than the home team would care to acknowledge.
That was the combination which did for them on this occasion, although there was brief respite for Bay when Collins shot straight at Larnder when one-on-one with the ‘keeper.
The striker reacted quickly to gather the rebound and roll it across the face of goal, where Tessa Laven raced in to tap home number two by the far post in the nineteenth minute.
There was no way back for Bay from this double-blow, despite the endeavour of Saskia Porter and the sheer pluck of pint-sized striker Leila Mirza as they sought to redress the balance. All their efforts foundered on Bethell, who wasted little time in turning defence into attack.
Marinovich fired a long-ranger narrowly over before Collins fired straight at Larnder in another one-on-one opportunity before Central made it 3-0 in the 28th minute.
Georgia Pusich linked with Marinovich to send overlapping fullback Klippel careering down the left, from where she fired in a cross-shot which arced over the head of the luckless Larnder and into the net by the far post.
Three minutes later, the game’s fourth goal materialised, with Collins finally getting in on the act. Bethell ignited the move, Marinovich’s through ball rewarded Pusich’s left flank raid, and she slipped the ball inside to Collins, whose accomplished finish from ten yards put the outcome of the cup-tie in no doubt whatsoever.
The higher-ranked team weren’t content with four goals, however. Within five minutes, Klippel rattled the crossbar, while Larnder kept out a deflected effort from Jemma Giorzo before Collins struck twice in four minutes before half-time to complete her hat-trick, both goals almost identical in that she dashed through from half-way before finishing in composed fashion past Larnder.
United’s goalkeeper, Chelsea Cadwallader, had been a spectator throughout the first half, so when the ball came her way early in the second spell, she showed her team-mates that she was every bit as good as them when it came to dribbling out of defence, jinking past a couple of opponents before picking out Pusich with a pass.
Larnder blocked her shot at close quarters, but had to rely on Emma Gilbey to clear off the line in the fiftieth minute when Laven went close with a header from a Laing corner.
Central produced the move of the match seconds later, with Chelsea Pilgrim, Laven, Giorzo, Collins and Pusich all featuring before the last-mentioned’s progress was blocked by the overworked Alesha Jordan, allowing Larnder to gather the loose ball.
She had to gather it from the far corner of her net in the 54th minute, however, Collins produced a delightful chipped finish on the angle for her fourth goal of the game – 7-0.
After this goal, the visitors lost their way somewhat, with a few players erring in their execution of opportunities, shooting with their right foot when a left-footed finish would have proven far more productive – step forward Collins and Laven, guilty as charged.
Larnder continued to do her best in a bid to keep the score down, pawing to safety another attempted chip by Collins in the 72nd minute, and saving at the feet of substitute Breanna Keenan four minutes from time.
The newcomer had already made her impact on the game by this time, returning with interest a poor goal-kick which Larnder directed straight to Keenan in the 83rd minute, seven minutes after Giorzo had been the ultimate beneficiary of another poor goal-kick, Collins, Marinovich and Bethell having combined to play in their team-mate for the game’s eighth goal.
Central could have crept into double-figures – Laing wasn’t far away with a thirty yarder, while after Klippel’s cross-shot had fizzed across the face of goal, a free-kick taken by Cadwallader from just outside the penalty area narrowly cleared the crossbar in the shadows of the full-time whistle.
When it sounded, it signalled joy for Central on their maiden venture in the National Women’s Knockout Cup, and the prospect of a home tie at Kiwitea Street on Queen’s Birthday Sunday, should Monday’s second round draw be kind to them in that regard.
It almost certainly won’t be where the identity of their opponents are concerned, given the ten Lotto Northern Premier Women’s League teams enter the fray at this point, together with Conference contenders Ellerslie, Hibiscus Coast and Metro, and fellow first round winners Papakura City and Rotorua United, the latter also competing in the Cup for the first time.
Suffice to say, today’s win was very likely the calm before the storm for the victors, but one they will celebrate nonetheless, given it was Central’s first-ever National Women’s Knockout Cup tie.
Bay Olympic: Larnder; Van Winkel (Quinn, 46), Jordan, Soljan, Gilbey; Seljan, Farrell, Nicholl, Porter (Lovelock, 73); Mirza, Wilkie (El-Ghalayini, 60)
Central: Cadwallader; Pilgrim, O’Connor, Bethell, Klippel; Giorzo, Laing, Marinovich; Laven, Collins, Pusich (Keenan, 73)
Referee: Cameron Dickson-Hards