Wednesday night saw a cold and foggy Veneto Club play host to a Quarter Final fixture in the Team App Cup. South Melbourne were on the road to take on the hosts and the top team in Victorian Women’s football, FC Bulleen Lions.
The squad featured yet again a number of new faces with three girls making their debut for South Melbourne and one playing her first match in 2016. They went up against quality opposition who have only lost one match in fourteen in the NPLW and also included two current W-League players. Despite being underdogs the girls went into the match believing they had the ability and the passion to take it to the best and knock them out of the Cup.
From the kick off Bulleen took control and maintained possession with probing attacks focused on getting in behind the back four and crossing the balls in from the wing. They were rewarded in the eleventh minute when Dani Gudelj fired a cross in an found Em Coppock who tapped it in at the near post to open the scoring.
Bulleen would continue to press forward with multiple shots on target being denied by the efforts of Coco Majstorovic wearing the gloves. South caught a break when a defensive error at the back by Bulleen provided the opportunity for Caitlin Greiser to pounce. She capitalised on the loose ball racing forward and reaching the ball just before the rushing keeper Lauren Farrugia. She tipped the ball clear and it continued to bounce into the net much to the delight of the girls who had equalised three minutes before the break.
The confidence and stature of the girls grew in the second half as they started to match the opposition. Bulleen scored again early with a cross and tap in, this time it was Tessa Sernio with the goal. The defensive rallied as Bulleen continued their attacks however they held strong countering and clearing their line on multiple occasions.
Beattie Goad found space and speed through the last line of defence rounding the keeper and putting Bulleen up 3-1. It was only a few minutes later however that South showed what they were made of. Fantastic play on the counter attack resulted in Caitlin Greiser going one on one with Lauren Farrugia in the Bulleen goal. It was a reflex save by Farrugia which prevented the shot finding the net. From the resulting corner however the ball came in and couldn’t be cleared by Bulleen. The scramble in the box saw the ball bobble around and again it was Greiser who got boot to ball and found the net to get South back into the battle.
South lifted and took their play to another level. The ball was locked in the attacking third for a number of minutes with throws and corners desperately trying to find the edge to gain an equaliser. It was through the brilliance of Bulleen’s Keely Lockhart who made the break and sprinted from the half way line all the way to the box edging the shot past Coco Majstorovic to seal the 4-2 result for Bulleen and put them through the Team App Cup Semi Finals.
Whilst a disappointing result for the girls, it was encouraging to show such a youthful and injury-ravaged squad were able to match it with the best in the state.
Caitlin Greiser spent some time with smfc.com.au reflecting on the match saying “it was very challenging. We had a young side playing today with a few State League 2 girls in the squad with some 14, 15 and 16 year old girls playing and we performed so well. That’s probably the best game we have played. We felt so motivated at half time to come out and kick butt and we did.”
Greiser hasn’t been on the pitch for weeks. She has been supporting the team from the sideline and in the media box for the last few fixtures whilst sporting a moon-boot and crutches. Stepping up for a big game and delivering two goals against quality opposition was a positive return to football. “I’m really happy and proud of what we achieved tonight. It was a great team effort and every one of the girls on the pitch tonight contributed to those goals. The passing and combination plays was fantastic and for me to score those two goals was it awesome” she said.
South Melbourne Board Member and Head of Womens Football Gabi Giuliano also shared her encouragement for the girls after the match saying “I am so proud of the girls tonight. Most of them are very young being 14, 15 or 16, we have extensive injuries with five of our starters out of the squad, we have State League 2 girls playing and going up against the best in the NPLW and a team that includes W-League players. I don’t think our team should be feeling disappointed in the result tonight, it was a great showcase of what South Melbourne football is about.”
Captain Alex Cheal was hobbling around the sidelines providing advice and support to the girls whilst lamenting not being out there. She had wanted to take to the pitch however medical advice said otherwise. She could have done permanent damage as opposed to potentially being back on the park in another four to six weeks. Cheal was equally impressed with the performance of the team saying “We fought really hard. It could have gone either way for a while, we definitely gave it to them being the number one NPL team. We definitely gave them a good match. We fought it out to the end and I’m really proud of the girls for their effort. Give the situation with our squad, we weren’t embarrassed out there today. We have a lot to be proud of. Some of the Bulleen players have come over and said how said how impressed they were with how we played and the heart we had. They new girls who came in filled in the spots really well considering they don’t know any of us, haven’t trained with us and don’t know how we play. It was such a fantastic effort tonight”
The girls move forward to the triple header at Lakeside on Sunday when they take on the high flying Melbourne University team. The Uni outfit may be sitting in third on the ladder with a 5-2 record, however they have scored the most of any team in the league finding the net 31 times from just 7 matches. Kick off is at 1pm.