Socrates Nicolaidis’ SMFC Women’s side overturned a 2-0 deficit after 79 minutes to record a memorable 2-3 victory over Box Hill United at Wembley Park on Sunday afternoon. Melina Ayres, on her return to SMFC following W-League commitments over the summer, came off the bench and was instrumental in the comeback.
Many senior players were still missing due to either injury or rest following the W-League season. This meant starting berths for several young players again, including Sofia Sakalis, who was selected in the Young Matildas squad earlier in the week. Sakalis had come off the bench to score a brace in the 5-1 win over Senior NTC last Saturday and was rewarded with a starting berth against Box Hill.
South started brightly but soon found themselves on the back foot in scenes reminiscent of the opening-round 3-0 loss at Wembley Park in 2017. Erin Clout was in the right spot to take advantage after goalkeeper Cassandra Zaffina parried the ball in her path, putting the ball into the back of the empty net as the home side led 1-0 at the break. On the hour mark, Box Hill looked to be in cruise control when Melania Camilleri hit a spectacular long-range shot that smashed the back of the net to put Box Hill 2-0 ahead.
On came Ayres and Sophie Papatsanis as Nicolaidis bolstered the attacking urgency in his high risk, high reward strategy of playing the ball out of defence quickly and pressing high to attack the opposition defence. It eventually paid off when Sakalis tucked away a cross on the volley to pull the score back to 2-1. A minute later it was 2-2 when goalkeeper Alyssa Dall’Oste initially did well to block Ayres in a one-on-one but then spilt a Julia Nicolaci shot into the back of the net.
Ayres finally got the goal she deserved when she beat the offside trap before slotting the ball across the goalkeeper and into the net for what proved to be the winner on 90 minutes. South were lucky to hang on however as Box Hill missed a golden back-post opportunity to score an equalising goal, with the ball going over the crossbar.
Post-game, Nicolaidis was very pleased with the result. “I told the girls after the game that we are ahead of where we were after two games last season, both in terms of points won and goals scored.” On his high-risk, high-reward strategy, he added that “I told the girls not to worry if they made mistakes playing out from the back, eventually the opportunities would present themselves. I think some of the girls were a bit scared of making a mistake but eventually it paid off.”
FINAL SCORE: BOX HILL UNITED 2-3 SOUTH MELBOURNE (HT: 1-0)
1-0: Erin Clout (21′)
2-0: Melanie Camilleri (59′)
2-1: Sofia Sakalis (79′)
2-2: Julia Nicolaci (80′)
2-3: Melina Ayres (90′)
Box Hill United:
1. Alyssa Dall’Oste (GK), 2. Kristina Hall, 3. Leia Varley, 4. Madeaine Breakspear, 6. Ellen Wines, 8. Melanie Camilleri, 9. Saphrie Lines, 10. Cindy Lay, 16. Emma Littlewood (c) (24. Anouk Meereboer 89′), 17. Katherine Fotopoulos (7. Tayla Mure 76′), 20. Erin Clout (11. Elaina Vatcky 61′).
Unused Substitute: 23. Hayley Geurts.
Yellow Card: Vatcky 77′.
1. Cassandra Zaffina (GK), 2. Marianna Anthony, 4. Leah Scroggie (27. Irene Paracki 90+1′), 5. Aimee Medwin, 7. Chelsea Blissett, 8. Jamie Pollock (c), 9. Julia Nicolaci, 16. Sofia Sakalis, 24. Christina Stefanou (31. Sophie Papatsanis 63′), 34. Paige Zois (6. Tayla Stevens 76′), 36. Betti Michael (17. Melina Ayres 60′).
Unused Substitute: 11. Alexia Karatzikos (GK).
Yellow Card: Medwin 82′.