South makes successive Grand Finals
South Melbourne WFC has won a penalty shootout 4-2 against FC Bulleen Lions.
By Mark Gojszyk (@hahahamark)
South Melbourne has advanced into the Sportsmart WPL Grand Final, beating FC Bulleen Lions on penalties in the Major Semi Final after a 1-1 draw.
The result means Bulleen will play Heidelberg United next week for another shot at the grand final, after the Bergers trounced Boroondara 5-0 in their Minor Semi Final earlier in the day.
In a topsy-turvy contest, each team enjoyed periods of dominance, with both keepers forced to deny their opposition on numerous occasions.
South Melbourne raced out of the blocks early, with Laura Spiranovic dribbling past a number of defenders to get herself one-on-one with Land, but she couldn't beat the Bulleen custodian at the near post.
Spiranovic was dangerous going forward, playing through Rhea Schreuder on goal, but Land pulled off another top save to again deny the home side.
Facing the wind, Bulleen struggled to clear Alison Baker's floated free kick, with Natalie Marineau pouncing on the rebound and finding Schreuder in an identical position, but the latter tried too hard to beat Land and shot high.
At the other end, Camilleri pulled off a great save to deny a Bulleen header after a cross into the area.
The visitors scored the crucial opener on the stroke of half time through Tessa Sernio, who was at the back post to nod home a pinpoint Dani Gudelj delivery.
Bulleen almost saw its lead double just after the break in innocuous circumstances, when a lofted backpass saw Camilleri only able to bunt the ball with her head and see it bounce backwards, leaving her scrambling to pick it up before it could cross the goal line.
South were again threatening, with a cutback from the byline evading everybody - a common theme throughout the contest for both sides.
The hosts' equaliser came in the 58th minute, when Martineau was played through on goal and made no mistake with the finish, shooting low into the bottom left corner.
Both keepers were again responsible for keeping their teams in the contest, with Camilleri the first called into action, getting her fingertips on a goal-bound cross.
Land pulled off the next extraordinary save minutes later, blocking Tijen Hussein who was found by Martineau all alone in the box.
The final 15 minutes of regulation time were a scrappy affair, with neither side willing to take risks.
There was controversy just minutes into the first period of extra time when Emily Coppock turned into the box and was bundled down, but the referee adjudged the challenge to have been legal, much to the disagreement of travelling fans.
While Bulleen looked more threatening, Spiranovic almost struck on the counter, but Olivia Ellis's last ditch tackle prevented a certain opportunity to score the winner.
With just three minutes remaining, Eleni Fakos found Keely Lockhart with a through ball, but her strike was parried away by Camilleri.
That wasn't before a South Melbourne corner kick sailed across the line begging to be tapped in, but ultimately evaded everybody.
The penalty shootout was even at 2-2 when Edwards, Baker, Sernio and Martineau all scored for their respective sides, but when Scott blazed her penalty high and Coppock's shot was saved, it left Hussein and Cheal to convert their spot kicks and send South Melbourne into the final.
South Melbourne coach Matt Maslak was proud of his side's effort, believing winning the Major Semi Final proved his players can succeed under pressure.
"I think I've played 90 minutes myself, I'm exhausted but obviously very happy with the girls, I think it was a very even game," Maslak said.
"I'm confident of my side against anyone. Today we overcame a huge mental hurdle."
Bulleen coach Bob McGuinness was disheartened after the contest but was confident in his side's ability to bounce back next week.
"I'm disappointed. Penalties are tough way to go about it and they were mentally tougher than us today," McGuinness said.
"I though the first 20 minutes we were poor, but we made a change and finished the half strongly, and I think we were the better side in the second half."
South Melbourne 1 (Martineau 57') drew with Bulleen Lions 1 (Sernio 44') at Lakeside Stadium (South Melbourne wins 4-2 on penalties) [HT: 0-1]
South Melbourne Starting XI: 1 Shanel CAMILLERI, 6 Alex CHEAL, 9 Sarah SUMNER, 20 Natalie BRAJANOVSKI, 4 Chloe DRINOCZKY, 17 Alison BAKER, 3 Natalie MARTINEAU, 5 Laura SPIRANOVIC, 7 Tijen HUSSEIN, 10 Rhea SCHREUDER (8 Lauren FARRUGIA 60'), 16 Marianna ANTHONY (14 Elle GUILIANO 98')
Unused Subs: 18 Lisa FONUA, 12 Alanah GIULIANO, 19 Casey AARONS
Yellow Cards: None Red Cards: None
Bulleen Lions Starting XI: 1 Frances LAND, 22 Emily DOLZAN, 17 Olivia ELLIS, 19 Salma TAWFIC, 16 Isabella SCOTT, 2 Tessa SERNIO, 23 Eleni FAKOS, 7 Fede FREW (12 Liana IACONIS 65', 15 Olivia EDWARDS 112') 10 Emily COPPOCK, 13 Dani GUDELJ (3 Holly RICHARDSON 97'), 11 Tayla MURE (18 Keely LOCKHART 72')
Unused Subs: 5 Alyssa BLEWONSKI, 15 Olivia EDWARDS Yellow Cards: Gudelj 46'
Red Cards: None