A couple of big away wins, a new ladder-leader, and a contender losing their undefeated record; Round 6 showed the unpredictability of the NSW NPLW competition.
This week’s Match of the Round had Teresa Polias facing her former club, with surprise package Sydney Olympic hosting Macarthur Rams at Peter Moore Field.
Olympic have started the season brilliantly, entering Round 6 undefeated and sitting in second place.
Meanwhile, Macarthur were languishing in eighth, although they were able to end a three game losing streak after a thrilling 4-3 victory over NWS Koalas in the previous round.
It was one of the shocks of the round as the Rams came out on top of Sunday’s clash, sending Olympic to their first defeat of the campaign after coming from behind to win 3-2.
Macarthur had the opening chance, with Laura Murtagh testing Olympic goalkeeper Amanda Horafios with a shot from outside the area.
The early warning wasn’t heeded by the hosts, and the Rams would open the scoring through Kylie Ledbrook. The former Matildas midfielder once again showed her prowess from set pieces, whipping a left-sided free kick over Horafios and into the net.
However, Olympic were far from deterred, and equalised almost straight from the kick-off when Sienna Fraser pounced on an under-hit clearance from the Rams back line, lobbing Macarthur goalkeeper Sham Khamis from 30 yards.
On 23 minutes, the Rams were inches away from regaining the lead as Kirrilee Cameron was released down the left side, dinking the ball over Horafios only to hit the post.
Then with half an hour played, uncertainty at the back almost cost the Rams again as a poor clearance went straight to Olympic striker Susan Phonsongkham. The Young Matilda’s shot seemed destined for the net with Sham Khamis out of position, but Elizabeth Ralston was able to get back in time to clear the danger.
After a spectacular bicycle kick attempt from Phonsongkham didn’t come off, Olympic took the lead a couple of minutes later. Fraser beat Sham Khamis to a cross from the right, and although her initial effort came back off the crossbar, she had a simple header from the rebound to put her side 2-1 in front at the interval.
Whatever was said in the Rams dressing room at half-time did the trick, as the defending Champions equalised soon after the restart. Murtagh showed good awareness to steal possession and burst down the right side, putting in a teasing cross which winger Kahlia Muilwyk was able to sidefoot in from close range.
Olympic responded almost immediately; Fraser set up Panayiota Petratos inside the area, but Sham Khamis flew to her left to push the shot wide.
Heading into the closing stages of the match, Rams coach Norm Boardman wanted to shore up his defence, bringing on experienced defender Renee Rollason for Murtagh. However, it was another veteran who almost put them back in front, with Leena Khamis trying a long range volley which was tipped over by Horafios.
It was end-to-end stuff, and Phonsongkham showed her quality, gliding past three defenders and forcing Sham Khamis to claw a 25 yard shot away from the top corner.
The Macarthur goalkeeper was called upon again midway through the second period, using all of her reflexes to parry a Sarah Yatim volley.
As both teams pushed for victory, Ledbrook had another opportunity to score from a free kick, but this time Horafios was equal to the task.
Then with less than 15 minutes left, Olympic had a golden opportunity to re-take the lead after Petratos was fouled inside the penalty area by Caitlin Orridge. Petratos took responsibility and stood over the dead ball, but let Macarthur off the hook by blasting the spot kick over the crossbar.
Olympic didn’t let their heads drop though, and a sweeping counter-attack saw Phongsongkham and Petratos set up Polias minutes later, but her effort was off target.
As the game entered the final five minutes of normal time, Nikola Orgill was impressing with her ability to run for the full 90 minutes. The Canberra United defender breezed past an opponent before crossing for Leena Khamis, with Horafios rushing quickly off her line to block the shot.
Leena Khamis then turned provider, chipping a beautiful pass over the top of the defence, but Orgill couldn’t keep her volley down.
However, Orgill would be involved in the game’s decisive moment, which came in stoppage time. Ledbrook did brilliantly to spin away from an opponent and play a perfect 50-yard diagonal pass for the onrushing Orgill, who was then brought down in the box by the onrushing Horafios.
Horafios received her marching orders for the challenge, and Ledbrook kept her head from the spot to put Macarthur 3-2 up with barely a minute remaining.
Ledbrook even came close to completing her hat-trick in the dying seconds, with an audacious 40-yard effort striking the woodwork and bouncing clear.
The result sees Olympic drop to fifth, while Macarthur remain in eighth, but are only five points off new league leaders Illawarra Stingrays.
Both teams will be on the road for their next game, with the entire round being played at 3pm on Easter Monday. Olympic will face Bankstown City, while the Rams have a Grand Final rematch against Sydney University.
Sydney Olympic 2 (Sienna Fraser 13’ 35’)
Macarthur Rams 3 (Kylie Ledbrook 12’ 90+3’, Kahlia Muilwyk 48’)
Sydney Olympic: Amanda Horafios, Jessica Frampton, Kate Halaska, Angelique Hristodoulou, Emily Kos, Teresa Polias, Rochelle Borromeo (Kristy Kunovski 52’), Panayiota Petratos, Sarah Yatim, Susan Phonsongkham, Sienna Fraser
Macarthur Rams: Sham Khamis, Nikola Orgill, Elizabeth Ralston, Claire Walsh, Kirrilee Cameron, Kylie Ledbrook, Caitlin Orridge, Leena Khamis, Lara Dipple (Elisha Williams 90+5’), Laura Murtagh (Renee Rollason 54’), Kahlia Muilwyk (Danielle Bishop 82’)
Around the Grounds:
Football NSW Institute 0 – 3 Blacktown Spartans
Illawarra Stingrays 2 – 1 Bankstown City
Manly United 1 – 1 NWS Koalas
North Shore Mariners 0 – 5 Northern Tigers
Sydney University 4 – 0 Emerging Jets
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