Photo credit: Jeremy Ng www.jeremyngphotos.com (for Football NSW)

Preliminary Final: Northern Tigers v Sydney Olympic FC

The 2019 NSW NPL Women’s Grand Final has been decided.

The Northern Tigers will make their first ever appearance in the big dance following a 3-0 win over Sydney Olympic at Jensen Park on Sunday afternoon. They will face their toughest challenge yet next weekend, coming up against 2019 Premiers Sydney University—a team that has lost just one game all season.

Today saw the unstoppable force meet the immovable object as this season’s top scorers Sydney Olympic probed and prodded this season’s second-best defensive team Northern Tigers, and the final score is a testament to that age-old quip ‘attack wins games, but defence wins Championships.’

After Olympic’s 90th-minute loss to the Tigers in the Minor semi-final two weeks ago, they tried to get on the front foot early, pressing high and moving the ball in tight, quick combinations. But it was the Tigers who almost opened the scoring in the 4th minute after Olympic goalkeeper Jada Whyman got a back-pass stuck under her feet and was tackled by Tigers striker Daisy Arrowsmith. Unfortunately for Arrowsmith the deflection went just wide of the post.

Olympic began to assert themselves more fully around 10 minutes in, sending a handful of deadly crosses into the box, particularly from the right side through a combination of Sarah Yatim and Mackenzie Hawkesby.

Hawkesby’s strong efforts in midfield almost paid off in the 20th minute after she dispossessed Emma Watkins and charged into the open space left by Tigers’ out-of-position defenders. Sensing she was being closed down, Hawkesby slotted a delightful pass centrally for striker Susan Phonsongkham to run onto, but full-back Isabella Foletta was able to use her strength to muscle Phonsongkham off the ball and make a last-ditch clearance.

Susan Phonsongkham (Sydney Olympic, left) battles with Servet Uzunlar (Northern Tigers, right). Credit: Jeremy Ng www.jeremyngphotos.com (for Football NSW)

Phonsongkham was almost on the end of another classy ball five minutes later, this time a cross from Yatim that fizzed across the six-yard box, but it was just too heavy for the striker to meet.

Despite Olympic’s increased pressure, it was the Tigers who had the best chance of the first half on 28 minutes minutes when Olympic centre-back Kate Halaska had a brain-fade and passed straight to Arrowsmith, who then found herself one-on-one with Whyman. However, Arrowsmith took one touch too many and the goalkeeper was able to smother the shot just in time.

Minutes before half-time, Olympic had their best chance of the game. After a nice one-two move through the central channel, Newcastle Jets W-League star Panagiota Petratos unleashed a wicked strike from just outside the box, which a fully-stretched Campbell was just able to tip over the crossbar.

The two teams went into the break with few clear chances created. The half-time team talk in the Olympic sheds seemed to work a treat, as the top-scorers reminded their opponents why they finished second on the season ladder, creating several chances in the opening five minutes. The best came through Hawkesby, whose slicing run through several Tigers players saw her latch onto a bobbled pass. Campbell sprinted off her line to smother the initial shot yet couldn’t hold onto the ball—Hawkesby then laid the ball off to team-mate Emily Kos near the top of the box, but her shot was deflected and fell right into Campbell’s lap.

Sydney Olympic attack a corner. Credit: Jeremy Ng www.jeremyngphotos.com (for Football NSW)

The game lost its spark after this five-minute flurry, and the tide started to turn in Tigers’ favour near the hour mark.

In the 57th minute, after a neat one-two between Tigers’ Hannah McNulty and Maddie Bart, McNulty found herself charging into the six-yard box with the ball at her feet. She rifled an acute-angled strike towards the roof of the net, which pinged off the crossbar; luckily winger Aimee Phillips had timed her run perfectly, as the ball fell right into her path at the back post, and she bundled it over the line for the opening goal of the game.

Ten minutes later, the Tigers made it two, and it was McNulty at the heart of the action once again. Standing over a free kick on the left side of the box, McNulty sent a delightful curling ball around Olympic’s wall and into the far bottom corner of the net. Simple. 2-0.

Olympic almost clawed one back in the 72nd minute after a quick Teresa Polias free kick in behind the Tigers defence invited the ever-hungry Phonsongkham to attack it, but Campbell did brilliantly to sprint off her line and thump the ball away.

On 78 minutes, it was game over as the Tigers scored their third from yet another set piece play. This time it was captain Servet Uzunlar to deliver the incisive free kick from the right side of the box—while the initial ball was headed away, it fell right into the path of midfield machine Malia Steinmetz, who slammed the ball into the top right corner. 3-0.

Northern Tigers celebrate Malia Steinmetz’s goal. Credit: Jeremy Ng www.jeremyngphotos.com (for Football NSW)

Neither team were able to create any decent chances after this nail-in-the-coffin goal, with the exception of Tigers’ substitute Saba Murray, who slipped in behind Olympic’s Jess Frampton in the 89th minute, but her low near-post strike was palmed away by Whyman.

The Northern Tigers will now take on Sydney University at Valentine Sports Park on Sunday September 1.

Full-time score:

Northern Tigers 3 (Aimee Phillips 57’, Hannah McNulty 68’, Malia Steinmetz 78’)

Sydney Olympic 0

Teams:

Northern Tigers: Eliza Campbell, Josie Wilson, Ellie Brush, Servet Uzunlar, Isabella Foletta, Malia Steinmetz, Maddie Bart, Emma Watkins, Aimee Phillips, Daisy Arrowsmith, Hannah McNulty, Saba Murray, Erica Di Sciascio, Emma Smith, Beth Bernardi, Sophie De Montemas.

Sydney Olympic: Jada Mathyssen-Whyman, Emily Kos, Angelique Hristodoulou, Kate Halaska, Jessica Frampton, Mackenzie Hawkesby, Panagiota Petratos, Teresa Polias, Georgia Plessas, Susan Phonsongkham, Sarah Yatim, Sienna Fraser, Kiara De Domizio, Danielle Calvi, Lauren Johnson.

 

SAMANTHA LEWIS
Samantha is a writer and Social Media Manager for Beyond 90. Sam has previously written for the The Women’s Game where covered the 2017/18 W-League seasons of both Sydney FC and Western Sydney. She continues covering the Matildas both domestically and internationally, particularly in the National Women’s Soccer League (NWSL), and is the lead writer for B90s coverage of the 2019 NSW NPLW.