Round 2 of the 2019 NSW NPL Women’s competition was packed with goals and drama, with all six games completed as scheduled despite prolonged heavy rain in Sydney.

Match of the Round: NWS Koalas v Illawarra Stingrays

On Sunday afternoon, NWS Koalas and Illawarra Stingrays played out an enthralling 2-2 draw at Christie Park.

NWS Koalas looked to be in control after an own goal from Stingrays defender Caitlin Cooper was quickly followed by a strike from Ariella Cabezas. However, late goals from Hannah Beard and Michelle Carney ensured that the Stingrays would travel home with a share of the points.

It was the Koalas who made the brighter start to the match as pacey striker Sophie Harding saw herself through on goal in the fourth minute, but Illawarra goalkeeper Trudy Burke rushed out quickly to make the block.

Harding continued to be lively during the opening period, forcing Burke into another save in the eighth minute, before having a volley acrobatically blocked by Katelyn Leadbeatter.

The Stingrays didn’t trouble the Koalas defence until just before the 20 minute mark, when Cooper made a daring run from centre back, whipping in a cross which was caught by Koalas goalkeeper Romina Parraguirre. The Koalas looked for the counter-attack, and a couple of quick passes found Harding in space. Her cross made its way to Cabezas, whose shot was parried by Burke.

Illawarra weren’t deterred by the close call, and a minute later Blaize Kendis forced a save from Parraguirre after being set up nicely by Danika Matos.

The Koalas regained some control of the match as Morgan Roberts tested Burke from distance. Soon afterwards, a loose defensive touch after a Koalas corner-kick could have gone anywhere, but Burke was grateful to get her hands on the ball.

Both teams decided to play more cautiously in the closing stages of the first half, however the second period turned out to be the exact opposite, with action until the very end.

It was Illawarra who had the first real chance of the second stanza, as Beard played one-twos with both Matos and Eden Stoddard before fizzing a shot across the face of the Koalas goal.

Koalas head coach Jaime Gomez reacted to the threat instantly, substituting Jessica Garrett and bringing on former Newcastle Jet Emma Stanbury. Stanbury almost had a dream entrance to the game after getting on the end of a precise cross from Roberts less than a minute in, but she side-footed the ball wide of the target.

On the hour mark, the Stingrays were inches away from taking the lead after Stoddard rose highest to powerfully head Beard’s corner kick toward goal, but Kimberley Davey saved the day for the Koalas by clearing the ball off the line.

A few minutes later, it was almost disaster for the Koalas as a mishit back-pass from Tiana Jaber had Parraguirre scrambling, with the ball rolling just wide of the goal.

Midway through the second half, the Koalas then broke the deadlock. Predictably, the impressive Harding was at the centre of it, outpacing Talitha Kramer before whipping in a cross which was deflected into the net by the unfortunately-positioned Cooper.

Incredibly, the Koalas doubled their lead a minute later. Natalie Tobin released Roberts with an excellent pass, and when her 25-yard effort cannoned off the underside of the crossbar, Cabezas was quickest to react to make it 2-0.

Stingrays coach Scott Chipperfield responded by bringing on former Wanderers striker Michelle Carney in place of Kaelah Austin. However, it was the Koalas who almost scored again when play resumed: Davey’s right wing cross looped over Burke, rebounded off the post and somehow rolled across the goal-line without going in off either Burke, Leadbeatter or Harding.

In the 82nd minute, the Stingrays started their comeback with a well-worked goal. Carney was involved, finding Matos’s overlapping run, with her cross forced home at the far post by Beard.

Illawarra sensed the chance to steal a point, and long range efforts from both Beard and Kahlia Hogg flew wide of the goal. The Stingrays completed the comeback with four minutes left in normal time. After Beard pounced on a loose pass, holding off Jaber and chipping in a pin-point cross for Blaize Kendis, Kendis then headed the ball over the advancing Parraguirre, which provided the simplest of finishes for the oncoming Carney.

The drama wasn’t over though, and both sides went close to a stoppage-time winner. Harding showed her ability to run out the 90 minutes, using yet another burst of speed to get past Leadbeatter before firing in a cross which Roberts couldn’t quite reach. Deborah-Anne De La Harpe attempted to keep the ball alive, but Cooper was in position to clear.

Then, with almost the last kick of the game, the Stingrays thought they had the winner. Carney was involved again, intelligently laying the ball off for Hogg, and when her shot was saved by Parraguirre, Beard had the ball in the net only to be ruled offside.

The result was fair in the end, and it ensured that both teams remain unbeaten. Next weekend, NWS Koalas travel to Jensen Park to face Bankstown City, and Illawarra are also on the road against defending Champions Macarthur Rams.

PLAYERS:

NWS KOALAS: Romina Parraguirre, Kimberley Davey, Tiana Jaber, Erin Pridmore, Bridget Booker, Natalie Tobin, Morgan Roberts, Jessica Garrett (Emma Stanbury 57’), Deborah-Anne De La Harpe, Ariella Cabezas, Sophie Harding

Unused substitutes: Kiara Farquhar, Tahlia Macri, Lauren Ryan, Victoria Martin

ILLAWARRA STINGRAYS: Trudy Burke, Danika Matos, Caitlin Cooper, Katelyn Leadbeatter, Talitha Kramer, Kahlia Hogg, Chloe Middleton, Blaize Kendis, Eden Stoddard, Kaelah Austin (Michelle Carney 73’), Hannah Beard

Unused substitutes: Sarah Johnston, Megan Grew, Ashley Kotevski, Jasmine Limon

 

Other Round 1 Results:

Blacktown Spartans 1 – 3 Sydney University

Emerging Jets 2 – 4 Bankstown City

Football NSW Institute 2 – 3 Sydney Olympic

North Shore Mariners 2 – 4 Manly United

Macarthur Rams 0 – 2 Northern Tigers