W-League League: Season 4 (2011 - 2012 Season)
By Zee Ko
(Zee Ko was again pitch side in Geelong as Melbourne Victory let slip a lead in the W-League)
Experience brings a level of consistency, and a certain resilience that cannot be taught. Promising young players can occasionally drift in and out of games, or have off days for such is their wont. A wunderkid can be said to have reached her potential the day she starts performing on a regular basis, from the opening whistle to the final kick of the ball.
Sometimes though, all it takes is a moment of magic, an injection of flair to decide the result in the game. Such was the case at Simonds Stadium this Saturday, as Melbourne Victory and Brisbane Roar duked out a 1 - 1 draw in front of 300 paying spectators. All eyes were on experienced campaigners like opposing captains Clare Polkinghorne and Jodie Taylor, but it was the youngsters who had the final say in the result.
Both sides are sprinkled with up and coming talent this season. Casey Dumont and Brianna Davey are still in their teens, but have established reputations as solid custodians in goal, with 16 year old Davey having filled the considerable void left by Matildas custodian Melissa Barbieri.
As it turned out, Dumont and Davey were hardly tested as the match progressed. Both teams were finding it hard to find sight of goal. You couldn't really call it a dull affair, as there was plenty of ducking and weaving through defences, but the lack of end product was really telling. Crosses fell short, shots were invariably from distance and barely threatening, while corners into the box came to naught.
Jodie Taylor was finding opportunities scarce up front, and resorted to tracking back deep to gain possession of the ball. Strike partner Caitlin Friend, a hattrick hero against Adelaide, was strangely muted too as she had a rare off day. Friend was finally taken off for Enza Barilla, with Ashley "Hash" Brown switching from the right flank to up alongside Taylor. Brown, who recently turned 17, has long been earmarked as a rising star in women's football. Despite her tender age, she has already turned out for the U21s and her technical skills are among the best in the game.
Now Brown had been having a pretty decent outing so far, working hard up and down the right flank with the help of Danielle Johnson. Tiring out towards the latter part of the match, her influence was starting to fade. But instead of taking her off, coach Vicki Linton decided to give her a bit of a breather by pushing her up forward.
But that's not quite what happened. A run towards the Brisbane box late in the game saw the ball knocked out for a corner. Instead of waiting for Danielle Johnson, the usual corner kick taker, Brown decided to have a go and gamely trotted over to take the kick.
"I was just the closest one to the ball and I just thought I'd save 'Dee' running up from right back, so I went up and took it," she recalled after the game.
A quick glance at the players massing in the box was all Brown needed and one tremendous boot of the ball sent it sailing high and true to the far post. A waiting Kendall Fletcher rose highest to plant a header into the net as the stands erupted.
"We have a number of players who take corners… We've got her, Dee and Amy as well," coach Linton remarked post-match. "All three have very good delivery so I said to them, whoever's there, whoever wants to take it… I think it's our first goal from a corner this year so it was great to see."
1-0 up with ten minutes to go, the Victory players began closing ranks to preserve their lead. It seemed the same old story as time ran down though, with Brisbane attackers failing to get their shots on goal. Just went all seemed lost for the visitors, up popped the young Emily Gielnik to level the scores. The 19 year old has been in lethal form of late, and once again proved her worth by coming off the bench and grabbing a vital goal.
As Polkinghorne whipped a dangerous cross into the box a minute into injury time, Gielnik pounced quick as a flash, just beating a lunging Davey to the ball and knocking it into goal. The visitors were ecstatic while the home side were understandably disappointed to let their narrow lead slip. But that's all it took really, two simple moments of magic from two young talents that had not done all that much else in a game of few chances.
The future seems bright for the youngsters at Victory and Roar and for women's football in Australia in general. It remains to be seen if the girls will one day emerge as true superstars in their own right, but for now their clubs will be more than delighted to see them produce the occasional match-winning brilliance to decide a game. After all, there's still plenty of time to set the world alight when you're a mere teenager.
Player of the Match: Danielle Johnson
While it was the youngsters who turned the match, Johnson was quietly impressive at the back for Melbourne, mopping up with panache and occasionally striding forward to lend her presence in attack.
Melbourne Victory Verdict:
A three match unbeaten run shows just how much the Victory have progressed this season. There is still much to be done however before they can claim to be at the same standard as experienced campaigners Brisbane Roar. Besides Johnson and Brown, Katrina Gorry showed some ability, as did Stephanie Catley.
Brisbane Roar Verdict:
A side chock-full of talent would have seen this as a really winnable contest, but in the end it took a late equaliser to ensure Brisbane did not go home empty handed. The Roar showed plenty of attacking impetus early on, but the simple truth is: if you can't hit the target, you can't score. Tameka Butt and Lana Harch showed skill in weaving through defences, as did Catherine Cannuli early on, but were lacking an end product.
Once again, Simonds Stadium saw half-empty stands as the crowds elected to stay away. Warm weather saw most of those present sheltering under the covers, but my oh my did the rafters shake when Kendall Fletcher's opener rippled the net.
The usual sandwiches were nowhere to be found today, as the occupants in the media box had to settle for chewing gummy snakes to tide us by. Gielnik's late equaliser meant our hunger had to be temporarily pushed to one side as we scrambled to edit our copies.
Details: Westfield Womens League, Round 9:
By Zee Ko, at Simonds Stadium, Geelong - 17 December, 2011 [Photos by Samantha Ackroyd]
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