Round 9 of the South Australian WNPL saw possibly the most exciting game of womens football you’ll see all season. If you weren’t at VALO Football Centre, you’d wish you had been.
It was a match between the biggest rivals in womens football in the State, with Metro United looking to avenge the 4-2 loss to arch rivals Adelaide City sustained in Round 2.
After both teams and the 507 strong crowd observed a minutes silence for ANZAC Day on Wednesday, the match started at an insanely high tempo, with both teams desperate for the 3 points.
Daniela Di Bartolo put Adelaide City ahead after just 5 minutes, and before you had time to blink, Chelsea Dawber had made it 2-0 to the Black and Whites in the 6th minute.
MUWFC coach Marie Spagnoletti asked for a reply from her charges and got it almost immediately, with the ever dangerous Chrissy Panagaris scoring in the 8th minute to bring it back to a 2-1 deficit.
Then, in the 12th minute, magic happened… Stella Rigon took on Isobel Dahlen-Flight down the left, and with not a lot to aim for in the middle, and from about 3 yards inside the byline, whipped a ball from outside the 18 yard box, over City goalkeeper Zafiro Papanikitas’ head, and cannoning into the far post, with the ball nestling in the back of the net. An absolutely outrageous attempt on goal, that makes it all the more incredible that it came off.
Only 12 minutes into the match and unbelievably, the score is 2-2.
Both teams continued the high tempo and it was end to end stuff, with MUWFC goalkeeper Kelly Barltrop forced into a few quality saves to keep scores level up one end, while up the other end, every Metro attack seemed to end up with a shot going just over the crossbar. Neither side were able to find that finishing touch that they had in the first 15 minutes.
Half Time came with the score still locked at 2-2, with both teams glad for a break from an insanely high tempo first half.
The second half began at a slower pace than the first half, which was no surprise to anyone, however in the 50th minute, City forward Daniela Di Bartolo opened up the Metro defence and beat the offside trap to be 1 on 1 with Metro keeper Kelly Barltrop, but a poor shot meant that Barltrop had an easy save to make without having to move.
Just a few minutes later and Metro were at their attacking best again, as Stella Rigon whipped yet another ball in from the left but this time to the top of the 18 yard box. Donna Cockayne held up the ball expertly and waited for support to come for the shot. Step up Shelly Kuhar. The Metro legend doesn’t do it by halves, and every goal she scores are at crucial times and with perfect technique. This one was no different. Cockayne layed the ball off to Kuhar just outside the 18 yard box on the right hand side and Kuhar unleashed a driven shot back across goal and into the bottom left corner to put Metro up 3-2 in the 53rd minute.
The next 20 minutes were played primarily in the midfield, with neither side willing to give an inch in their quest for 3 points, with some strong, but fair tackles coming in from both sides.
In the 75th minute, Shelly Kuhar, who was having arguably her game of the season, whipped in a wicked ball from a corner, with Nicole Calder making a strong run from the edge of the box and met the ball at speed, but unfortunately couldn’t direct the header on target, as it went just over the crossbar.
Just a few minutes later, Alyce Macauley was booked for City for a rather cynical challenge on Stella Rigon in midfield. From the resulting free kick and short pass, Ness Reed had a powerful shot sail just a few inches above the crossbar.
MUWFC were having a good sustained period of attacking pressure as the girls pushed for a 4th goal, and Adelaide City were struggling to get it beyond halfway.
That pressure eventually paid off in the 82nd minute when Donna Cockayne hit a perfectly aimed driven cross from the byline to find Chrissy Panagaris at the back post who had the easiest job of nodding it home to make the score 4-2 and send the largely Metro crowd absolutely crazy.
Metro were able to hold on for the remaining 10 minutes of the match, with Racheal Quigley and Roxy Dodd both coming on in the closing stages, to record an impressive come from behind victory, and avenge that Round 2 loss with the exact same scoreline from that game.
That result, mixed with West Adelaide’s 4-0 win over Fulham at West Beach, means that the top of the WNPL ladder couldn’t be much tighter, with West Adelaide (+21) jumping to top spot by goal difference over Adelaide City (+16), with both teams on 21 points after 9 games, with Metro United just the solitary point behind on 20 points, but with a better goal difference (+18) than City.
West Adelaide meet Adelaide City next week and Metro United face Cumberland, with both games at West Beach, any of the top 3 could be sitting on top of the table at the end of next weeks games.
WNPL Round 9
Metro United 4 (C. Panagaris 8′, 82′) (S. Rigon 12′) (R. Kuhar 53′)
Adelaide City 2 (D. Di Bartolo 5′) (C. Dawber 6′)
VALO Football Centre