NPL Women's NNSW Finals Week One Review: Magic progress to the big dance while the Magpies send Azzurri packing

Qualifying Final 
Broadmeadow Magic FC 3-1 Newcastle Olympic FC 

Broadmeadow Magic have progressed through to the big dance after defeating Newcastle Olympic 3-1 in a blockbuster qualifying final.  

The premiers were able to edge the visitors out in dramatic fashion resulting in Magic progressing to the grand final and Olympic having to fight it out against Maitland in a must-win clash this Saturday. 

It was a heated clash from the first whistle, with Olympic’s goalkeeper Claire Coelho injuring her arm in the sixth minute after colliding with her own player Jessica Evans, and Magic’s Chelsea Lucas when swopping in to make a save.  

Play was stopped for an extended period while Coelho’s arm was treated before continuing when play resumed in the 14th minute.  

Magic pounced shortly after when Lucas nodded in a corner ball from Lucy Jerram.  

The score remained 1-0 into half-time with even more drama unfolding in the second half.  

Both sides continued to push for a goal but the score did not shift until the 76th minute.  

Olympic thought they had equalised in the 49th minute through Marion Dunbabin, but the goal was ruled offside.  

Coelho was then called into action for Olympic, making two strong saves to deny Lucy Jerram and Adriana Konjarski. 

But a controversial penalty decision against Olympic defender Alesha Clifford shifted the momentum in Magic’s direction and helped them to claim the all-important win. Clifford looked to win the ball off Lucas who came steaming down the line towards goal but the referees awarded the penalty to Magic, allowing them to extend their lead.  

Olympic’s coach Neil Owens was given a yellow card for questioning the decision.  

It took Kiarra Lewis two attempts to chalk her name on the scoresheet after a Magic player had stepped into the penalty area before the kick was taken. Lewis made no mistake in her second attempt, smashing the ball into the top right corner.  

But Olympic were given a chance to reduce the gap when they were awarded a penalty of their own in the 82nd minute when Jemma Lawson tripped Elodie Dagg inside the penalty area, which Dagg calmly converted.  

In the 86th minute, Magic’s goalkeeper Alison Lougue denied Olympic’s Sophie Walmsley in a close-range strike.  

Jerram was able to put secure the win for Magic in stoppage time in a counterattack effort, striking the ball past Coelho and into the bottom corner of the net.  

Magic's coach Jake Curley was extremely pleased with the performance from his side and thrilled that they have made it through to the grand final.  

“The girls were happy with the result, I thought they played really well,” Curley said.  

“Very happy to be through to the grand final. 

“I thought the girls were exceptional with their work ethic. I was really happy with how everyone played. 

“I thought Lucy was really good as well as Chelsea and Kalista but everyone was so strong” 

Leading goal-scorer Adriana Konjarski was substituted uncharacteristically in the 57th minute which Curley said was due to illness.  

“AJ has been sick for two weeks with the flu so we played it by ear to see how she was and wanted to limit her minutes as much as possible,” Curley said.  

Magic’s gaffer is glad his side will reap the reward of having a week's rest before the grand final and believes their success in recent weeks has boosted their confidence to go all the way.  

“We have a few niggling injuries so the week off will be good for the girls,” Curley said.  

“We will focus on training and having a week off.” 

“I think the girls have been confident. The last five games we have played the teams inside the top four and gotten results,”  

“We know that Maitland and Olympic can be challenging so we still need to perform.”  

Olympic’s gaffer was frustrated with how things played out on Friday night and that they let Magic run away with the win. 

“It was a disappointing result,” Owens said.  

“We started a bit slow and grew into the game but our slow start cost us a goal and then we started to grow into the game and played really well in the second half but then the penalty decision stumped us.  

“You aren’t going to win 4-1 at Magic Park so we needed not to concede goals. 

“The bottom line is that we conceded another three goals to Magic.”  

Owens didn’t wish to comment on the controversial penalty decision but thought that it knocked his side’s confidence for the remainder of the match.  

“It is what it is, I’m not a referee,” Owens said.  

“It deflated the girls for sure.”  

It was evident that Olympic missed star striker Jemma House in attack but Owens did not believe that it didn’t hinder on his side’s performance.  

“Being without Jemma doesn’t matter, I still had 11 first-grade players out there. I am not going to use her not being there as a cop out,” Owens said.  

But Olympic now must bounce back as their focus immediately turns to this weekend’s preliminary final against Maitland for the chance to go through to the grand final. 

“We need to the job done this weekend so we can get another crack at Magic,” Owens said.  

Maitland FC 4-2 Charlestown Azzurri FC  

The Magpies swoop into the preliminary final after knocking Charlestown Azzurri out of the competition with a 4-2 victory on Saturday.  

It was a tight contest between the two sides, going goal for goal in the first half before Maitland broke away in the second 45 minutes to go one step closer to the club’s first grand final.  

Charlestown took it to the home side, edging ahead twice but Maitland were able to fight back and stretch the lead to win the game.  

In a massive boost for the Magpies, goalkeeper Imogene Tomasone returned between the sticks after being sidelined with a back injury for several weeks.  

Azzurri’s Sarah Halvorsen opened the scoring in the second minute of the match, heading the ball into the net off a corner ball delivered by Brianna Williams.  

Sophie Jones was able to equalise for Maitland in the 14th minute after Sophie Stapleford raced the ball down the line and crossed the ball into Jones who was by herself at the top of the box who smashed the ball into the goal.  

Halvorsen struck again for Azzurri in the 25th minute, receiving a long ball from Jorja Brown to chip the ball over Tomasone and into the back of the net.  

But Maitland were able to chip one back again after they were awarded a free kick in the 32nd minute. Mercedes McNabb whipped the ball into the penalty area for Tahlia Gossner to knock into the goal.  

The score remained deadlocked at 2-2 until the 59th minute when Gossner was able to secure her second goal of the afternoon. It was a true team effort after Stapleford struck a free kick into the box for Jones to head into the path of Gossner who volleyed the into the back of the net.  

Maitland were able to seal the deal when a heavy touch from Azzurri allowed Madi Gallegos to intercept and send the ball down the other end of the pitch for Stapleford to run onto and be one-on-one with Azzurri’s goalkeeper Malli Blanch, sending the ball into the bottom left corner.  

The Magpies coach Keelan Hamilton is thrilled with the result and how his team responded to going down twice early in the game.  

“We are feeling good. We are pleased with winning and the performance. We were all in high spirits after the game,” Hamilton said.  

“I was really pleased with our composure. Going behind twice is never easy but both times we didn’t panic even after conceding two goals in the first half. 

“We approached and controlled the game well and were able to dominate in the second half. 

“The confidence is high and within the group and we are happy to still be involved in the competition.” 

The Magpies have had a high casualty ward at the back end of the season and that list continues to grow from the weekend’s clash.  

Gallegos suffered a knee injury and Chelsea Greguric has come away with hamstring issues, meaning both players could be in doubt for this Saturday’s game against Olympic.  

But Hamilton continues to be positive about how the depth of his squad have been the key to their success this season and knows that if Gallegos and Greguric are out on the weekend that he has players ready to step into their place.  

“I am really proud of the group, we have put an emphasis on it that we need everyone to contribute and we need all players for everything we do,” Hamilton said.  

“On the weekend every player contributed and got goals from different sources which was really pleasing.” 

Azzurri’s coach Niko Papaspiropoulos saw it is a game of two halves and was disappointed that they let Maitland back into the contest.  

“I think it was a game of two halves and a game of key moments,” Papaspiropoulos said.  

“The first half we were playing well and we were on top and they stuck to the game plan but we had some concentration lapses. 

“Sophie Jones’ strike from outside the box was a great finish. But we also should not have allowed her to be unmarked in that position.” 

“Maitland were the better team in the second half. We had nothing to lose and it was a game that was very tight and hotly contested. 

“It was a good battle across the board. In finals football those key moments in making sure you are killing those moments and making sure you stay focused is crucial.”  

But Charlestown’s gaffer is proud of the efforts his side put in both on the weekend and throughout the season. 

“Very happy for the effort from the girls. It’s amazing to be playing finals football, it is a shame that our time has been cut short,” Papaspiropoulos said. 

“Our character and attitude even we went down was great to see. 

Charlestown bowed out of the competition while Maitland now move their attention to the preliminary final against Newcastle Olympic on Saturday afternoon.