With the NPLW Victoria season coming down to Calder United and FC Bulleen Lions, this Sunday at AAMI Park may serve to answer the age-old question of what happens when an unstoppable force meets an immovable object.
Keeping their pursuit of the first-ever treble of the NPLW era alive, Calder United advanced to this weekend’s decider in style on Saturday; taking advantage of having the wind at their backs to race out to a 6-0 halftime lead against South Melbourne in their semi-final meeting at Keilor Park Recreation Reserve.
Striking just seconds into the contest, Stacey Papadopoulos got the hosts off to the perfect start against Hellas before Angie Beard then made it 2-0 in just the seventh minute.
Papadopoulos and Beard then secured their braces with goals in the 14th and 20th minutes, before Beard added a third in the 38th and Gülcan Koca putting the cherry on the sundae with her fourth goal of the season in the 43rd minute.
Kelsey Minton was able to get one back for South two minutes after play resumed for the second 45, but it wasn’t to start a come back for the ages as Calder eased into the Grand Final.
In a much more competitive contest, Bulleen and Alamein FC clashed on Sunday evening at the Veneto Club for the right to join Calder in the big dance; Bulleen having finished seven points clear of Alamein on the end of season table but Alamein possessing a perfect 3-0 record against the Lionesses throughout the season series.
After a furious, back-and-forth opening it was Bulleen that struck first in the contest when Kristina Hall drove a perfectly placed cross into the path of Rachael Quigley to allow the Bulleen striker to fire home in the game’s 25th minute.
Then, three minutes before the halftime break, Bulleen attacker Lia Privitelli – for the second time in as many games against Alamein – took advantage of a defensive lapse in concentration as she nipped in to steal away an under-hit Emma Checker back pass and chip over the head of Alamein goalkeeper Melissa Barbieri to make it 2-1.
Though Alamein – who had the best of play in the second 45 – was able to get one back in the 55th minute through Lucy Johnson, the visitors were unable to turn their momentum into a come-from-behind win.
Bursting in behind the Alamein lines in the 85th minute, Privitelli’s second goal of the game sealed the result for the hosts and sent them through to their second consecutive 2019 NPLW Victoria Senol Grand Final.
It means that not only with the NPLW’s showcase fixture feature the two sides that finished first and second on the ladder at the end of the regular season but it will also match up the freest scoring of its attacks with its stingiest of defences.
Calder United, led by their fearsome attacking triumvirate of Beard, Aleksandra Sinclair and Catherine Zimmerman, scored an astounding 133 goals across the 27 games of the 2019 regular season – an average of almost five a game.
The Bulleen defence, however, proved perhaps equally as impressive in keeping defences out of their net; Kayla Morrison leading a fearsome unit that only conceded 18 goals.
Though Calder will start as deserved favourites, Bulleen will take heart from the knowledge that they were able to knock off the 2019 Nike FC Cup Champions and Premiers twice over the course of the campaign: a 2-1 win at the Veneto Club back in round eight and a 2-1 win at Keilor Park Recreation Reserve as recently as round 26.
Image: Mark Avellino