FC Bulleen Lions saved their finest display of the season for the Grand Final as a 3-1 win against South Melbourne at AAMI Park claimed the NPL Victoria Women's Championship on Sunday.
Bulleen, who only entered the women's metropolitan leagues in 2008, completed its remarkable decade-long rise to the peak of Victorian women's football with a defensive display typical of the team that conceded the fewest goals through the season.
Premiers plate winners South Melbourne were left frustrated, only breaking through to score in stoppage time after Bulleen were already 3-0 ahead.
An even first half was most noteable for the goalkeeping of Emily Shields, who would go on to be awarded the best afield medal as determined by the referees. Central defensive duo Kayla Morrison and Alex Natoli were also standouts for Bulleen as they repelled South's best attempts.
Bulleen would then score first in the 53rd minute when Lia Privitelli was pushed in the penalty area by South Melbourne's Chelsea Blissett. Caitlin Friend converted the resulting penalty.
Privitelli was again key in the buildup to the second goal in the 60th minute as her looping attempt was headed off the line, straight into the path of Amy Jackson to volley in.
Daniela Gudelj then had Bulleen celebrating as her volley from the top of the box in the 85th minute made it 3-0.
South spearhead Melina Ayres would head in a goal in the 92nd minute, and a miracle comeback was nearly in the making when Ella Mastrantonio rattled the crossbar a minute later.
But stoppage time expired on South Melbourne as they went for broke.
Bulleen won four promotions in five seasons between 2008 and 2012, reaching the former top state league, Women's Premier League. Their triumph on Sunday denied South Melbourne back-to-back NPL Victoria Women's Championships.
2018 NPL Victoria Women's Grand Final
South Melbourne 1 (Melina Ayres 90+2') defeated by FC Bulleen Lions 3 (Caitlin Friend 53' pen, Amy Jackson 60', Daniela Gudelj 85') at AAMI Park
South Melbourne: 1. Alexia Karatzikos, 2. Tiff Eliadis (16. Sofia Sakalis 83'), 3. Alexandra Gummer, 5. Aimee Medwin, 7. Chelsea Blissett, 8. Jamie Pollock, 9. Julia Nicolaci (11. Lisa De Vanna 63'), 10. Natalie Martineau (12. Sarah Richardson 58'), 14. Alex Cheal, 17. Melina Ayres, 54. Ella Mastrantonio
Unused Substitutes: 4. Leah Scroggie, 15. Leia Varley
Coach: Angelo Koutos
FC Bulleen Lions: 1. Emily Shields, 4. Claudia Fruscalzo (3. Lexi Anastassiou 90+3'), 6. Caitlin Friend, 8. Alex Natoli, 9. Lia Privitelli (2. Tessa Sernio 89'), 11. Whitney Knight, 12. Liana Iaconis (22. Emily Dolzan 71'), 13. Hayley Richmond (17. Daniela Gudelj 58'), 15. Amy Jackson, 19. Tyla Vlajnic, 20. Kayla Morrison
Unused substitute: 16. Shelby Green
Coach: Paul Kilpatrick
Referees: Laura Moya (central), Janelle Sammut (AR1), Caitlin Williams (AR2), Tina Zafiropoulos (4th)
Best on Ground Medal: Emily Shields (FC Bulleen Lions)