Written by Emma Burke
Heidelberg United’s Senior Women’s side have secured their place in the next round of the Nike F.C. Cup after a thrilling 6 – 3 win against the Preston Lions on Wednesday night at City Vista Pavilion.
Supporters came in droves with a contingent of Heidelberg junior girls setting up camp in the stands as a cheer squad, complete with signs, banners, and flags eagerly waiting for the team and they did not disappoint.
It took minutes for United to get to work with defender Isabella Wallhead called into action, making a huge clearance off her head, which came as no surprise due it being in her name, after keeper Melissa Maizels had come charging out to clear.
Preston opened the scoring early in the first half from a corner that was unable to be cleared.
United managed to quickly equalise through none other than captain Stephanie Galea, who collected her first goal of the eventful evening.
Unfortunately, the Lions responded immediately, through another corner kick, and they regained the lead.
From there it was end-to-end, with United seeing more opportunities than Preston, but unable to put them away.
Just before the end of the first half, Galea scored another massive goal, chipping the keeper, while under pressure from the defence, done with such ease you would think she could’ve done it with her eyes closed.
With the score all tied up at two all, the whistle sounded, and the team retreated to the rooms to regroup.
The second half saw the Bergers quickly gain the upper hand as Rebecca Burrows put away United’s third goal of the night, an absolute belter from outside the box that just could not be stopped.
United kept control following Burrows’ goal, as chances continued to pile up with shots from Grace Jale and Galea both a whisker wide.
The game entered four minutes of stoppage time and it looked as though United were in the clear, evident not only by Coach Johno Clemente’s decision to bring off Galea in the 93rd minute for Kathryn Vlahopoulos, but by the ground’s lighting turning off as she made her way to the bench.
However, the lights came back on brighter than ever, and in the final play of the game, Preston equalized, yet again off a corner, forcing the game to extra time.
Tensions were running high as the United players continued to give their all, attempting to both break the deadlock and keep Preston at bay.
United’s Sophie Papalia, in the final play, was able to put the ball into the back of the net and Heidelberg ahead.
The final term of extra time saw United put the final nails in the coffin as Grace Jale scored twice in the space of five minutes to bring the score to 6-3.
The team and supporters alike were euphoric celebrating the win, to the point where the fans made their way onto the ground to sing the team song loud and proud alongside the players.
Heidelberg United face a quick turn around following the win as they travel to Keilor Park Recreation Reserve to face Calder United SC at 3pm on Saturday the 23rd of April for the fourth round of the Women’s National Premier League.
Heidelberg United 6 (S. Galea 20’, 40’, R. Burrows 51’, S. Papalia 105’, G. Jale 111’, 119’) – Preston Lions FC 3 (M. Garcia 13’, D. Galluccio 22’, M. Nishmura 90+4’)
1 – Melissa Maizels (GK)
2 – Emily Roach (3 – Maxine Diblasi 117’)
4 – Danielle Wise
5 – Elly Torre
6 – Felicity Georgopoulos
7 – Stephanie Galea (c) (8 – Kathryn Vlahopoulos 90+3’)
9 – Keely Lockhart (11 – Sophie Papalia 75’)
10 – Rebecca Burrows
16 – Isabella Wallhead
18 – Eve Tiktikakis (22 – Elwen Parbery 62’)
23 – Grace Jale
Subs not used:
20 – Natasha Stathopoulos (GK)