FC Bulleen Lions have overcome a defiant Box Hill United in a thrilling 1-0 battle, scoring deep into stoppage time to secure a memorable Women’s Premier League victory.
It was Melbourne Victory’s Caity Friend who did the damage with one of the final moments of the game, as she collected her second goal of the year at a crucial time.
The game was also a fitting tribute to teen Masa Vukotic whose life was tragically taken last Tuesday, with black arm bands and a minutes silence observed before kick-off.
Box Hill did their best to maintain possession in the early stages of the match, pressing well off the ball to recover quickly, and Ellie Brush once again provided creativity through the middle, trying hard to link up with Ruby Foottit, but the offside flag was rapidly becoming their enemy.
After a period of dominance by the visitors, Bulleen had their first chance after a cheeky chip sent Cindy Lay through on goal; Barbieri showed fast legs to save the shot.
Bulleen were through once again moments later after speedster Beattie Goad forced a turnover by the Box Hill defence, firing a shot off the cross-bar and away to safety.
Goad was a fierce threat up the left wing in the first 20 minutes, forcing another save out of Barbieri, failing to trouble the scorers.
Alexandra Amore made a marauding run up the right wing, sending Foottit through on goal but her ball was just a touch too heavy, with Lions keeper Cass Dimovski collecting in the nick of time.
With the half drawing to a close, Goad was found again but couldn’t time her run and was signalled offside.
The turnover allowed Box Hill’s Renee Zairis to make a deep run out of defence, once again releasing Foottit through for a last minute chance, but Bulleen held firm and cut off the danger in time for the referee to signal an end to the first period.
Box Hill’s substitutes were put through their paces at the break by a local Kookaburra who had dropped by to taste the cuisine of the night. Unfortunately it left hungry, but not before staying to watch the second half unfold.
It began in an unusual manner, with play starting only to stop moments later as the referee had discovered Bulleen had made two substitutions at the break.
Notes were swiftly updated and play resumed from the false start.
Brush provided an early chance for Box Hill by making a great run up the left wing, before finding Georgia Kourtrouvelis with a cross under pressure, but she was unable to hit the target.
United’s Penny Bakopoulos, who was a stand out on the night, denied Bulleen a certain goal with a perfect tackle off the boot of Goad, who was running with support on either side.
No doubt the strangest moment of the night occurred in the 63rd minute, with confusion setting in as Kyrgios attempted to substitute Brush.
Richardson, already on a yellow card, was about to attempt a throw in when the call to sub was made by the coach, and her efforts to allow the substitution to happen were deemed time-wasting by the referee who had no hesitations sending the full-back off.
Suddenly down to ten, Box Hill came under fire immediately, but after seeing off multiple attacks by the Lions, Box Hill found themselves with a free kick inside the attacking half, but Kourtrouvelis’ ambitious lob was met by a sharp save by Dimovski who looked to be caught out of position.
Bulleen continued to pound away at Box Hill with chance after chance, with United’s defence only managing the occasional breather as they loaded nine players behind the ball.
A late surge of energy by Caitlin Friend saw the midfielder attempting to jump on the end of a cheeky chip, and it was almost her moment but the ball failed to settle and her shot was fired over the bar.
Friend continued to make a nuisance of herself in the final stages and deep into added time, had the reward for her toiling.
Bringing the ball from the centre circle, she weaved past the on-rushing Box Hill defence with the ball stuck to her feet, before slotting past Barbieri from range, having spotted her slightly out of position.
The ball dipped perfectly into the net, as the strong Bulleen crowd celebrate after what seems like an eternity of added time.
The final whistle sounds and the Bulleen Lions take the points after a roller-coaster second half.
A full gallery can be found courtesy of Stocky’s Scribbles
Also post as on the Corner Flag “Last-gasp strike Bulleen’s best Friend“