A late flurry from the Macarthur Rams booked their spot in the National Premier Leagues Grand Final as they overcame NWS Spirit at Valentine Sports Park on Sunday.
Stephen Peters’ side left it late but got the job done in the final 10 minutes of regulation time as Bethany Gordon, Alex Huynh and Leena Khamis all got themselves on the scoresheet.
The Rams will now face Bulls FC Academy in this Sunday’s Grand Final at Valentine Sports Park in hope of making it back-to-back championship victories.
Despite both teams missing a number of players, Tiana Gauci’s team perhaps hurting more with their absentees, it was an excellent tactical display from both sides.
The first test for Mio Nemoto in the Spirit goal came after a long distance strike by Kelli Brown which was comfortably held.
Sham Kamis’ first call to action came late in the first half as Skye Halmarick tried getting on to a long ball but the Rams keeper reacted well.
With five minutes to go in the first period, again Nemoto was tested, this time by India Breier but the keeper dealt with it comfortably.
Brown, who has become somewhat a free kick specialist this campaign, then had an opportunity from a set piece but again Nemoto came on top, palming the effort wide.
The Rams were on the front foot immediately in the second period, putting the Spirit defence under pressure and calling Nemoto into action with another good save.
But it was Spirit that almost went in front with maybe the best chance of the game so far, Erin Pridmore picking up a lose ball and placing it wide of Khamis’ goal.
The Rams were the dominant side from here but were unable to create anything that would really trouble Nemoto.
But with 10 minutes to go the Rams were awarded a penalty.
Spirit were slow to react to a short corner which Beth Gordon and Mel Caceres took advantage of, the latter bought down in the area.
Gordon stepped up to the spot and sent her effort right but the fantastic Spirit keeper read the penalty and saved, the rebounding falling back into the path of a fortunate Gordon who blasted it into the back of the net.
With minutes remaining in the 90, the Rams doubled their advantage.
Alex Huynh took a free kick from some way out, it avoided everyone and bounced into the side netting away from a fully outstretched Nemoto.
With Gauci’s team throwing no caution to the wind and with nothing to lose, the Rams added a third.
Short in numbers at the back, Khamis picked up the ball and hit it first time after a blocked Brown show to find the top corner and seal their place in the big dance next week.
Macarthur Rams 3 (Gordon 81’, Huynh 88’, Khamis 90+1’)
NWS Spirit FC 0
Sunday, 10, September, 2023
Valentine Sports Park
Macarthur Rams: 1. S. Khamis, 3. McComasky, 10. Caceres (19. Sloan), 14. Sunaga (9. Khamis), 17. Breier (20. Duggan), 22. Huynh, 25. Malone, 26. Barton (8. Dipple), 32. Gordon, 35. Hay, 44. Brown.
Substitutes Not Used: 21. Clarke, 28. M. Malone.
NWS Spirit FC: 21. Nemoto, 2. Perrins, 3. Pridmore, 7. K. Buchanan, 12. Tavares, 13. Roberts, 15. Thomas (8. Schembri), 16. E. Buchanan, 18. Casha, 32. Halmarick, 97. Sullivan (23. Holder).
Substitutes Not Used: 1. Offer, 5. Martin, 45. Osborn, 98. Fazzari.
By Nikola Pozder