Calder United has taken their place amongst the pantheon of most dominant side of Victorian women’s footballing history after defeating FC Bulleen Lions 1-0 at AAMI Park on Sunday in the 2019 NPLW Victoria Grand Final.
Having scored more regular-season goals during the regular season than any other in the history of Victorian women’s football – their 133 eclipsing the previous best of 131 from Ringwood City’s 2000 team – most observers of the league were tipping a Calder to become the first side in NPLW history to become two-time Champions.
But, despite acknowledging their status as underdogs heading into the contest Bulleen, having only conceded 18 goals throughout the regular season, was confident of leveraging a talented squad that had defeated Calder twice in league play and featured the likes of Emily Shields, Kayla Morrison, Caitlin Friend and Lia Privitelli into an upset.
Those hopes, however, were dealt a hammer blow in just the seventh minute of play when a failed attempt to clear a free-kick looped into the penalty area by Angie Beard from goalkeeper Shields fell to central defender Alycia Eicke, who promptly fired home.
Despite Bulleen looking quite capable of stringing together incisive pieces of back and forth play between themselves as the contest wore on – Calder, conversely, looking for a moment of brilliance from lethal attacking trio Beard, Aleksandra Sinclair and Catherine Zimmerman – the Lions were unable to find a final killer touch that would draw them level in the remaining 83 minutes.
Caitlin Friend rattled the frame of the goal on two occasions in the pick of their chances in the first half, whilst Racheal Quigley was unable to find a way around teenage Calder goalkeeper Alyssa Dall’Oste in a one-on-one breakaway on the hour mark.
That’s not to say, however, that the 2019 Community Shield champions, 2019 Nike FC Cup Champions and 2019 Premiers were without significant chances of their own. A long-range Stacey Papadopoulos just on the stroke of halftime rattled the crossbar and fell back to the feet of Beard, only for Shields to produce a spectacular close-range save to deny the Melbourne Victory attacker.
Beard was then the victim of a dubious call in the 61st minute when she was brought down by Shields after breaking containment and knocked the ball beyond the Bulleen goalkeeper as she looked to round her.
Despite appearing a clear penalty, play on was called as defender Claudia Fruscalzo got back in time to clear the loose ball off the line.
Calder’s forward pressure, too, frequently played havoc with the Bulleen defence as they created numerous chances on goals and turnovers thanks to a fierce forward press led by Sinclair.
Nonetheless, the one-goal lead ultimately did prove enough for Calder; Head Coach Mark Torcaso’s side becoming the first side of the NPLW-era to become two-time champions and secure the treble of Cup, Premiership and Championship.
Fittingly, it was Sinclair – the 2018 and 2019 NPLWVIC Player’s Player of the Year and heart and soul of Calder – that was awarded best-on-ground for the contest.
The veteran attacker was playing on Sunday afternoon despite the unfortunate passing of her father on Thursday evening and dedicated her best afield performance to his memory at the conclusion of the match.