MATCH REPORT | Essendon Royals rise from State League 2 North-West with stunning promotion performance
Essendon Royals are on the rise!
A comprehensive 3-1 win over FC Clifton Hill secured promotion for the brilliant roles as they rounded out a fantastic Women’s State League 2 North-West division campaign.
Goals from Lydia Schifferegger, Eilaan Nissan and Stephanie Pantazopoulos sealed the win at Cross Keys Reserve and ensured the girls would be playing State League 1 football next season.
It was no less than the team deserved after a stunning campaign in which the Royals turned around from bottom-place on the ladder after three rounds to finish second and earn promotion.
And if there were any nerves heading into this one, the girls did not show it.
Coach Johno Clemente had the girls chomping at the bit for kick-off with a fiery pre-game talk and the Royals quickly found their rhythm.
Talia Jane and Schifferegger looked to take control of the game from the middle of the park and showed their class with their fantastic ball-winning and playing ability.
Pantazopoulos was a constant thorn in the side of the Clifton Hill defence, while Nissan’s runs down the left flank were a joy to behold.
The rain began pouring down mere minutes after kick-off, but nothing was putting the Royals girls off their game as they stroked the ball around the park with confidence.
It only took 16 minutes for the first goal to come after some lovely Royals play created a one-on-one opportunity.
The Clifton Hill keeper rushed out to deny the Royals but could not stop the ball from trickling past her.
Schifferegger didn’t need a second invitation and was first on the scene to punch the ball into the back of the gaping net.
Nissan made it 2-0 just two minutes later when her strike from just outside the box proved too powerful for the keeper to stop in the slippery conditions.
With a comfortable 2-0 lead, the Royals rarely looked like letting a goal in with the defensive combinations of Michelle Vidanoski, Valentina Shamoon, Stephanie Gouder and Elissa Stratus all looking tough to beat at the back.
Marcela Marques and Priscilla Ribas were also profound contributors to the decisive performance, with Zoe Schaffner, Diarna Cartwright and Isabella Santilli also playing their part.
The Royals took the 2-0 lead into the break, but Clemente was keen to keep the girls focused on the task at hand.
To FC Clifton Hill’s credit, they provided a stern test in the opening exchanges of the second half but the Royals defence stood tall.
At the other end, the Royals continued to create chances but an improved Clifton Hill defence did make life harder for the Essendon attackers, who still managed to force the visiting keeper into some tough saves.
Despite their best efforts, it was actually Clifton Hill who struck first in the second half.
Sky Jensen lined up a free-kick from just outside the box and produced a stunning effort which left Royals keeper Celia Talbot with no chance of stopping.
The goal set up what should have been a tense final 20 minutes, but the Royals retained their composure and remained the more dominant side.
They eventually got their goal when Pantazopoulos connected with a superb Jane cross at the back post to score in the 82nd minute and secure the win for the Royals.
Coach Clemente was almost lost for words at the end of the game but was delighted to see his team get the result their performances have deserved all season.
“Everyone knows how we started this season and where we’ve come...it’s just brilliant to see the end result,” he said.
“I said to the girls before the game that they were champions for this club no matter what happened and no result today could take that away from them, but they weren’t satisfied with that and they wanted to take it one further.
“I was a proud coach going into this game and I’m even more proud now.”
Clemente admitted to some pre-game nerves but said he tried his best to show a more relaxed front to the team pre-game and was happy to see the girls arrive at Cross Keys in great spirits.
“From the start, they were singing and they were happy. There were nerves, but I was dancing and having fun with them to just make sure there were positive vibes and everyone was happy.
“Football can be cruel and sometimes you don’t get what you deserve and sometimes the table doesn’t show what you deserve.
“But today the table shows it, so they’re double winners I guess!
“I’m just so impressed with this group and this team. So many of them played State League 1 Reserves last year and they’ve come into this environment and achieved what they’ve achieved.
Stay tuned for more pics and promotion content to come!