Galaxy sets up prelim clash with reigning champ
GALAXY United defeated Alamein FC 2-0 at Banyul Warri Reserve on Saturday to advance to next weekend’s WNPL preliminary final against reigning champion Calder United, a replay of last year’s grand final.
Two second-half goals from livewire striker Lujeyn AlHuneidi were sufficient to down defensive-minded Alamein.
After a stale opening, as the teams contended with a strong wind, the first genuine scoring opportunity came in the 15th minute, when Galaxy’s Adriana Taranto fired from 25m out.
However it was tipped over the crossbar by Alamein goal- keeper Erin Hudson. The visitors had two chances in the closing stages of the opening period, with Janna Lawson almost pouncing on a defensive lapse in the 42nd minute and Kelsey Minton hitting the crossbar in stoppage time.
Aided by the wind, Galaxy went into the second half determined to be patient and wait for a likely chance.
That came in the 58th minute, when a delightful “onetwo” interplay between midfielder Laura Spiranovic and US attacker Leigh Gray resulted in a pinpoint cross to the goalmouth, where Huneidi delivered a perfect header past stranded Hudson.
In the 71st minute, Galaxy was awarded a penalty after Grey turned her marker in the box and was clipped from behind.
Galaxy’s leading goalscorer took the spot kick herself, but it glided wide of the target.
Huneidi was presented with a gilt-edged opportunity to double the lead on 74 minutes after a swift counter-attack, but her rushed shot slammed against the upright.
She redeemed herself three minutes later with a looping volley over the hapless Alamein keeper to make it 2-0.
In the 92nd minute, “Lulu” almost secured a hat-trick after a well-executed set piece, but her shot blasted over the crossbar.
The referee signalled fulltime soon after to send Galaxy through to the do-or-die preliminary final with Calder.
Stand-in Galaxy coach Stuart Smith attributed the win to a measured, patient approach and signalled his team had come of age as a genuine finals contender.
“I knew it was a matter of time before we popped one or two in, so I was pretty confident in how they were doing it until then,” Smith said. “They stuck to the game plan and in the end executed it brilliantly.”
He took over from head coach Kat Smith, who was on international duty with the Matildas in Sydney.
“I couldn’t single out any individual player for their effort, simply because each player stepped up.
“(It) was a real step forward regarding their credentials as finalists.”