Galaxy sets up pre­lim clash with reign­ing champ

Geelong Advertiser - - AFL - TONCI PRUSAC

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.”

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