A brace from skipper Larissa Walsh plus a goal from returning Perth Glory player, Sarah Carroll, was enough to earn the three points against Curtin University on Sunday and send the team to the top of the table after 5 rounds of the NPLWA.
Going into the game the team knew that a win would take them to the head of the table, but they were dealt a blow before kick-off when goalkeeper Maya Diederichsen was ruled out through injury and Quyen Doan had to step in as an emergency keeper.
The team started tentatively, with Curtin having the better of the early exchanges. In the 14th minute, Hannah Taylor was left free on the edge of the box but she couldn't keep her shot down and pushed it over the bar.
Redbacks then started to dominate possession, and in the 19th minute, Larissa Walsh was fouled on the edge of the box to earn a direct free kick. Sarah Carroll stepped up and curled a lovely shot into the bottom left-hand corner of the net, beating the despairing dive of Stacey Cavill in the Curtin goal to make it 1-0.
The goal seemed to relax the team and they started to play some nice passing football, with Jayna Ridley combining nicely with Walsh in the 21st minute to send the skipper through, but she couldn't keep her shot down.
The same duo then combined more effectively in the 34th minute with Ridley again playing Walsh through, and this time she finished more clinically to make it 2-0.
In the 40th minute, a nice passing move that started deep in the Redbacks half saw Grace Monteiro release Lauren Continibali but the Curtin keeper, Cavill, was alert to the danger and made a fine save at Continibali's feet.
As the clock moved into added time for the 1st half, Curtin struck back with arguably the goal of the game to make it 2-1. A throw-in from Curtin was only partially cleared to Taylor who moved the ball quickly to Tanya Campos. Despite being a good 25 metres out, the Curtin midfielder hit a first-time shot that dipped and swerved through the air to beat the leap of Doan in the Redbacks goal to make it 2-1.
Any signs of this late strike impacting Redbacks were quickly dispelled early in the 2nd half when Walsh was played in by Andreia Teixeira in the 46th minute. Walsh had to take on 2 defenders before firing her shot across the face of the goal.
More chances fell Walsh's way, with her pace causing major headaches for the Curtin defence, and it seemed only a matter of time before Redbacks would restore their 2 goal advantage, but in the 71st minute, Curtin drew level. A corner from the left was headed clear by the defence, but Katie McDermott reacted first to the falling ball and volleyed home over the head of Doan.
From cruising at 2-0, Redbacks now looked in danger of missing out on the top spot, but as has been the case for every game this season they applied intense pressure for the last 15 minutes of the game and got the third goal in the 84th minute.
Continibali found some space on the right flank and she crossed a teasing ball into the box. Renee Leota made a clever run towards the ball to take a defender with her and then dummied to let the ball go over her and into a vacant space in the 6-yard box, where Walsh was waiting to pounce. She had enough time and space to let the ball drop before lifting it over Cavill and into the net to make it 3-2.
The flying winger nearly made it 4-2 in the 88th minute when she was once again released into space, this time by a neat pass from Leota. Her attempt at goal was initially blocked by Cavill, but Walsh reacted first to the rebound off the goalkeeper and then attempted to chip her when she was still way off her line. The ball looked to be going in, but had just too much elevation on it and clipped the bar.
There were more chances to score but a combination of poor decision making by Redbacks and some determined defence by Curtin kept the score at 3-2.
Redbacks next face 3rd place Fremantle in a re-match of last season's grand final, and with the opposition just 1 point behind, the team will have to be at its best to maintain its lead at the top of the table and keep its unbeaten start to the season going. The game also marked the final appearance in the team of Cheyenne Wise-Jarvis who is moving to Melbourne to follow some new opportunities there and we wish her all the very best and thank her for her time with Redbacks.
Post-match interview with Larissa Walsh.