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Leota leads Redbacks to 3 points

Redbacks player controlling a football
Scorer of the winning goal, Renee Leota, controls the ball before firing past Rebecca Bennett. Image via Rob Lizzi

After last weeks dramatic last-minute equaliser, Redbacks again left it late in the game to secure a win, with ex NZ International Renee Leota firing home in the 84th minute to earn the three points in Sunday's NPLW Round 2 clash against Perth SC at Dorrien Gardens.

Going into the game, Redbacks were missing captain Shawn Billam, striker Lauren Continibali, full-back Cheyenne Wise-Jarvis and goalkeeper Maya Diederichsen through injury, Kim and Sarah Carroll were still recovering from their W -league campaigns and Carla Bennett was unavailable due to work commitments. The loss of Diederichsen meant the first-ever game in goal for the first team for Haylee Richards, whilst club veteran Larry Walsh wore the captain's armband for the first time in her long career with Redbacks.

In spite of all these absences, the team settled the better of the two and were soon forcing Perth on to the back foot, so it was against the run of play when the home team opened the scoring in the 18th minute. A corner from Jaime Duncanson floated in on the wind and unfortunately eluded our defenders to land in the back of the net.

Almost immediately though, the team responded with an attack that saw Walsh burst into the box. As she drifted past Rebecca Bennett in the Perth goal, the home keeper stuck an arm out to stop Walsh and this was considered enough by the referee to award a penalty to Redbacks and also a yellow card for Bennett. Jacinta Coleman stepped to take the kick, but her low shot was well saved by Bennett.

Undeterred by this setback the team continued to press and their pressure told on the half-hour when Jayna Ridley combined with Leota to drive into the box and she despatched her shot past Bennett to equalise.

Redbacks players celebrate after a goal is scored
Jayna Ridley congratulated by teammates after her equaliser. Image via Rob Lizzi

Redbacks continued to make the running, missing more good chances as the half drew to an end and was not looking like a team missing so many first-team regulars.

The second half started in the same vein, with more Redbacks pressure, but once again Perth was able to score a goal against the run of play in the 48th minute. An attempted clearance from our penalty area struck a Perth player and the ball fell nicely to Duncanson who claimed her second of the game with a well-struck left-foot shot that gave Richards no chance in the Redbacks goal.

Just like last week though, the team continued to stick to its game plan and they maintained a high press on their opponents forcing them to turn the ball over and allowing Redbacks to keep the home defence under pressure.

The equalising goal came in the 62nd minute when a passage of play saw Leota strike a ball against the crossbar. Walsh chased down the rebound and her cross back into the box was not dealt with by the Perth defence, and the ball eventually fell to substitute Olivia Wood who stabbed it home from about 2 yards out. The team had its tail up now and the Perth keeper seemed to be impassable as she pulled off save after save to deny Redbacks.

Perh then had a golden opportunity to win the game in the 67th minute when a long ball caused some confusion and Perth's Taylor Reid somehow volleyed over from inside the 6-yard box when the goal was gaping.

More pressure followed from Redbacks and just when it looked like another draw was going to happen the winning goal was scored in the 84th minute. Walsh floated the ball into the box from the right flank and Wood produced a delightful first time volleyed pass to Leota. The NZ international showed all her skill and experience to cushion the ball on her chest, allowing it to drop and then holding off her opponent to finish superbly and put Redbacks into the lead for the first time this season.

The Redbacks defence then held firm for the remainder of the game to secure the first win of the season and the first-ever senior win for coach Carlos Vega Mena.

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