Slice of Cheese

Horgan Heroics Send Zebras Packing

Solstice Photography

Zoe Horgan produced a masterclass in the art of the set piece, scoring three free kicks and converting a penalty as she almost single handedly willed her side past Hobart Zebras to a thrilling 6-5 victory in their Statewide Cup Quarter Final.

In one of the great cup games, Taroona twice hauled themselves back from two goal deficits to force the game into extra time. With both sides backing up from Wednesday it became a battle of attrition and it was Taroona who had the extra spring in their step. Taroona scored twice before a late Zebras goal saw the game finishing 6-5 and booking the Pirates place in the final four.

The hosts started the brighter of the two teams and twice tested Kacee Ponting during the opening exchanges but it would be the Zebras taking the lead on 20 minutes, the ball falling to Sarah Morris who fired home to open the scoring. With Adelyn Ayton having already limped off injured, the early the signs were ominous for Taroona.

Taroona didn’t look deterred and quickly got back on the front foot, pressing well and forcing the usually reliable Zebras ball players into mistakes. They couldn’t create anything of note though and it was the Zebras who finished the half the stronger and had control of the final 10 minutes, creating multiple chances with Lucy Johnson beginning to loom large. Georgia Burt then found herself in space and curled one over the keeper from 20 yards out to make it 2-0 Zebras heading into the sheds.

Taroona came out with a renewed focus and their intent to get back into the contest was clear, this was a group that was far from downtrodden by their run of results against the Zebras, if anything they looked fired up to reverse it.

On 52 minutes the chance to get back into the game presented itself as Zoe Horgan stepped up and expertly curled home a free kick to pull it back to 2-1. The goal fired up both the crowd and players and five minutes later when Taroona won another free kick in a promising position, Horgan repeated the trick, squaring the game at  2-2 with another perfect curled effort beating Ponting.

Credit to Hobart Zebras, with momentum and play starting to go against them they found another gear to shift up to. From a cross to the back post it was Kayla Mason who bobbed up and she delivered a quality header to restore her side’s lead ten minutes later. Then it was Monique Undy, continuing in her centre forward role who seemed to have steadied the side and secured their passage through, when she struck home to make it 4-2 with 20 minutes to play.

Again Taroona would be not denied, they refused to give in and quickly set to work erasing another two goal margin. Lily Hulton who had done a tremendous amount of work, leading the line for her side with aplomb, capped a fantastic performance with a powerful header to reignite the Pirates hope 15 minutes from time.

The Zebras sat back and tried to hold on against a Taroona team that again found the wind in their sails and as we ticked closer towards 90 minutes it seemed the Zebras would manage to hold on before disaster struck late. Ridler slipped in the box and then unaware of where the ball was, her arm knocked the ball away on the ground, taking it away from a Taroona attacker. It left the referee with no alternative but to point to the spot, and up stepped Zoe Horgan.

The crowd had been vocal all afternoon and produced a cracking atmosphere for the game but when Horgan stood at the top of her run up about to take the kick you could have heard a coin drop. There was a complete silence that descended on Kelvedon Park as every pair of eyes fixed themselves on Taroona’s young gun. Not showing even the slightest hint of hesitation she stepped up, rolled it into the far corner and sent the game into added time.

With all the momentum the Taroona side looked inspired in extra time, they were first to every loose ball, whilst the Zebras looked like they were running in quick sand. The physical grind of this game, coming just 3 days after their WSL meeting was clearly taking its toll. Taroona were clearly the fresher side by this stage and the ball barely left their attacking half in the first 15 minutes of added time.

That pressure finally told, Eli Cropp bundling it home from close range to get Taroona’s noses in front for the first time all day. Then when a free kick was awarded at the top of the box in the 105th minute, there was a sense of inevitability about what was to come next.

Up stepped Horgan and for the third time in the game she stroked it home past the keeper for her fourth goal and third free kick to extend that lead out to 6-4.

Hobart Zebras were not going to give up without one last fight though and they pushed hard in the final few moments despite having players out on their feet, granted Taroona too were lagging now and every effort was costing every player something.

The second period of 15 minutes felt more like 25 minutes, I am not sure where all the added time came from, certainly their was some gamesmanship at play in terms of time wasting but by the time Monique Undy rolled a soft one underneath Laiagavesi it felt like an eternity had passed by.

That goal sent an uneasy quiver of fear around the Taroona faithful but it was short lived, the full time whistle blowing before the Zebras could roll the dice for one last attack and bringing the game to an end. Taroona finally getting the monkey of their back and getting one over the Zebras in what was an absolute classic, Taroona advancing to the Semi Finals with a 6-5 win.

Horgan willed her side to victory- Solstice Photography