Capital Football will contest the National Women’s League grand final after overcoming WaiBOP Football in a dramatic preliminary final in Wellington today which was decided by penalties.
Capital, who had their goalkeeper Anna Wittman-Wengel shown a red card in the 56th minute when she clattered into Leanna Ryan on the edge of the box, scored deep in injury time through Emily Morison to force extra-time.
The hosts then went on to book their place in the final with a 4-2 win on penalties.
Mikaela Hunt, Briar Palmer, Jayme-Lee Hunter and Emma Main held their nerve from the spot in response to strikes from Michaela Foster and Emma Lawte.
Substitute goalkeeper Natasha Ingram made the most of her time in the spotlight to pull off a pair of saves in the shoot-out and help earn Capital a meeting with Canterbury United Pride at English Park on Sunday.
Capital co-coach Emma Evans was pleased with the character her team showed after going down to 10 players.
“It feels fantastic and what a way to finish on a penalty shoot-out, it couldn’t have been any better really,” she said.
When Wittman-Wengel was shown red early in the second half, Evans and fellow coach Sam Morrissey changed the team’s formation to be four-four-one and asked for the players to defend with desperation.
Capital co-coach Emma Evans
“It was a pretty tough call to have your keeper sent off,” Evans said. “We knew we had to be tight at the back and not let them through. That is what we were able to do.”
WaiBOP opened the scoring early after some serious pressure where Wittman-Wengel was called on to make a notable save in the eighth minute. That pressure was converted when Helen Arjomandi lobbed home in brilliant fashion in the 10th minute.
It was a short-lived lead though as Briar Palmer hit back in the 17th with an impressive finish to get the home team back on level terms and the score would remain 1-1 at halftime.
The talking point of the match came 10 minutes after the break when Wittman-Wengel’s afternoon was over and after a long delay for treatment and readying replacement goalkeeper Ingram, Chelsea Elliott smashed home the resulting free kick to take the lead for WaiBOP.
WaiBOP coach Barry Gardiner thought his team had the upper hand when they went 2-1 ahead but praised the tenacity of the Capital side.
“It was a hard task out there,” said Gardiner. “There were two even teams. But full credit to Capital, you could never tell that we had the extra player and that was credit to their work rate but we also could have moved the ball a bit quicker.”
WaiBOP coach Barry Gardiner
In fact, it was Capital who clawed back into the match and Morison proved the heroine for the home side with her late strike to keep her team in it.
“When you get to penalties, it’s a lottery isn’t it?” said Gardiner. “We are happy with what we have done this season, obviously disappointed to not go through to the final but we are proud of what we achieved.”
Meanwhile, Evans was looking forward to the chance to finish the job in the final. The Capital camp are aware they will go as underdogs against Canterbury but will be up for the challenge.
“We have two very important sessions at training this week. We know how Canterbury play now and we know what is at stake in the final. I think the girls will put it together this week and come out confident next Sunday.”
National Women’s League Preliminary Final
Capital Football 2 (Briar Palmer 16’, Emily Morison 95’)
WaiBOP 2 (Helen Arjomandi 10’, Chelsea Elliott 67’)
Capital Football win 4-2 on penalties