Merewether have claimed two-goal advantage in the first leg at Myamblah Oval, but Warners Bay scored a lifeline late with a penalty goal for Jenna Kingsley. Image via Valentine Sports Photography.

Merewether have claimed a strong lead in the first leg of the Women’s Premier League semi-finals with a 3-1 win against Warners Bay at Myamblah Oval on Sunday afternoon.

The defending champions found their first advantage through Leah Guiffre just after the half-hour mark. The Llamas’ midfielder fired off a long-ranged shot from outside the eighteen-yard box, burying the speculative chance into the top right corner.

United carried the 1-0 lead into the break, as they held off a period of ascendancy from Warners Bay. Tamara Nash doubled the home side’s lead in the 53rd minute, and Courtney Anderson extended the margin to 3-0 twenty minutes later.

The Panthers were able to grab back a lifeline in the two-legged tie with a late penalty goal converted by Jenna Kingsley. The two-goal difference will stand as last year’s champions and premiers face off again next weekend at John Street Oval.

Read more recent news

According to Merewether boss Cass Koppen, her side’s 3-1 victory has set them up with a great chance to step into the big dance next Sunday. The job isn’t done just yet, she said, as they brace for one more “do-or-die” battle on August 25.

“We showed a lot of desire, and went in wanting to win. That’s what we got,” she said.

“Warners Bay have a lot of pressure in the second game now, though we need a result regardless. It was disappointing to concede a late penalty. We can’t afford to sit back and relax despite getting a good win. They’re going to be coming out hungry now.”

Koppen pointed out her goalscoring midfielder Guiffre as the “big game player” that broke open the match with her long-ranged rocket.

The former national league star scored two against the Panthers in the grand final last year, and Koppen believes there’s a trend.

“Leah was outstanding for us, and will be again. She’s a big game player, and scores in some of the most important matches,” the Llamas coach said. “Leah was unlucky to have one disallowed against her this weekend too, she could have had two again.”

While Merewether set about preparing for the reverse fixture at John Street Oval with the calmness of the lead, Craig Atkins and his Warners Bay outfit know they now have to “lift their game” if they want to fight their way back into the elimination tie.

In particular, the ability to convert their chances when in control will be key, Atkins said. Despite periods of dominance at Myamblah, the Panthers only found the back of the net through a late penalty. That must change, Atkins said.

“We had a period of twenty minutes where I thought we dominated the game, but we hit the post twice and just couldn’t get the ball into the back of the net,” he said.

“Then we got stung when Merewether just went up the other end and scored. Maybe if we got those early chances it would have been a different game, but it just wasn’t to be. The girls aren’t happy at all with how they played, and we were well below our best.

“There’s still everything to play for, the girls know what needs to be done next weekend. We’ll go in confident in ourselves, and back to the drawing board for any problems we may have that we can work on. We weren’t good enough, and we’ll fix that.”

Merewether and Warners Bay will play the second leg of the semi-final at John Street Oval on Sunday, August 25. First-grade kick-off is planned for 4.30pm.