In an evening of high tension and controversy, the Teal Army wrapped up their maiden championship with a hard-fought 2-0 win over Super Soccer Academy.
It was over to the BFA Headquarters on Wednesday for the penultimate round of fixtures of the Bahrain Women’s League. Ravens – seeking their first title – have a three-point gap and a game in hand against second place Super Soccer Academy before this game. With Seef FC a further few points back in third, a win for Ravens would seal the deal.
And they fairly fly out of the blocks, keen to kill this one off quickly and bombarding their opponent’s goalmouth with Rory Delap-esque long throws. Captain Rama Salem nearly opens the scoring early with a thumping shot which cannons down off the bar onto the line, and soon the pressure tells with the freescoring Ghada Mudara slotting home clinically to make it 1-0 to Ravens.
Super Soccer Academy – who seem overwhelmed at first – start to click into gear after going behind. The game evens up as they settle into the match, spurred on by the calm distribution of their number 17 and the forceful runs of their number 10. They come close to making it 1-1 but for a stunning double save by Ravens keeper Zahraa Nezar, who somehow manages to scoop a close-range shot off the line while completely unbalanced. I’m still not sure how she did that; a truly excellent piece of goalkeeping.
Half Time: Ravens 1-0 Super Soccer Academy
The second half sees no let-up: some crunching tackles from both sides and a gloriously bad-tempered midfield battle between Ravens Jana Alafoo and SSA’s number 10. It’s a game of margins though, and in the end it’s Ravens who manage to get the second: Zainab Al Qaidoom – who’s been pivotal this season – with a fine finish to make it slightly safer at 2-0.
After that things get a little weird. Ravens’ Shada Samad nicks a loose SSA pass and gallops through the defence before unleashing a shot which is palmed over the line into the top corner of the net by the SSA keeper. The ball bounced back out from the stanchion though, and the ref inexplicably decides that it’s hit the bar and not crossed the line, and promptly chalks it off to the bemusement of the celebrating Ravens’ fans.
This leads to the bizarre scene of the SSA manager running onto the pitch to remonstrate with the ref for allowing the goal, which he actually hasn’t, despite it being a perfectly legit goal. Confused? We are. Replays shows it was clearly in, and Samad is robbed of a decisive, league-settling finish.
Annoying though this is, it doesn’t affect the result. The whistle blows soon after and Ravens become Bahrain champions for the first time. Super Soccer deserve immense praise for the way they battled throughout this one, even when 2-0 down, but Ravens have been fantastic all season: coach Dan Grimes has assembled and shepherded a formidable squad this year, built around the rock-solid foundation of Salem and defender Janet Kellagher (both immense again today). The entire Ravens squad deserve massive congratulations for a fully-merited championship victory, and will collect the trophy at the final game next week (before going for the double in the cup final after that).
Ravens 2-0 Super Soccer Academy (Mudara, Al Qaidoom) – Ravens are Champions
The women’s league has been a blood and guts celebration of football in 2021/22 (in contrast to the near-constant time-wasting and diving in the men’s games I’ve seen this year). The support is growing all the time, and if the BFA have any sense they’ll pour money into it next year and promote the hell out of it (including getting it its own social media presence instead of lumping it in with the boys’ youth leagues which is pretty disrespectful).