Gabe Marzano fired The Gap Women into the Grand Final as the Premiers edged Palm Beach SC Women 2-0 at Walton Bridge Reserve on Sunday.
The Westfield W-League winner netted either side of half-time to decide the Qualifying Semi-Final and seal the hosts’ progression to a home decider.
While Gators are now 90 minutes away from an inaugural double, Sharks must overcome a knockout match in two weeks’ time to stay alive in the PlayStation® 4 NPL Queensland Women’s Finals Series.
Finishing just one point apart on the ladder, the match promised quality and almost delivered inside 10 minutes as the crossbar denied Gators’ leading scorer Leah Curtis from distance.
However, Marzano soon ensured an early lead for the hosts after Curtis combined with Ruth Blackburn to tee up the Westfield W-League winner.
Gators suffered twin setbacks with Summer O’Brien and captain Bec Price both substituted through injury before the break, but still almost doubled their advantage at half-time as Blackburn’s header struck the post.
Marzano again proved the difference after the restart when she rode a challenge, got through on goal and beat Bianca Warrener to make it 2-0 on the hour.
Golden Boot winner Deeanna Thompson threatened to pull the visitors back into it with around 20 minutes remaining and saw a long-range effort well dealt with by Noran Abaza.
Thompson and Marzano looked most likely to add goals at either end but Gators ultimately held firm to record a 12th clean sheet from their past 14 matches.
Sharks now have a week off before facing the winner of Sunshine Coast Women and Peninsula Power Women for a place in the decider.
Speaking after the match, Gators coach Rob Askew commended his side’s resolve after two first-half injuries.
“In the end I thought we probably deserved to win, we had the better chances. It was a gutsy effort,” Askew said.
Sharks coach Gary French said his team will aim to find an extra gear in order to remain alive.
“I was pleased with the team’s performance, we’ve just got to find that cutting edge and hopefully we will play them again. That’s what we’re aiming for,” French said.
The Gap FC Women 2 (Gabe MARZANO 17’, 61’)
Palm Beach SC Women 0