The championship defence is still on for the Melbourne Victory, seeing off crosstown rivals Melbourne City on penalties at Casey Fields to progress to the semi finals.
It would be a dramatic encounter, a game filled with momentum swings, neither side would be able to get the ascendancy on the contest. With six goals coming inside the first 90 minutes, a penalty shootout was needed to split the two sides after an enthralling 3-3 draw.
City had the momentum early, and they’d strike first through Rhianna Pollicina, the City forward netting her eighth goal of the season in the 40th minute. Set up by Holly McNamara, the 26-year-old would find space in the centre of the box and fire a shot into the bottom left corner.
Minutes later she’d go close to doubling the advantage, fed through by Kate Bowen, it was a case of déjà vu who once again found space from close range. Though her strike would be wide of the mark. After a lacklustre start to the game, it would provide a much needed spark for City who looked a lot more clinical thereafter and went into the half time break with all the momentum.
After half time, the Victory appeared to have flicked the switch and having threatened to equalise, peppering the goals in the opening minutes of the second half, they’d finally get reward for effort with the leveller eventually coming in the 53rd minute.
The equaliser would come from the penalty spot, with Beattie Goad drawing a foul closing in on goal having been fouled by City’s Naomi Thomas-Chinnama. After a relatively quiet opening half, Melina Ayres needed to stand up made no mistake from the spot.
With the heavens opening up and the rain coming down hard at Casey Fields, the floodgates of the contest then opened for the Victory. Ayres would be in the thick of it, after scoring the leveller, she’d bob up 15 minutes later to reverse the deficit, firing from the centre of the box to the bottom right corner. She’d then complete the hat-trick five minutes later in the 72nd minute, scoring from a similar position to put the Victory in firm control.
Though the momentum was short lived for the Victory, Pollicina pegged one back, then minutes later City would be awarded with a penalty of their own with minutes remaining.
McNamara would be the one to take it and would be denied by Casey Dumont. Though City weren’t done with yet, with seven minutes of stoppage time added Hannah Wilkinson would score with one of the last plays of the game, sending the game into extra time.
Extra time not enough to separate the two sides, with the game going to penalties, the Victory would get an early advantage with Dumont stepping from the spot with the first spot kick before denying Bowen on the next spot kick. Wilkinson would then hit the crossbar, with Alana Murphy stepping up with the next kick to ensure Victory progressed to the next round, winning 4-1 on penalties.
Victory get it done in finals again
Winning back-to-back titles having never been the best side during the home and away season, the Victory look poised to pull off the feat for a third time running with Jeff Brooks’ side leaving their best finals football for the post-season.
Having started the game off slow, the Victory would work their way back into the game and do enough to see off their rivals to progress to the semi finals. Though they’d have to do it the hard way, coughing up a two goal lead the Victory eventually saw off their rivals when it came to penalties.
Having proven in the last two seasons they’re a different beast in finals, the Victory look enroute to do it the hard away all again.
Melina Ayres stars with hat-trick
Having been quiet in the opening half for her standards, Ayres would receive message from coach Jeff Brooks prior to the start of the second half, no doubt being instructed to lift and help her side get over the line. And in typical fashion, she’d answer the call.
She’d start the second half strong, having fired shots at goal to no avail, she’d finally get reward for effort, scoring the equaliser from the penalty spot to get her side back into the contest.
She’d go on to score a hat-trick, putting her side in front with a shot from 10 yards in the 67th minute before minutes later completing the hat-trick with a near identical shot to help put her side ahead. With the Victory on the verge of elimination, she’d step up when it mattered putting in a masterful performance to ensure her side kept their season alive.
With her season tally now at 12 goals, the forward’s brilliant run of form in the regular seasons looks to have carried over into the finals.
Casey Dumont heroics sees Victory over the line
While Ayres was influential on the offensive end, Dumont was just as impressive on the the opposite side of the pitch in between the sticks. Coming up with several saves through out the first 90 minutes and extra time, she’d finish the game with eight saves.
She’d be pivotal in the penalty shoot-outs, stepping up to take the Victory’s first penalty, she’d make no mistake from the spot, before stepping up to deny Wilkinson.
Having looked shaky at the back at times, the Victory would be thankful that Dumont was up to the task to help see off a resurgent City outfit.