Sydney FC took a big step towards another title, Perth Glory will rue missed opportunities, and a league legend nears another record in this weeks Kick360 Dub Wrap
Melbourne City defeated the Newcastle Jets in a match that was tougher than the 4-0 score line suggested. The Jets came out full of energy and intent. Only the post and a diving effort from Sally James prevented them taking an early lead through Cass Davis.
Goals to Maria Rojas, Rhianna Pollicina, Bryleeh Henry and Hannah Wilkinson settled the result, but all but three came after the 80th minute. Most encouraging for neutral fans was the return to form and fitness of Holly Mcnamara. The Matildas forward was inventive and electric in attack. It is good to see her back.
Canberra United and Adelaide United played out a shootout in the capital. Grace Maher’s 4th minute penalty kick gave the hosts an early lead, and Michelle Heyman doubled it. Katie Bowler scored her first goal with a skilful finish to bring Adelaide back into it. Another goal to Heyman and one from Adelaide’s Maruschka Waldus saw the teams go into the break 3-2.
Heyman’s third late in the second half secured all three points for Canberra as their finals quest continues.
Over in Wellington, The Phoenix opened the scoring against a Katrina Gorry-less Brisbane Roar. Michaela Foster’s free kick was nodded in by Marisa Van Der Meer. Brisbane attacked through the pace of Shea Connors. In a central role she was menacing throughout and levelled the scores late.
On Sunday, Sydney FC defeated Western United 3-0 in a physical, and tense encounter. Rachel Lowe scored twice and Princess Ibini netted the sealer late for the home side. Nat Tobin’s two yellow cards was the only blemish for the defending premiers.
There was drama in the west with Perth Glory desperate to close the gap on the top four and Western Sydney Wanderers needing a point or more. The mini final was dominated by Western Sydney in the first half, and by Glory in the second. Tash Rigby scored an incredible solo goal to give Glory the lead, but Amy Harrison’s penalty ruined the celebrations.
Glory had multiple late chances to take all three points and although their season is not over, it was an opportunity missed.
Talking Points: Week 16
Heyman’s hunting a hundred.
Michelle Heyman is already the greatest striker in the history of the A-League Women. She is currently the best performing Australian forward in the domestic league, and she has her sights set on a Matildas call up.
She also has one more achievement to unlock. Heyman’s hattrick against Adelaide United has put her within touching distance of 100 league goals. She has four games left to score six goals, and her form seems to be improving as the season goes on.
Michelle Heyman has lost none of her pace, and continues to defy age. She is scoring goals from outside of the box, with diving headers and is outpacing defenders 10 year her junior. Reaching the century of strikes would be an incredible achievement and would likely come with the added bonus of a Golden Boot award.
She has not had a call up under Tony Gustavsson, but with injuries effecting other Matildas forwards like Kyah Simon and Emily Gielnik, the veteran striker must be in the discussion.
Sydney FC are second with one hand on the trophy.
Anet Juric’s side may not be on top of the ladder but look well positioned to win their third consecutive premiership. They have two games in hand and convincingly defeated top placed Western United 3-0 in a physical match that saw Nat Tobin receive two yellow cards.
In the absence of both Shay Hollman and Madison Hayley, Sydney FC flexed their depth by bringing midfielder Rachel Lowe into the central attacking position. She responded with two second half goals to set Sydney on their way to a crucial win.
Sydney FC have now beaten every team except Adelaide United in Round One, and Perth Glory who they have yet to play. It remains a frustration that an earlier meeting against Perth Glory was postponed instead of moved when Sydney FC could not acquire a pitch, (it is going to cause fixture congestion for Glory) but the playing squad as only gotten stronger each round this season.
Juric’s trust in youth has been rewarded. The club rarely seek out high profile overseas signings and have long relied on their managers strong track record of local recruiting and developing players for success. Sarah Hunter and Shay Hollman have been two of their best players this season despite being 17 and 19 respectively, while Mackenzie Hawkesby leads the league in chances created.
Importantly, they have different ways of approaching games, and are as comfortable in a physical match as they are stroking the ball around midfield. The duo of Princess Ibini and Cortnee Vine give them a frightening counter-attacking threat, while the midfield of Hunter, Hollman, and Hawkesby allows them tempo control.
This is a squad with tactical flexibility and individual talent. Their final five matches consist of only one against another side currently in the top four. Perth Glory look to be their biggest threat, but will have played three days prior and will be travelling.
In an unprecedented plot twist, Sydney have had another three points added to their tally. Their 2-1 loss to Canberra United in Round 14 has been reversed after APL determined that Canberra used an unauthorised substitution in the win.
Their success is very much in their own destiny right now.
Wingers in the middle
For much of this season Wanderers fans and neutral observers have called out for them to sign a striker. It has taken some time, but Kat Smith has been developing her own. Former Newcastle Jet Sophie Harding played much of last season on the wing. In recent weeks, she has moved to a central attacking position and against Perth Glory she was the best player on the pitch.
In a game where The Wanderers needed a point to keep their season alive, Harding played an almost complete game. She chased, pressed, dribbled, and shot. Only the form of Morgan Aquino prevented her from scoring, but she could not stop her earning a penalty to level to scores.
Harding was a thrill to watch and a constant threat for the Glory defence.
Against Wellington, Brisbane Roar were forced into a reshuffle due to the absence of Larissa Crummer and Katrina Gorry. Rather than replace the irreplaceable Matildas midfielder, they moved Shea Connors to centre forward and played more direct football.
Connors was a star in the position in the NSW NPLW, and recaptured that form as she constantly ran at the Wellington defence. Her persistence, pace and mobility was a handful for the organized and disciplined Phoenix back four, and she levelled the scores late with a terrific solo effort.
Only inches prevented her from assisting what would have been the winner. It was a thrilling match from the American attacker.
Sometimes the solution to goalscoring problems is within the team already.
Game to watch in week 17: Melbourne Victory vs Melbourne City
It’s the second Melbourne derby and neither team is entirely secure in the top four. The two sides come into this game with differing fortunes. Victory will be without Alana Murphy, Jessika Nash and Ava Briedis who are all with the Young Matildas. They will also be missing Elise Kellond-Knight who suffered a tragic Achilles injury.
Victory are still searching for a solution to Alex Chidiac’s departure and could turn to the creative and versatile Paige Zois in a must win match.
City are missing Leah Davidson and Caitlin Karic, but were able to start with Holly Mcnamara, Bryleeh Henry, Maria Rojas and Hannah Wilkinson against Newcastle. All but McNamara scored, and without Nash or Kellond-Knight, Victory will be stretched for depth defensively.
Going in Victory’s favour is that their coach, Jeff Hopkins has the experience of two Championships and repeated top four finishes, while Dario Vidosic is in his first season, and has not beaten another top four side in his short tenure.
That could change this weekend, but Victory still have the tools and know how to get a result.