Results were not quite as surprising as last week, but nothing came easy in Round 18 of the A-League Women’s.
The Newcastle Jets looked to have secured a big win against Adelaide United, only for Emilia Murray score a late equalizer and rescue a point.
The Jets went into half time with a 2-0 lead thanks to strikes from Lucy Johnson and a trademark goal at pace from Lauren Allan.
Adelaide’s duo of rising stars responded in the second half. Katie Bowler pulled one back before Murray pounced on a hesitant Newcastle defence to share the points.
Sydney looked poised to retake top spot on the ladder against Melbourne City. Cortnee Vine was a menace all afternoon. She scored in the 24th minute, and set up Rachel Lowe and Princess Ibini with one-on-ones against Sally James. The City goalkeeper was in strong form and kep her side in the contest with some excellent work before Kaitlyn Torpey scored her late equaliser.
Perth Glory held on for a vital 1-0 win against Wellington Phoenix. Cyera Hintzen’s 10th minute goal was enough to keep their finals hopes alive.
Canberra United and Melbourne Victory faced off in a mini final. The score was 1-1 at full time in a result that will suit Victory more. Kennedy Faulknor scored for Canberra United, while Tiffany Eliadis pulled one back for Victory in the 88th minute.
It was a game of missed chances for Canberra who looked likely to win, Michelle Heyman’s effort to win the game looked certain to go in, but somehow crashed off both posts before bobbling away.
A Bethany Gordon brace helped Western Sydney defeat the Brisbane Roar. The winger scored the opening goal from a well timed run, then sealed the result with a great finish in the second.
Clare Hunt also got on the scoresheet for the home side, while Shea Connors was tireless and threatening for Brisbane. Her pace and defensive effort set up Larissa Crummer for The Roars only goal.
It was a strong performance by The Wanderers who had nothing to play for. Their effort and celebrations was an encouraging sign for the culture in Kat Smith’s side.
Talking Points Week 18
Adelaide’s prodigy’s step up
Adelaide United’s season has not exactly gone to plan. After making the finals in 2021/22 expectations were high. But a combination of injuries and form have meant that they are currently outside of the top four, and needing other results to go their way.
Their season has not been without successes though. Scholarship players and local rising stars Email Murray and Katie Bowler have announced themselves as players to watch.
Both players combined to save Adelaide from defeat against Newcastle on the weekend. Murray’s cross from the right fell to Bowler who stayed composed to finish beyond and in-form Claire Coelho.
It was Bowler’s second goal of the season, and she looks set to become a reliable source of goals for The Reds in future. Her first goal in April came against Canberra United. It was an outstretched effort to direct the bouncing ball beyond the keeper and into the net.
This week’s was another classy effort from another half volley. Bowler kept it low and into the corner with perfect technique.
The cross came from the in-form Murray. The attacker has just returned from national team duty. She scored four goals in two games for the Young Matildas and provided a classy assist for Ella O’Grady after running half the length of the pitch with the ball.
Murray carried that dangerous form into this game, after setting up the goal, she scored the late equaliser. She latched onto a high ball into the box to prod it into the net. It was her second of the season and very similar to the ones she scored for Australia. Murray is dangerous out wide but attacks the ball aggressively in the box.
South Australia has been a steady production line of top-level footballers for some time. Current Matildas Charli Grant and Matilda McNamara are both former reds, while Emily Condon, Jenna McCormick and Dylan Holmes have all worn the green and gold at senior level and Mary Fowler’s sole A-League season was at Adelaide.
Between Bowler and Murray, Adelaide United have two deadly, instinctive strikers that have given them a lifeline this season and provides them plenty to be excited about next year.
Victory do just enough again
Melbourne Victory are experts at this time of year. Luck plays a small part, but experience, versatility and grit are carrying them to a likely top four position.
Last week against Melbourne City, they defended deep after taking an early lead. In this round, they were forced to chase the game against a Canberra side looking to kill them off and with the players to do so.
The game felt eerily similar to last season when Canberra United travelled to AAMI Park and played out a 0-0 draw in a must win game. Canberra United did everything they could to win this game, but this current Melbourne squad have finals experience and know how to approach a knock out game.
Victory were under siege from one of the leagues most versatile and fast paced attacks. Grace Jale and Michelle Heyman both hit the woodwork, and Melbourne struggled to play the ball out from the back or beat the home side’s press.
With their season potentially in the balance, Victory took as risk. Kayla Morrison dribbled the ball out from defence and into midfield. She switched the play wide to Maja Markovski who sent in a dangerous cross for Tiffany Eliadis to tap home for a crucial goal.
Canberra United continued to push for a winner and were unlucky not to get one. Casey Dumont played one of her best games of an amazing season and was in no mood to be beaten.
This was not a pretty performance from Victory, but like last week, they knew how to get the job done.
Where things stand with two weeks to go.
Melbourne Victory kept their five point buffer in fourth place, but nothing is certain. Perth Glory’s win saw them jump above Canberra United on goal difference, but with a game in hand. Alex Epakis’s team have three games to make up six points and hope Victory drop theirs.
It will be an intense end to the season. Glory will be hosting Melbourne City before travelling to face Sydney FC and Brisbane Roar, in the space of six days.
Canberra United have two games left to make up six points. Like Glory, their fate is no longer in their own hands. They will have to overcome Western United who have a premiership in their sights and Melbourne City who have been strong at home. There remains the slight chance that their appeal for forfeited points may go their way, but on the pitch they will be taking no chances.
Melbourne City can be overtaken by Victory, but it will make little difference to them in the scheme of the season. Second place and the double chance look out of reach, but whether they finish second, third or fourth, their first final will be in Victoria. The Grand Final will be in Sydney regardless, so these last few games are about finding their best football and combination of players.
Victory are being chased, but one more win will almost guarantee finals. They play Brisbane Roar and then Wellington Phoenix and can leapfrog City, but cannot catch second place.
At the top of the table, Sydney FC have three games to play, and Western United have two. If both teams take full points from the next two weeks Sydney FC will end the season on 43 points. The most Western United can reach is 42. What looked almost certain a fortnight ago, couid now go down to the finest margin.
The pending result of Canberra United’s appeal puts an asterisk over all of this, but as things stand, three teams are still able to make the finals with two weeks to go. It is a thrilling end to the season.
Game to watch in Week 19: Western United vs Canberra United
Western United did not play this week, but are back on top of the ladder after their loss to Brisbane Roar was overturned. A historic top place finish remains a strong possibility, and wins in the last two games will guarantee a premiership in their inaugural season.
That is easier said than done. They will first have to overcome a Canberra United side that is stacked with firepower, and who must win to have any chance of making the finals. Canberra can still catch Melbourne Victory, but there are no second chances. This is a must win game for two teams stacked with talent. It will be essential viewing.