Phoenix rising and Roar after dramatic clash

Brisbane Roar 3-3 Wellington Phoenix

by Ben Carey (29/1/23)

Above: Paige Satchell tries to work her way past the Brisbane Roar defence. Photo: Wellington Phoenix.

Wellington Phoenix staged one of the comebacks of the season against Brisbane Roar on a hot Saturday afternoon.

Natalie Lawrence’s team suffered some early setbacks but weathered the storm to close out the match in an exciting 3-3 draw against the home team.

The match started off in a fairly scrappy fashion, with neither team holding too much possession. Brisbane Roar was definitely the side that was more proactive, and both Larissa Crummer and Katrina Gorry found themselves with half chances within the first 10 minutes.

Brisbane wouldn’t need to wait too long until those half chances turned into the real deal. In the 15th minute, Kajsa Lind hit a wonderful long ball to the far-left side of the pitch, which was expertly headed on by Hollie Palmer towards Shea Connors, who had perfectly timed her run past the Wellington defensive line. Connors used her pace to get into the box quickly before she could be shut down, and she went one on one with Brianna Edwards in goal, managing to outfox her to score her first goal for the season.

Just over 10 minutes later, Connors found herself in a dangerous position again. She was running at goal with only the keeper left to beat. Kate Taylor, the Wellington defender was running beside her and took her down, spectacularly, just outside of the penalty box. However, it was deemed that Taylor was the last defender and as such she was shown a red card, much to the dismay of the Wellington fans. The resulting free key was taken by Gorry, who hit a rocket into the back of the net, edging the Roar ahead 2-0.

After losing Taylor, the Phoenix didn’t hang their heads in defeat. They calmly regrouped and continue playing positive and attacking football. They readjusted their formation, keeping three at the back instead of the usual four, and shuffled the midfield and front line around so that they could stay on the offensive.

In the 33rd minute, an incredible free kick by Michaela Foster, from at least 30 yards out, beat the entire Brisbane defensive line and Hensley Hancuff in goal to halve the deficit. Quite a way to score your first goal in the A-League Women!

In the last 10 minutes before half time, the Roar had a number of chances on goal, all of which involved Indiah-Paige Riley, the most promising of which came just before the stroke of half time. There was a very promising build-up in which Riley ran towards the goal, passed off to Crummer who took a shot, beating the keeper, but it was cleared off the line by Grace Wisnewski. The clearance fell to Connors, but her follow up attempt was headed just wide of the goal by a Wellington defender.

The second half started off relatively uneventful, especially compared to the first half. But the action began to ramp up again after the hour mark. Another long-range, high curling shot from Foster looked destined for the back of the Brisbane net, however Hancuff pulled off a magnificent diving save to deny it. But just over five minutes later, the Brisbane defence was caught sleeping, and they were unable to shut down the attack of Wellington midfielder, Emily Clegg, who scored to level the game up at 2-2.

10 minutes later, Wellington Phoenix scored again. The Brisbane defensive structure was all out of sorts and a defensive header landed straight at the feet of Wisnewski, who slotted it in the back of the net to put Wellington in the lead for the very first time. If anyone thought that the New Zealand side was going to be weakened by the Queensland heat, they were wrong.

In the last 20 minutes of regulation time, the Roar hit the woodwork on three separate occasions, much to the frustration of the local crowd, who felt the win that seemed so inevitable an hour before was being snatched away from beneath them. But in the dying minutes of regular time, Crummer found herself in the box, beat a few Wellington defenders and chipped a ball over Edwards in goal to even the score up 3-3. The crowd went absolutely wild.

But there was still time for one more piece of drama in the dying minutes of stoppage time. Claudia Cicco, of the Wellington Phoenix, played a through ball to Michaela Robertson, who beat the Brisbane defence and scored. However, it was immediately disallowed because she had strayed offside. But a goal had been announced over the loudspeaker and the Wellington supporters were chanting, so it took a little while for the crowd to figure out what had happened.

All in all, it was a very exciting and action-packed match for the spectators. A frustrating draw for Brisbane though, who had the match on a silver platter, but let it slip away.

A solid first half of attacking football, the Roar failed to press enough and convert on their chances in the closing stages of the game. That said, Connors pulled out her best performance of the season so far, scoring the first goal of the match and drawing the foul that lead to the second goal. She also hit a number of good crosses throughout the match that could have easily lead to goals.

Gorry was exceptional in the midfield, pulling the strings, always involved in the build-up of attacks. She scored a goal of her own, and took several more shots on target, two of which hit the woodwork. Norrie, Palmer, and Crummer also put in great shifts for the Roar.

Wellington Phoenix well and truly showed their fighting spirit and their never say die attitude. After going down a player and two goals within the first half hour, they rose up from the metaphorical flames, reborn anew. The impact of Wisnewski was immense.

The newly capped Football Fern was everywhere in the match, she made two blocks in the 18-yard-box, a goal line clearance, and scored the goal that put Wellington ahead. Foster and Barry also performed very well, repelling as many of the Brisbane attacks as possible. Finally, Clegg proved herself to be Wellington’s secret weapon, scoring in back-to-back matches. She is the first player to achieve that for the Phoenix this season.

Speaking after the game, Wellington Phoenix head coach Natalie Lawrence said: “Three points was probably on the cards for us today, but I think if you said to me you’d finish 3-3 when you’re two-nil down after 30 minutes with 10 players I’d probably rip your hand off.”

“The heart, determination and fight of this group was shown. The fact we were two-nil down and then we took it to 3-2. When you look at the character, I can’t be anything but proud of the whole group. Huge, huge credit to the players for how hard they worked in pretty brutal heat.”

As well as the deficit on the scoreboard, the sending off of Taylor, Nix had to contend with exceptionally hot conditions and almost of travelling to Brisbane via Christchurch. “We could use all of these things as an excuse, and we didn’t today,” Lawrence admitted. “That just shows the character of everyone and how we don’t let this stuff get to us. We control what we can and that’s how we play on the field.”

Brisbane Roar will take on Adelaide United at home next weekend and Wellington Phoenix will have two weeks off before facing Western Sydney Wanderers on 12th February.

Teams: BRISBANE ROAR (4-4-2): Hancuff, Kramer, Lind, Rankin, Rasschaert, Norrie, Connors, Gorry, Palmer, Riley, Crummer. Substitutes: Shuttleworth, McQueen, Levin, Kruger, Freier.

Scorers: Connors 15’, Gorry 28’, Crummer 86’.

WELLINGTON PHOENIX (4-2-3-1): Edwards, Foster, Taylor, Barry, Van der Meer, Wisnewski, Knott, Clegg, Hassett, Satchell, Pritchard. Substitutes: Candy, Vosper, Cicco, Gomez, Robertson.

Scorers: Foster 33’, Clegg 66’, Wisnewski 78’.

Referee: Kelly Jones.

Attendance: 753.

Artwork by: Charlotte Stacey, founder of On Her Side.

Pollicina goal defeats Adelaide United

Melbourne City 1-0 Adelaide United

By Jonathan Tay (29/1/23)

Above: Rhianna Pollicina celebrates after scoring Melbourne City’s winner. Photo: Keep Up.

Melbourne City completed the double over an out-of-sorts Adelaide United at AAMI Park, easing to a 1-0 win on Sunday. Rhianna Pollicina’s 55th-minute tally proved the difference in a match that was far more one-sided than the final scoreline suggested. 

Adelaide were coming off of a dismal run of just one point over their last five games, which included their 3-0 loss to Melbourne City in the reverse fixture of this match. They were desperate to keep within touching distance of finals places, having fallen five points behind fourth-place Melbourne Victory. 

City meanwhile stuck with the same 3-4-3 formation as in their controlled win against Western Sydney last week – Leticia McKenna coming in as one of the two central midfield pivots, in place of the injured Karly Roestbakken. 

Above: Leticia McKenna (left) looks to close down Adelaide United’s Nanako Sasaki. Photo: Adelaide United.

The home side dominated the majority of possession and were particularly dangerous in transition, forward Bryleeh Henry often a speedy outlet in wide areas. McKenna also impressed throughout the game with her creativity and composure. The Western Australian set up Kaitlyn Torpey for an early chance with an accurate floated cross, which was sliced off-target.

Adelaide’s Chelsie Dawber countered with a 13th-minute strike straight into City keeper Sally James’ arms, before Melbourne left wingback Julia Grosso came closest to a first-half opener; her curled right-footed shot hitting the crossbar, before Rhianna Pollicina hammered a subsequent effort right at keeper Annalee Grove.

Those same two players combined for City’s deserved goal early in the second half; Grosso slipping a pass through to Pollicina inside the 18-yard box, with the attacking midfielder able to turn and fire home via a deflection for her team-leading fifth goal of the season.

Above: Hannah Wilkinson joins Rhianna Pollicina’s celebrations. Photo: Melbourne City.

City were able to test Grove more frequently, with Pollicina twice and striker Hannah Wilkinson forcing the Reds’ keeper into action. Adelaide on the other hand were left to live off scraps, with Dawber and her misfiring fellow forward Fiona Worts cutting frustrated figures all evening long. 

City looked far more likely to score a second than Adelaide to equalise, and Grosso, Wilkinson and substitute Caitlin Karic all had fantastic opportunities where they should have done better to deliver a more comfortable scoreline for the Melbournians.

Nevertheless, City saw out the remainder of the match with little resistance, keeping up the pressure on A-League ladder-leaders Western United. For Adelaide, time to find answers to their loss of form is beginning to run out, as a clearer divide begins to take shape between the top four and the rest of the competition.

Teams: MELBOURNE CITY (3-4-3): James, Chinnama, Checker, Bowen; Torpey, McKenna, Davidson, Grosso; Pollicina, Henry, Wilkinson. Substitutes: Hrehoresin (GK), Blissett, Galic, Malone, Karic.

Scorer: Pollicina 55’.

ADELAIDE UNITED (4-3-3): Grove, I. Hodgson, McCormick, Waldus, Hayward; Sasaki, Barbieri, Holmes; Dawber, Murray Worts. Substitutes: Wilson (GK), E. Hodgson; Westland, Bowler, Coorey.

Referee: Lara Lee.

Attendance: 595.

Artwork: Charlotte Stacey, founder of On Her Side.

Taylor and Man City eye up silverware

Johnathan Stack reports from Manchester City head coach Gareth Taylor‘s media conference ahead of their FA Cup tie with Championship side Sheffield United later today (29/1/23).

Above: Manchester City head coach Gareth Taylor is looking for his team to go one better than last season as the FA Cup gets underway for WSL sides this weekend. Photo: Manchester City.

Manchester City head coach Gareth Taylor has told the media that he is hoping that his team can add a fourth FA Cup triumph to their trophy cabinet this season ahead of their fourth-round tie against Sheffield United.

City has since gone on to finish as a semi-finalist and runners-up in the two most recent tournaments.

Speaking to the press at City Football Academy, Taylor said: “It’s always an aim for us [to win the FA Cup]. I think some people or teams might look at certain competitions as more important than others,” he said.

“We accept that the league is the competition you really want to win because you have to be faultless and it’s often the marker of a good team.

Above: Manchester City’s Mary Fowler in training this week. Photo: Manchester City.

Taylor went on further to add “In cup competitions, you can win six to eight games and it’s not necessarily the best team who wins, but you have to be consistent in those games.

“You have to work a lot with the League Cup (Conti Cup) as an example to get that real opportunity. It’s the same with the FA Cup, you get down to the nitty-gritty from around the quarter-final stages.

“The last two or three years our record in the FA Cup record has been really good. It’s a great competition and one that’s still admired by supporters and players. It means a lot to them.”

Ahead of tomorrow’s game City will be without Demi Stokes and Esme Morgan just as they were on Wednesday for their 6-0 Conti Cup triumph over Bristol City.

Manchester City play Sheffield United at the Academy Stadium today at 1pm (UK time).

The Price is right for Wanderers

Western Sydney Wanderers 1-0 Newcastle Jets

Report by Johnathan Stack, EXCLUSIVE pitchside photos from Kris Goman at Wanderers Football Park (28/1/23).

Above: Olivia Price celebrates her winning goal for Western Sydney Wanderers. Photo: Kris Goman for Impetus.

Western Sydney Wanderers moved into the top six of the Liberty A-League courtesy of a scrappy 1-0 win over Newcastle Jets.

A deflected strike from Olivia Price was enough to down the Jets at a very hot and humid Wanderers Football Park on Saturday evening.

Above: High-flying aerial action in the penalty box earlier today. Photo: Kris Goman for Impetus.

The resurgent Wanderers, who are four games unbeaten at home, are now within seven points of the top four.

In a very tight game, where both sides had the same number of chances it was always going to be close.

Both sides lacked urgency in midfield early on and it looked like if there were any goals, they were going to have to come from set pieces.

But in the 36th minute, Sophie Harding played the ball to midfielder Olivia Price and the Wanderers made good on their first proper chance into the final third.

Above: Western Sydney Wanderers celebrate Olivia Price’s goal. Photo: Kris Goman for Impetus.

Price’s strike deflected off Jets defender Taren King, who was in the wrong place at the wrong time, and the ball went past goalkeeper Georgina Worth.

The goal lifted the Wanderers, but it was the Jets who had the better of the second-half chances and Newcastle missed two golden opportunities to equalise.

Ash Brodigan pounced on a cross from the left wing but mistimed her shot, hitting it over the bar. Later, substitute Adriana Konjarski failed to execute a one-on-one with Jordyn Bloomer, her strike bouncing off the goalkeeper’s hands.

Wanderers were able to see out the win and climb up to sixth in the table, Newcastle, however, has conceded a total of 10 goals in three consecutive losses and could finish the weekend rock bottom if Wellington Phoenix beat Brisbane Roar on Sunday.

Above: Olivia Price (8) reacts after seeing an effort hit the post. Photo: Kris Goman for Impetus.

Next up for Wanderers are champions Melbourne Victory at CB Smith while Newcastle play Canberra United at No2 Sportsground.

Teams: WESTERN SYDNEY WANDERERS (4-3-1-2): Bloomer, Apostolakis, Hunt, Ferris, Matos, Gordon, Harrison, Steinmetz, Price, Harding, Bolden. Substitutes: Caceres, Chlastáková, Gallagher, Hristodoulou, Khamis (GK).

Scorer: Price 36′.

NEWCASTLE JETS (4-2-3-1): Worth, Clough, King, Garnier, Allan, Agnew, Davis, Griffith, Brodigan, Johnson, Andrews. Substitutes: Allen, Coelho (GK), Konjarski, Puxty, Stapleford.

Referee: Isabella Blaess.

Attendance: 326.

Kris Goman’s EXCLUSIVE photo gallery from Wanderers Football Park:

Artwork: Charlotte Stacey, founder of On Her Site.

Canberra handed second successive thrashing by leaders Western United

Canberra United 0-5 Western United

by Ryan Miller-Woods (28/1/23)

Above: Western United celebrate after yet another goal at McKellar Park today. Photo: Keep Up

Western United put on a truly dominant performance against Canberra United at McKellar Park to send the home team to their second 5-0 defeat in as many matches.

A brace by A-League Women Golden Boot leader Hannah Keane as well as goals from Danielle Steer, Melissa Taranto, and Sydney Cummings all in the first half put the match to bed before the second half had even begun.

For Canberra, it was a day to forget for them as they have now conceded 10 goals in two matches. While they had a few moments in the game that may have amounted to something more, they were never really in the contest.

The scoring opened after just four minutes when Angie Beard out-challenged Canberra’s Sasha Grove from the ball allowing Western United’s new arrival to cross into the box for Danielle Steer to head the ball into the bottom left corner for her first goal in the A-League Women.

Within eight minutes, the visitors doubled their lead when Keane’s cross found Steer. She chested the ball down directly towards the path of Melissa Taranto in the box who controlled the ball and slotted it into the back of the net to double Western United’s lead in the match.

Above: Melissa Taranto (second left) celebrates her goal that put Western United 2-0 up. Photo: Keep Up.

It got worse just before the half-hour mark as Canberra’s Sasha Grove misguided her backpass that was intended for goalkeeper Chloe Lincoln but instead went to Hannah Keane who with Lincoln well off her line and away from goal, was gifted a golden opportunity to lift the ball over Lincoln for 3-0.

Shortly afterwards, Canberra had their best chance of the match as Chengsu Wu provided a pass for Michelle Heyman who controlled the ball with the outside of her boot before running into the box with her eventual shot at goal being saved by Western keeper Hillary Beall and out for a corner.

Six minutes before the break, Melissa Taranto played a beautiful through ball from around halfway for Keane who outmuscled Ellie Brush on the outside of the box to advance and hit a shot going under the legs of Lincoln and into the back of the net.

Directly from a Western corner by Adriana Taranto, the ball was passed to Tyla-Jay Vlajnic who then crossed the ball into the box which seemingly crossed the line but wasn’t awarded. However, not long after that in the same sequence, Western United had better luck as Sydney Cummings’ close-range shot went into the bottom left corner for Western’s fifth goal of the match in the 42nd minute.

There were far fewer chances after the break. Western was very close to having scored a sixth goal with a great play by them allowed for an open goal with Vlajnic’s shot on an angle subsequently hitting the side netting in the 62nd minute.

Canberra had a rare opportunity with 20 minutes to go when Vlajnic’s failed clearance allowed for the ball to go up in the air and when it came back down found first found Heyman and then Vesna Milivojevic with her shot at goal was saved by Beall.

Teams: CANBERRA UNITED (4-4-2): Lincoln, Ilijoski, Hughes, Brush, Grove, Maher, Taylor-Young, Faulknor, Milivojevic, Heyman. Substitutes: Murray, Jale, Christopherson, Middleton, Segavcic.

WESTERN UNITED (4-1-4-1): Beall, Medwin, Cummings, Cerne, Beard, Sawicki, M. Taranto, A. Taranto, Steer, Keane, Vlajnic. Substitutes: Dall’Oste, Dakic, Robers, Johnson, Sinclair

Scorers: Steer 4’, M. Taranto 13’, Keane 28’,39’. Cummings 42’

Referee: Rebecca Durcau.

Attendance: 970.

Artwork: Charlotte Stacey, founder of On Her Side.

Leicester City’s Aussie recruits can make a difference

By Kieran Yap (27/1/23)

Above: Courtney Nevin on international duty. Photo: Football Australia

Leicester City’s push for survival in the FAWSL has seen them sign two Australian internationals. Here is what fans can expect from Remy Siemsen and Courtney Nevin.

Australia had just lost 3-0 to the USA. Starting in central defence was an 18-year-old Courtney Nevin and a 17 year old Jessika Nash. A stomach bug and injuries had swept through the camp, and manager Tony Gustavsson opted for the inexperienced pair. The reigning world champions tore them apart almost instantly.

A few days later, after one full day of training, Nevin was trusted to start again in central defence. She had previously been a relatively surprising inclusion in the Tokyo Olympics squad. Although she was one of Western Sydney Wanderers’s most consistent performers, the club did not make much impact on the season leading into the games.

It was that second match against the USA where Nevin emerged as a serious international level football. It was a much more gritty game than the first one. While there was improvement across the entire squad, Nevin’s role at centre-back was essential to the 1-1 draw. She won a number of crucial duels including against a full-pace Lynn Williams.

Above: Courtney Nevin (left) celebrating a goal for Hammarby during the 2022 Damallsvenskan season. Photo: Hammarby.

Her improvement in the space of those few days is typical of her career. Nevin just keeps stepping up and meeting the next challenge. She often exceeds expectations, and the question changed long ago from “how good is she,” to “how good she can get?”

She had represented Australia at all age levels and offers the national team depth that they did not have before.

Nevin is a left-back by trade. She has established herself as a genuine option in central defence or full-back for the national team but has played most of her career out wide.

She is deceptively quick and able to take players on in wide areas. Her left foot can deliver quality crosses or long passes from deep. Early in her time in Sweden with Hammarby, she used it to score from a free kick. It is something Australian fans are also familiar with.

Before moving to Europe, Nevin spent a season with Melbourne Victory. In a campaign badly affected by defensive injuries, Nevin played an almost flawless season as Victory won a second consecutive Grand Final. She had big boots to fill in replacing club legend Angie Beard and only earned more fans by doing so.

Nevin is still young, but at just 20 she has won domestic trophies, been part of an Olympic squad that finished fourth, and become a mainstay in a national team that will co-host the World Cup this year.

She is constantly improving, and becoming a better individual player. Courtney Nevin is one of Australia’s brightest prospects and will provide Leicester with defensive commitment and an attacking outlet from fullback or set pieces. She is a rising star, who has risen to meet every challenge so far in her career.

Above: Remy Siemsen gets a shot away for Sydney FC in the 2022 A-League Women Grand Final against Melbourne Victory. Photo: Kris Goman for Impetus.

Remy Siemsen arrives at Leicester City to offer hope to a team that has only scored five goals this season.

Siemsen’s rise has been hard-earned. She was a teenage prodigy in the NSW NPL, and adjusted quickly to the then W-League with 10 goals in her first Sydney FC season. After trying her luck in the second tier of the USA, she returned to Australia and encountered her first and only goalless season as a professional with Western Sydney Wanderers.

After her eventual transfer across town to Sydney FC, she has been on an upward trajectory. In her last two seasons in sky blue, Siemsen scored 19 goals over 40 matches. A brief return before her transfer to Leicester City resulted in another two in four games.

Siemsen’s record is one of consistent goalscoring wherever she has played. Her time at California Storm and AIK in Sweden are both considered to be lower points of her career, but she still found the net at both clubs.

Siemsen’s finishing is her most obvious asset. She is dangerous from anywhere around the penalty box and is capable of finding the top corner in spectacular fashion.

An underappreciated aspect of her game is her ability to open up space for other forwards. At Sydney FC, Siemsen’s movement was vital to bringing fellow Matildas Cortnee Vine and Princess Ibini into the action. She can link play, perform as a decoy or lead the line as a centre forward.

But no matter what her role, she always finds the back of the net. Leicester fans should not expect another Sam Kerr or Caitlin Foord. Siemsen is not as searingly fast as the other two high profile Australian strikers in England.

She is a very clever forward with excellent movement and classy finishing.

Leicester City have not created too many chances this season, but Siemsen can be trusted to make the most of what comes her way.

They have signed a striker on the edge of the national team, who has looked to challenge herself outside of her comfort zone. Like Nevin, Remy Siemsen is looking to find out how good she can be and force her way into a World Cup squad.

She has the motivation, talent, and track record to make an impact in the FAWSL.

Above: Remy Siemsen pictured after her international debut for Australia. Photo: Kris Goman for Impetus.

Is forcing clubs to invest the only way to ensure equal opportunities?

by Dean Mears (26/1/23)

Above: Referee Neil Hair talks to Chelsea head coach Emma Hayes amidst the farcical situation at Kingsmeadow on Sunday. Photo: Mirror.

Lunchtime on Sunday 22nd January, and what the world saw highlighted a shocking lack of investment in the top flight of the women’s club game in England.

Chelsea, one of the biggest spending clubs in the world, were due to host Liverpool, another of Europe’s biggest names, in a major fixture in the WSL season, to be shown live on the BBC.

The United Kingdom is currently experiencing a spell of severely cold weather, with temperatures dropping as low as minus six degrees, and frozen pitches across the country had already led to many matches, in both the men’s and women’s games being postponed.

At Kingsmeadow, where Chelsea’s women play their home fixtures, there is no undersoil heating, meaning the pitch is vulnerable to freezing temperatures. The FA had provided Chelsea with a pitch cover and industrial heaters in an attempt to ensure the game was on.

Referee Neil Hair had, according to Emma Hayes, said that the pitch was unplayable after his 9:30am pitch inspection, but FA officials, who were not present at Kingsmeadow, were desperate for their prime TV slot pick to go ahead, and they took the decision at around 10:00 am, that the game would be on.

The pitch covers remained in place until 11:30am and the players were afforded a short opportunity to warm up on the pitch, during which time Liverpool sent an email to FA to question the decision and raise awareness of the potential dangers of the pitch.

Kick-off duly came at 12:30pm, and it was apparent very quickly that the pitch was still frozen, especially on the far touchline near the dugouts, where Liverpool manager Matt Beard was voicing his concerns.

Above: The frozen scene at Kingsmeadow on Sunday during the six minutes that was played. Photo: Give Me Sport.

With a little over six minutes on the clock, referee Hair spoke with both team captains and called the game off, much to the frustration of the supporters inside the stadium, including a large Liverpool contingent who had been provided with free travel to the fixture by their club.

Hayes tried to appease the crowd, offering “free hot dogs next week”, but the situation only helped to highlight the vast steps that the women’s game needs to take, and unless clubs are forced into providing investment, these deficiencies are likely to remain. 

Currently, in the men’s professional football league, you must play on a grass pitch, it means clubs in the National League [the fifth tier of the sport] who use all-weather surfaces to keep their games on and avoid cancellations, must rip up their artificial pitches and re-lay them upon promotion to the Football League.

For clubs, like Sutton United, who recently gained promotion into the Football League, it means a large percentage of their income from promotion goes on this outlay.

Clubs wanting to gain promotion to the Premier League must play in all-seater stadia, following rules set in place following the Hillsborough stadium disaster in 1989.

These are examples of forced investment, that set a minimum standard for entry into the top leagues, so why should the women’s game be any different?

Above: Hot air blowers are used to try and thaw out the Kingsmeadow pitch on Sunday. Photo: The Pride of London.

We will start to see it in the latter rounds of the UEFA Women’s Champions League, where fixtures will need to held at club’s main stadiums so that the match officials have access to VAR, something they wouldn’t be able to do if they played at either Meadow Park (in Arsenal’s case) or Kingsmeadow.

Giving our women’s teams the best facilities and access to professional standard medical treatments and playing in suitable stadiums will only improve the quality of the games and the players, which is something we all want.

So, all clubs in the WSL would need to have facilities that reach certain standards, both at the stadiums they play and at the training grounds. This will ensure that all clubs will be investing correctly in their women’s teams.

Speaking to the BBC after the cancellation, Hayes said: “We’ve got pitch covers and heaters that are designed to prevent frozen pitches. If they don’t do that job, then we have to have another solution.

“That’s not my job – that’s for the league and the clubs to sort so we never have to cancel games. I’ve said for years that cancelling games has a detrimental impact on our sport. 

“Whatever it takes, to ensure that fans travelling up and down the country aren’t having games cancelled six or seven minutes in, is something we should all work towards.”

Right now, all WSL clubs should have played 12 games, yet only West Ham United and Reading have reached that number. Manchester United, Chelsea, Manchester City, Everton, and Aston Villa have all played 11, Arsenal, Tottenham, Liverpool, and Leicester have played 10 with second-bottom Brighton and Hove Albion still only having played nine games.

Above: Game over. Referee Neil Hair walks off the pitch after abandoning Chelsea’s game with Liverpool. Photo: Telegraph.

Of the 12 WSL teams, only four (Manchester United, Manchester City, Reading, and Leicester City) play on pitches with undersoil heating. The rest do not, and while Chelsea is the only one of those teams to own that second stadium, the other teams still choose to play at stadiums without undersoil heating.

This could be fixed by rules being in place to ensure that certain standards are in place, as Hayes said, cancelling games has a detrimental impact on our sport, so if we can ensure all WSL clubs have resources available to mitigate that risk, the better place the women’s game will be in.

Then you’ll also find clubs in the Championship will also begin to improve facilities in an attempt to be ready for promotion, should that opportunity present itself.

While this might mean that women’s teams are a loss-making enterprise right now, the reality is that the women’s game will never grow big enough to be self-sustainable if situations like last Sunday’s debacle keep on happening.

With proper investment in key infrastructure now, sponsors and audiences will grow because “the product” will be vastly improved by things like the risk of having a game called off after six minutes simply not being there.

This is Dean Mears’ debut article for Impetus. To see his biography and those of the rest of Impetus’ team of contributors, click here: https://impetusfootball.org/about-our-contributors/

Skinner: United are ready for Sunderland grit & determination

by Arwen Moses (26/1/23)

Above: Manchester United head coach Marc Skinner knows his team face a real battle at Championship side Sunderland this weekend. Photo: Paul Harding.

Globally, there are few cup competitions that are more prestigious than the FA Cup, and Marc Skinner’s Manchester United have their sights firmly set on it.

This weekend sees the Red Devils taking on Sunderland at the Eppleton Colliery Welfare Ground in the fourth round of the Women’s FA Cup. Following last weekend’s controversial mid-game postponement at Kingsmeadow, United remain at the top of the WSL for another week.

Unbeaten in the league since early November, Skinner’s team have been building momentum and gaining confidence. However, the fourth round of the FA Cup is infamous for producing surprising scorelines, with the larger teams being added into the pool. Sunderland, currently sitting eighth in the Championship, will be looking to to create an upset.

Manchester United have been active so far in the transfer window, with three newcomers joining the ranks. Skinner told the media yesterday that he believes bringing incoming talent into the squad improves the performance of the team, which can only be positive.  “What I need our players to recognise is that you have to fight to get into this team. There is no ‘give me’. There should be no ‘give me’ in any team which is aspiring to be successful.”

Above: Canadian international Jayde Riviere – one of a host of new arrivals at Manchester United during the January transfer window. Photo: Manchester Evening News.

When questioned about any more transfers, the Reds boss does not believe there will be any eleventh-hour action. “We are in a situation where I’m really happy with the depth that we have. If something arises I’ll never say never, because football moves so quick. Every day you have something different dropping into your inbox or a call on the phone. I’ll never say never, but at the moment it is incredibly unlikely”.

Despite their unbeaten league run, Skinner is not complacent. The Head Coach recognised that “The FA Cup is always different. A cup competition where there is a knock-out on the day is always different. There is no doubt about it; we want to win. If it’s a cup competition or a league game, we want to try and win.

The way we balance it is to focus on each game, and treat Sunderland exactly how we would have treated Reading last week, as we would have treated Liverpool the week before. For us, it’s just game business, treat every opponent like they are the best opponent you could ever play”.

Having never faced Sunderland competitively before, United staff have had to keep tabs on their opposition to understand their style of play better. However, the former Birmingham City chief has faced the Lasses before. “I’ve played Sunderland before when I was at Birmingham, so I know that team. We’ve watched their last six games and looked at the differences with what they do. We’ve had eyes on – we aren’t going into this game blind.”

Skinner has high expectations for Sunderland: “To go to the Northern teams, I don’t know if it is the people, but the grit and determination that the teams show is always admirable. We are expecting them to be extremely organised, committed, and focused, and we are going to have to beat that. We know we have the quality, but we have to earn the right. They are going to give us nothing and we have to try and earn everything”.

Above: The Eppleton Colliery Welfare Ground which will be the venue for Manchester United’s FA Cup trip to the North-East this weekend. Photo: A Northern Soul Travels.

Due to the league being particularly close this season, every game matters. This prolonged pressure means the Red Devils are used to performing to a high standard, regardless of whether in a league or cup game.

The United boss claimed, “We know internally that we want to try and win every game, so we can’t moan about different types of pressure. It’s just there. When you wear a Manchester United badge, there is pressure every day. It really is just part of the process. The more pressure you face, the more it becomes part of your nature.

“For example, if I wasn’t here, and I woke up every day not feeling that pressure, I’d soften to not having that pressure. But now, you like it. It keeps me alive. The reality is, that we love it. It drives us every day, it drives the competitive nature in the players.”

The 2,500-capacity Eppleton Colliery Welfare Ground is set to be nearly sold out for the match, and, as usual, United are set to have a large travelling support, something that does not go unnoticed by players or staff.

“Being at Reading with our fans, the stadium was red. That’s how amazing our fans are. As loud as Sunderland will be, you will hear Manchester United on Sunday. We as a fan collective are playing a big part in selling out other people’s stadiums. Long may that continue, and long may we continue to grow the fan base, because hopefully, we are giving them something that they love to watch.”

This was Arwen Moses’ debut article for Impetus. Her biography can be seen here, along with the rest of the Impetus team of contributors: https://impetusfootball.org/about-our-contributors/

Sydney FC win in nine-goal shoot out over Victory

Melbourne Victory 3-6 Sydney FC

By Kieran Yap at AAMI Park (26/1/23).

Above: Hat-trick hero Princess Ibini gets a shot away for Sydney FC at Melbourne Victory today. Photo: Keep Up.

That was a crazy couple of hours. Nine goals, multiple goalkeeper changes, a hattrick, three penalty kicks, and a ticketing fiasco are the highlights in Sydney FC’s 6-3 win over Melbourne Victory.

This was an incident-packed afternoon. The drama began an hour before kick-off when Victory announced that popular 2021 Grand Final winner Gaby Garton was returning to the side. The downside was it was as an injury replacement for the talismanic Casey Dumont.

There was a steady crowd headed to AAMI Park. Sydney FC supporters arrived in hope of beating Victory outside of NSW for the first time since 2020. Melbourne fans were hopeful of a result but having watched their team play four games in 11 days, just getting through this last one unscathed was acceptable.

The club itself should be lauded for its pre-match efforts. Gema Simon did the Welcome to Country, and both sides held up flags representing Australia’s Aboriginal and Torres Strait Island communities together.

Unfortunately, few were in the stadium to see it. Although fans were being directed by a stadium attendant to their correct gates, the ticket machines were not working. The result was hundreds of supporters around the ground stuck between the security check and the ticket scanners. Comically, a ground announcer was reading out the lineups to an empty stadium within.

Above: Sydney FC and Melbourne Victory contest possession today. Photo: Sydney FC.

A technical issue was obviously the cause of the hold-up, but not opening the gates until 20 minutes before kickoff was the reason that there was no room for error.

Most fans got to their seats after the game had begun, and the contest was enthralling enough to park any discontent for the rest of the afternoon.

Sydney looked sharper than Victory in the opening 20 minutes. This was no surprise, although they travelled, their last game was 15 days ago, and they looked fresher and hungry. Their last game was a loss to Western United and were eager to respond.

The visitors opened the scoring in the 20th minute. Mackenzie Hawkesby’s corner kick found the head of Charli Rule at the back post. The Young Matilda leapt highest and headed cleanly. Garton got low to save it, but Princess Ibini was on hand to prod home the rebound.

Sydney scored a second soon after. In the 29th minute, Cortnee Vine raced clear on the right. She curled a pass beyond the Victory defence and Hawkesby only needed one touch to score after a perfectly timed run.

There was collateral damage for Victory. At two goals down, they had to replace Garton who was injured in the collision. On came youngster Miranda Templeman who impressed against Adelaide United on the weekend.

Above: Mackenzie Hawkesby wheels away after scoring Sydney FC’s second goal. Photo: Sydney FC.

Templeman’s first meaningful action was to face a penalty kick from Ibini. She reacted quickly and guessed correctly, getting a strong hand to the shot. Ibini was on hand to tuck away the rebound for her second of the half.

Victory looked finished already but gave themselves a lifeline when Rikke Madsen charged down debut goalkeeper Tahlia Franco and scored her first goal for the club.

They scored a second when Beattie Goad’s cross found Lia Privitelli at the back post to make it 3-2 in injury time of the first half.

Both managers must have changed their halftime talk constantly before the whistle. Just moment later, Sydney had a fourth. Another dangerous corner from Hawkesby was nodded home by Madison Haley and Sydney FC’s two-goal cushion was restored.

The second half followed a similarly eclectic theme. Victory’s hill became even steeper to climb when Vine raced onto Haley’s through ball, rounded Templeman, and snuck the shot into the far corner. It was 5-2 and although a comeback for Victory felt unlikely, goal difference was a defining factor for them last season and they kept that in mind.

Vine was tormenting a tired-looking Victory back four. Their defence is usually reliable and stingy, but the pace of the Matildas winger was difficult to deal with. When she twisted past Nat Tathem, to set up Ibini for her third it was well and truly game over.

Above: Madison Haley (left), scorer of Sydney FC’s fourth goal, battles for possession. Photo: Sydney FC.

Melbourne scored a third when Maja Markovski converted a penalty kick. While it had no bearing on the result, it could be important by the season’s end. Additionally, if Markovski can build from that goal, she could be the answer to Victory’s need for a traditional striker.

Sydney FC never looked like losing, they were faster, more organized, and clinical in front of goal. Victory looked like a side that had just played four games across three states. When the final whistle blew, the players looked relieved more than sad about the loss. Both teams have a decent rest now with home games on 4th February.

This was about as entertaining a match as a neutral could hope for. The atmosphere was enthusiastic and colorful, the football was at times incredible, and both teams engaged in a one of the best shootouts of the season.

Princess Ibini scored her first hat trick for the club. Vine rediscovered her best form, and Templeman enhanced her reputation with some strong saves and confident keeping. Her penalty save in the second half brought a huge cheer from the home support and seemed to make her grow taller for the rest of the game.

Although Victory are unlikely to be happy with the result, there are silver linings. They had three new goal scorers, with Markovski, Privitelli and Madsen all netting for the first time this season. That is important in the absence of Melina Ayres and the potential departure of Alex Chidiac.

Speaking after the game, Sydney FC boss Ante Juric couldn’t quite overlook his team’s defending, saying: “I’m happy. You can’t say you’re not when you are winning, scoring six, and getting three points but we did concede three stupid goals.

“That’s not good but going forward we had a lot of chances and we had a lot of intent which was really good and a lot of players were at eight out of 10 compared to our last game.”

Victory will have to regroup to play Western Sydney Wanderers in the next round. Sydney FC have a tough test with the visit of Melbourne City on the same day.

Teams: MELBOURNE VICTORY (4-3-3): Garton, Nash, Bunge, Morrison, Tathem, Murphy, Chidiac, Kellond-Knight, Privitelli, Madsen, Goad. Substitutes: Templeman, Eliadis, Zois, Markovski, Jackson.

Scorers: Madsen 42’, Privitelli 45+3’, Markovski 88’

SYDNEY FC (4-3-3): Franco, Rule, Mclean, Tobin, de la Harpe, Hunter, Hollman, Hawkesby, Vine, Haley, Ibini. Substitutes: Stanic-Floody, Fenton, Lowe, Badawiya, Offer.

Scorers: Ibini 24’, 36’, 60’. Hawkesby 30’, Haley 45+5’, Vine 48’.

Referee: Casey Reibelt.

Attendance: 1,307.

Artwork: Charlotte Stacey, founder of On Her Side.

Phoenix overcome tough week full of positivity for Brisbane test

by Denise Duffy, Impetus New Zealand correspondent (26/1/23).

Above: Mackenzie Barry speaking to the media today. Image: Wellington Phoenix.

It’s been a big week for Wellington Phoenix. They recorded their first win of the season on Sunday afternoon against Canberra United and several in the squad battled the United States Women’s National Team not just once, but twice.

Over the last few days, they have flown back to Australia to prepare to take on Brisbane Roar on Saturday, and earlier today players Mackenzie Barry and Grace Wisnewski spoke to the media.

Barry, who played in both international matches leading up to the Canberra match game “That’s the longest week of football I’ve done since I went to a secondary school tournament.”

“Even though I only played 20 minutes each game for the Ferns, mentally it’s still draining. When you go on as a sub, your team is relying on you to lift as well. So yeah, it was a huge week.” 

On translating that experience to her A-League Womens matches, she reflected: “I think, personally, when I went into the Canberra game, and any time I was on the ball, or any tackle I made, I felt pretty confident after tackling players like Alex Morgan or Rose Lavelle.”

In comparing the speed of play from the matches against USA to that of the A-League Women, Barry said, “I think it’s very different. The ball speed with America was just so fast, outstanding. So when I got on the ball against Canberra, I definitely felt like I had more time and I felt more relaxed than when I played for the Ferns. Yes, it definitely helped me.”

The Phoenix star believes that her experience of the past week which has seen both the Ferns and Wellington benefit from large vocal support can only stand her and her teammates in good stead.

“I think hopefully this motivates the girls and makes us realize that we can do this and we’ve got all the support. And I hope that huge when just really got all the fans behind us. We need to keep going. We can’t just have this as a one-off when or like us a bit of luck or something.”

When thinking about league form with the Phoenix, the defender said: “I think there’s definitely been a shift. I think we’ve always had a really good attitude. And we’ve always believed in ourselves, but actually getting that result has given us extra motivation.”

Above: Grace Wisnewski spoke to the media today about her first experience of international football and then playing for her club the following day. Image: Wellington Phoenix.

Reflecting on her own experiences of the last week of international and club football, attacker, Grace Wisnewski reflected on how head coach Natalie Lawrence cajoled her exhausted players through.

“She was just like, do what you can obviously, it was quite a long week. So she was like, come back and give it your all. I think all the girls did that. So even the ones that weren’t at the camp, they pushed us to get through the game. It was a huge effort by everyone.”

In reference to how her experiences in the national team camp will aid her in the A-League Women Wisnewski said: “It gives you confidence, it was a good experience. And I hope that I can take that experience out for the rest of the league”

Wellington Phoenix have a big challenge in front of them on Saturday. Brisbane are seven points ahead of them and sit seventh on the ladder. They are in the hunt for the playoffs. The Nix are looking to take their courage and positivity into their next battle. Look for full coverage of the match on Impetus with a match report and reaction from Nix head coach Natalie Lawrence.

Artwork: Charlotte Stacey, founder of On Her Side.