Wanderers Sink City

Western Sydney Wanderers 1–0 Melbourne City

Report and EXCLUSIVE PHOTOS from Kris Goman.

Above: Western Sydney Wanderers celebrate their second win on the bounce. Photo: Kris Goman.

This match is at the Wanderers Centre of Football in Blacktown in Sydney’s west. It’s a gorgeous evening and there’s a decent local crowd of young footballers from Blacktown Spartans here to watch.

This is a must win match for both teams. Either losing team can pretty well write off their finals chances. There’s no guarantee a win will get them there either though.

Wanderers are playing 4-3-3 and City are playing 5-3-2 with a bigger emphasis on defence. Early on, the Wanderers seem to be controlling play and have the bulk of possession and territory. There’s a battle brewing between Sam Johnson in attack for City and Georgia Yeoman-Dale for Wanderers in defence as that seems to be City’s primary way forward.

There’s a few runs into the box for both teams but no shots on goal until about 15 minutes in when Teigan Collister releases Bryleeh Henry onto a ball that beats Jenna McCormick. Her shot goes across the face of goal but if better placed might have delivered. There’s no one there to follow up and that chance goes begging.

The Melbourne attacks are foiled at every opportunity and the Wanderers defence looks very strong. Hollie Palmer gets in front with just the keeper between her and goal but both Caitlin Cooper and Danika Matos are on her in seconds, making her turn around. She passes to Chinatsu Kira but she’s swamped too and City have to reset, not getting a shot away.

Kira gets another clear run into goal but Sarah Willacy and Cooper shut her down too. Things have evened up a bit more and Melbourne are looking more dangerous when Emma Checker sends a long pass out on the right to Johnson. She centres it and Alex Chidiac gets a boot to it and flicks it to goal but Willacy punches it safely out for a corner. That was the closest attempt to date and a great save.

Above: Georgia Yeoman-Dale takes on Naomi Thomas-Chinnama. Photo: Kris Goman.

The corner is taken short and then crossed. McCormick gets her head to it but can’t direct it to goal and it’s out for a goal kick. Wanderers get a free kick after McCormick takes Sarah Hunter’s feet out from her and Libby Copus-Brown takes it. It’s headed by Henry, then Price volleys it and strikes the crossbar. It bounces back into play but is cleared.

Wanderers start applying a bit more pressure and Collister manages to steal the ball off Tori Tumeth at the top of the box, gets around Checker but her shot is blocked by McCormick in an impressive bit of work both by Collister and McCormick.

Soon after, Russell has the ball on the left and sends a cross just over the head of Hunter, right in front of goal. She just needed to be two inches taller.

Wanderers get a free kick ten metres out from the top of the box and right in front. They try a tricky set play where Yeoman-Dale and Copus-Brown line up to take it. Yeoman-Dale wanders away bored, like she’s decided not to take it, and Copus-Brown slips it to her instead of the waiting hoards. It nearly works but Tumeth sprints over and blocks the ball and it goes off Yeoman-Dale for a goal kick.

It’s all the Wanderers now and Melbourne haven’t got into their half for some time. A ball comes over and dips in front of Price in the box on the right. She cuts back on Eckhoff and shoots but Micah has gathered it safely.

McCormick gets a long ball across to Johnson but Yeoman-Dale is all over it and relieves her of possession. In a rare incursion, Palmer gets the ball and takes it down the left, crosses to Leah Davidson in the box but Cooper wrests the ball from her and clears it. Cooper is reminiscent of a slightly smaller, slightly less aggressive but just as effective, Millie Bright. So solid in defence and completely dependable. Also excellent in the air.

Above: Melbourne City’s Jenna McCormick battles with Bryleeh Henry (9) Photo: Kris Goman.

We’re in the last five minutes of the first half when Johnson steals possession and kicks off a run. She passes to Palmer at halfway who passes onto Kira. She taps back towards Johnson who is running up the right wing now. Willacy comes out of the box and misses the ball and is beaten. The goal is open for Johnson. She stumbles and takes a touch giving the Wanderers time to recover but Willacy is still down behind her. She shoots but Nikola Orgill blocks with her chest, right on the line, and Cooper clears it out of the box. It was a thrilling piece of play and a stunning recovery by the Wanderers. It all ends with a free kick for City. Kira’s kick goes under the wall as they jump to block it but Willacy scoops it up safely.

Just before half time Tumeth gets a yellow for a foul tackle on Russell. The half ends at nil all with Wanderers looking marginally better for most of the half except for the last five minutes but ultimately both defences stood up to all attacks.

The second half starts with a Wanderers free kick taken by Copus-Brown that sails over the crossbar.

A ball is sent down the right for Johnson again and Johnson and Yeoman-Dale shoulder charge with Yeoman-Dale coming off second best and left behind on the ground. This play results in a corner and Melbourne have come out fighting this half. Everyone’s in front of goal and Cooper heads it away. Chidiac sends it back in to McCormick who heads it to goal but there’s not enough on it and Willacy has it wrapped up.

Another City attack soon after sees a ball float across the goal but no one there to do anything with it. Once again Johnson and Yeoman-Dale are batting down the right side and this time Yeoman-Dale wins the ball back.

On the other side of the field, Collister gets a yellow for taking down Kira. Immediately after, the other big battle between Tumeth and Collister has them both going for the ball and crashing into each other with Collister coming off second best and falling heavily and hitting her head on the way down. After some treatment, she’s up and Melbourne get the dropped ball.

At 57 minutes, Wanderers have a fairly haphazard attack on goal with the ball in and out of the box and eventually collected by Micah after a weak cross by Collister.

Melbourne are playing a very high line and catch Russell offside.

Above: A prone Georgia Yeoman-Dale after her tussle with Sam Johnson. Photo: Kris Goman

A goal kick comes out to Johnson and Yeoman-Dale right in front of the field camera. Yeoman-Dale grabs Johnson’s shirt, pulls her down then falls on top of her in a tumble. Johnson pushes her off and in the struggle, things get violent. Johnson is on top and looks like she’s going to thump Yeoman-Dale who puts her hands up in defence. Johnson gets up and hovers over her and it looks like she kicks her while she’s on the ground. Yeoman-Dale is on the ground on her back with her hands exclaiming her innocence. There’s absolutely no love lost here. Rado Vidosic offers to help her up but she’s not interested. Team mates rush in to pull Johnson away as they have further words. Neither are backing down. Both get yellow cards and neither are happy but they both look a bit smug. City get the free kick which goes straight into the box. Offside is called.

McCormick gets a run down the right closely followed by Copus-Brown. She manages to hold her off and get a cross to Chidiac but her shot is to the right of goal.

Melbourne City are on a roll now and sub Rhali Dobson has her turn bringing the ball down the left. Chidiac tries a back flick with the cross but Yeoman-Dale clears it before Johnson can get to it. An Eckhoff to Dobson run is once again stopped by a Cooper header. The header goes to Hunter who passes to Collister. She brings it right up the right flank, passes it through Checker, on the right corner of the box. Sub Leena Khamis picks it up and shoots to the far post. It hits the post and ricochets into goal at the 71 minute mark. It’s 1-0 after a brilliant transition play by the Wanderers. Collister did all the work there bringing the ball up at least half the field. Khamis’ finish was perfect, to slot it past Micah, with a single touch, and into goal. It looked like City had the upper hand for the last ten minutes and now the Wanderers have turned the tables.

Melbourne City launch another attack from kick-off until Collister gets it again and takes off again. She’s very fast. Probably the fastest on the field. She leaves Tumeth in her dust and Checker comes across and runs interference until Tumeth catches up, tackles her and takes her down. Tumeth is on a yellow and gets spoken to but no red is pulled out.

Above: Sarah Hunter (18) and Tori Tumeth contest possession. Photo: Kris Goman.

Melbourne City are back on the attack and, after another Johnson v Yeoman-Dale tussle, get a corner. There’s a lot of jostling in front of goal so when the kick comes in, Wanderers get a free kick.

Chinnama gets a yellow in her starting debut game, after a push on Henry. She has been very solid in defence and this didn’t look intentional. The free kick by Copus-Brown goes to the far side and Khamis delivers a rocket header that just misses the left goal post and goes wide.

Melbourne City launch another attack and this time Tumeth takes a long shot straight into Cooper who puts her body on the line yet again. It rebounds off her for a corner. The corner gets cleared by Collister but only to Dobson who shoots. It’s wide but Melbourne certainly aren’t giving up.

Neither is Khamis who has injected some spirit into the Wanderers. Copus-Brown sends a long ball over the city defensive line and both Khamis and Henry break through. Micah comes right out and beats Khamis to the ball and they both take a tumble. The ball lands with Hunter who delivers a lob over Micah who is just recovering. It’s high and it bounces which gives Micah enough time to run back and stop the ball from going into goal.

Above: Leena Khamis finds a novel way to get away from Emma Checker. Photo: Kris Goman.

It feels manic now as both teams are desperate for the points. It’s back and forth a few times. At 83 minutes, Erica Halloway comes on to replace Henry. This is her first match back after an extended period out of the game due to an ACL injury. There really is nothing better than seeing a player return after an injury like that.

Wanderers get a corner that comes in and goes straight back out to Copus-Brown. The second delivery finds both Khamis and Halloway offside but Micah had the ball anyway.

Shortly after Matos delivers a lovely ball to Khamis, once again, clear in the box. She gets a decent shot off but Micah is able to deflect it out for a corner. That was a definitely goal saver.

With only a minute left in regular time, Chidiac brings the ball down the left with Orgill trying to stop her. Her shot to the near post is gathered by Willacy.

We’ve got four minutes of injury time when Chinnama goes down in front of goal with a cramp as the Wanderers are waiting for a corner. She’s off the field and the corner lands on Khamis’ stomach and it rebounds to Kira who clears it.

Above: Tense midfield action. Photo: Kris Goman.

Down the other end, it falls to Johnson. Cooper and Yeoman-Dale are there and Cooper wrestles it from her and sends it out for a corner. There’s less than two minutes left so this is Melbourne’s last chance for any points. Cooper then Khamis get their heads to the ball to clear it but there’s a foul called for to the jostling.

Melbourne bring the ball back in a last ditch effort. Everyone goes forward and Tumeth crosses to Cain, who’s just come on. Her shot is wide. There’s a bit more midfield play until the whistle blows and Wanderers get the valuable three points after a massive battle.

Melbourne City are dejected and a few of them sit down to contemplate what could have been. How the mighty have fallen. It’s hard to see how there’s any way back for them now.

Melbourne City really stepped it up in the second half but it was Khamis who made the difference for the Wanderers. She had the most shots on goal despite only coming on in the second half. Her absolute scoring focus was evident and her ability to finish got the Wanderers the points. City had marginally more possession but Wanderers had marginally more territory. Corners were the same with 5 each. Biggest discrepancy was in fouls with City having 23 and Wanderers 8.

This was an exciting match with plenty of drama, some classic battles and a hard fought win. Teigan Collister was the player of the match.

Teams: WESTERN SYDNEY WANDERERS: Willacy, Matos, Yeoman-Dale, Orgill, Cooper, Copus-Brown, Hunter, Price, Henry, Collister, Russell. Substitutes: Newbon (GK), Chauvet, Galea, Halloway, Khamis.

Scorer: Khamis 72.

MELBOURNE CITY: Micah, Checker, McCormick, Thomas-Chinnama, Johnson, Tumeth, Davidson, Palmer, Hoelsbrekken Eckhoff, Kira, Chidiac. Substitutes: Barbieri (GK), Cain, Muldeary, Robinne, Dobson.

Referee: Isabella Blaess.

Attendance: 334.

Impetus’ coverage of Australian Women’s Football is supported by The Chicken Salt Co. They are offering every Impetus reader 5% off all orders of Chicken Salt from their website. Go to https://www.chickensalt.co.uk/?mate=impetus and place your order – 5% will automatically be taken off of the cost. The coupon code is impetus.

Artwork: Graphics by PW.

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