Brisbane Roar 2-6 Melbourne Victory
By Kieran Yap
In wet conditions, facing their third opponent in a week and coming off a disappointing defeat to Sydney FC, Melbourne Victory travelled to face Brisbane Roar, the side that had previously embarrassed them 6-0 earlier in the season.
The Semi Final offered Victory a chance for redemption after narrowly losing the premiers to Sydney FC while Brisbane had enjoyed strong form leading into the finals but were without leading scorer Emily Gielnik and captain Clare Polkinghorne. Larissa Crummer made her first start for the Roar to lead the line for the side that had started the year as one of the favorites.
Victory showed no signs of fatigue, pressing aggressively from the first whistle and earning early corners to test the home side’s defense but it was the Roar who had the first meaningful strike on goal.
The busy Mariel Hecher crossed the ball in low from the left and Tameka Yallop met it at full pace, crashing a shot off the crossbar where it bounced behind Gabby Garton in the Victory Goal. She celebrated, convinced the entire ball had crossed the entire line but there was no whistle, play continued and replays were inconclusive.
In response Victory went on the attack, Kyra Cooney-Cross sent in a perfect ball from the right and found Melina Ayres in space in front of goal, she was unable to get a clean shot away and although Catherine Zimmerman came to help bundle the ball home, Georgina Worth was able to scramble to save.
Victory’s next attack was much more clinical, Melina Ayres turned her defender and flicked a pass with the outside of her foot to Lisa De Vanna who took a touch and rifled home off her left. She had been involved in most of the attacks from the kickoff and seemed determined to impact the game. It was a well-worked move by Victory and an in-form Lisa De Vanna spelt trouble for Brisbane.
Brisbane worked their way back into the game with Mariel Hecher in particular menacing the Melbourne defense, popping up dangerously on both flanks. When the equalizer came it was spectacular and unstoppable, Jamilla Rankin played the ball square to Olivia Chance almost 30 yards from goal. Chance unleashed a rocket of a strike that dipped just over Garton and under the bar to delight and shock the home crowd.
The scores weren’t level for long, Melbourne went straight onto the attack, Kyra Cooney-Cross cruised with the ball around the penalty box, waiting for an opportunity. She slid a pass wide to Catherine Zimmerman who, like De Vanna before her, took a touch and scored off her left from an almost identical position. Victory went in to the break 2-1 up, perhaps lucky to be so but looking dangerous.
Whatever plans Brisbane had were undone early in the second half. Just two minutes in, De Vanna found herself in space on the left and tore towards goal, she drew three defenders to her but got away a shot that Worth could only palm away into the path of Melina Ayres. The young striker was on the spot to finish and give Victory a two goal cushion.
As if aggrieved that she hadn’t scored a second, De Vanna continued to menace The Roar. On the 67th minute she robbed Tameka Yallop of the ball and danced her way into the penalty area, shifting feet and shimmying to create space to shoot. She send the ball past Worth at the near post with an incredible strike, full of power and direction, rocketing into the top corner. Even her captain Angie Beard looked stunned by the goal it was vintage De Vanna.
Despite the deteriorating score line Brisbane kept pushing, Hecher sent a bullet-like cross into toward Crummer but the excellent Claudia Bunge managed to flick it away, and Yallop pulled one back after another brilliant effort by Chance was tipped onto the bar by Garton. The Matildas midfielder made no mistake this time, forcing the ball over after reaching the rebound. Brisbane had a lifeline.
As the game edged towards 90 minutes there was still time for more drama, after a goalmouth scramble Victory were awarded a mysterious penalty. Even with the benefit of replay it was unclear what it was for. The Brisbane coach Jake Goodship was furious but in any event the penalty was missed after Ayres was forced to re-take it after shooting before the whistle.
Up the other end, Brisbane again looked to have scored after Hecher met a low cross and finished well but was judged to have been offside and Yallop whipped in a cross that Crummer directed wide and high after an open header.
The game seemed to increase in pace as it neared the end and Victory’s attack remained hungry, Kyra Cooney-Cross flicked a header wide to Polly Doran who shot low and hard from the right. Worth was able to save it but once again Ayres was first to the ball and she finished emphatically to net her second.
Not content to rest on their lead Victory had one more left in them. Amy Jackson recovered the ball in the attacking third and played it to Ayres feet just inside the box. Ayres steadied and curled a well placed strike around the defenders and the goalkeeper to get her hat-trick and score Victory’s sixth of the Semi Final.
The game ended 6-2, Victory are into the Grand Final and the loss to Sydney looks to be a hiccup at this point rather than a reversal of form. They are at full strength boasting a hard working and creative midfield, a dangerous attack and a back four that have been consistent in both performance and personnel.
Brisbane might be disappointed with how their season has ended but they provided the competition with some great highlights and performances this year. They were unfortunate that the side-effect of their success was to be without their best defender and best striker for the Finals, but that is the sad reality until the W-League becomes a full time professional competition.
It was an entertaining, at times stressful evening of football that proved that even in the late stages of the competition it is still a league capable of incredible surprises, chaotic fun and exquisite skill.
Teams: BRISBANE ROAR: Worth, Torpey, Rankin, Heatley, Carroll, Dalton, Hecher, Chance, Franco, Crummer, Yallop. Substitutes: Aquino (GK), McQueen, Horsey, Margraf, Freier.
Scorers: Chance 43, Yallop 74.
MELBOURNE VICTORY: Garton, Doran, Beard, Bunge, Morrison, Cooney-Cross, Longo, Jackson, Zimmerman, Ayres, De Vanna. Substitutes: Maizels (GK), Barbieri, Martineau, Privitelli, Eliadis.
Scorers: De Vanna 23, 61. Zimmerman 45. Ayres 47, 87, 90+6.
Referee: Lara Lee.
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