Sydney FC 3-0 Canberra United
Report by Ben Gilby with EXCLUSIVE photos from Kogarah by Kris Goman.
Premier Plate winners Sydney FC took their place in the W-League Grand Final against Melbourne Victory after a 3-0 win over Canberra United at Kogarah in front of a good crowd in the Semi-Final earlier today.
With Sydney naming an unchanged starting eleven from their final regular season game against the Victory in midweek all of the pre-game headlines surrounded Canberra United.
The W-League’s all-time leading goal scorer Michelle Heyman was ruled out completely for Canberra United due to a quad injury. She was replaced in the starting line-up by Demi Koulizakis whose only previous W-League goal came seven years ago for Western Sydney Wanderers.
Despite this, it was Canberra who started on the front foot. With just twenty-seven seconds played, their Kiwi star Paige Satchell escaped down the left and played a dangerous ball in towards Nikki Flannery who couldn’t quite connect and Sydney were let off.
In these opening ten minutes Canberra were profiting from being allowed more time on the ball by their hosts. Conversely, when the Sky Blues were in possession, there was always at least one Lime Green shirt snapping at the heels of their Sydney opponent. The other consequence of this was that Canberra were totally dominating possession.
With twelve minutes gone, Sydney fashioned their first dangerous opportunity. A delightful long ball from Teresa Polias found Rachel Lowe who was one on one with visiting keeper Keeley Richards, but the Canberra custodian came out bravely to gather possession.
Sydney earned their first corner shortly afterwards when sixteen year-old defender Jessika Nash put the ball out. Polias’ flag kick was cleared. Lowe then played a clever ball through which Laura Keir did well to prevent falling into Princess Ibini’s path. It did though roll the way of Remy Siemsen who blazed over the bar.
Sydney were finally exerting some consistent pressure and on the quarter of an hour mark they showed the vital importance of turning pressure into goals – something which Canberra failed to do in the early exchanges.
Clare Wheeler was found on the left and played a beautiful ball in to Mackenzie Hawkesby at the back post. Her first time volley flew across Richards and into the net.
After twenty minutes, 21 year-old Bianca Galic released Satchell on the left. Sydney defender Natalie Tobin just couldn’t catch her, but equally, none of Canberra team mates could match Satchell’s pace to get up to support either, consequently the Football Ferns star’s effort was saved by Jada Mathyssen-Whyman.
The side from the national capital were responding well to going behind with Galic playing a particularly prominent role in this period. Nikki Flannery’s run in behind the Sky Blues’ defence saw United awarded a corner.
Canberra were earning back to back corners and throw-ins in the danger zone but could not capitalise.
Instead, it was Sydney who threatened once more. Natalie Tobin got clear along the left and found Siemson who in turn played in Ibini. The Sydney striker got away from Nash and knocked in a low ball towards Rachel Lowe who would have had a tap in if Canberra had not managed to scramble the danger away.
With ten minutes of the half remaining Sydney had another great chance. Siemsen played in Tobin who came up from the back and found herself on the left hand side of the box. She fired in an effort that Richards got down well to save.
Seven minutes before the break, Canberra created their best chance so far. Emma Ilijoski released Maher on the left. Polias looked to have cleared the danger and passed to Natasha Prior who clearly wasn’t expecting the ball to come her way and played a panicked ball back towards Mathyssen-Whyman which Flannery intercepted and hit an effort which the Sydney keeper had to deal with at the cost of a corner.
With seconds left of the first half, Canberra keeper Keeley Richards caused a heart-stopping moment for her team when she came out of her box to clear but the ball bounced off of her chest and into the path of Siemsen who couldn’t profit.
The visitors had the bulk of possession in the first half, but could not find the final passes and quality finishing to convert this into goals on the scoreboard. Canberra finished the half having played twice the number of passes that Sydney did and had over two thirds of the possession – yet it was the hosts who were leading 1-0.
Sydney began to get on top as the second half opened. Clare Wheeler got past several defenders in to the box before edging wide and pulling a ball across towards Siemsen who was not able to get a shot away as Kendall Fletcher collided with her own goalkeeper Keeley Richards who needed a prolonged period of medical attention to ensure that she was in a fit state to carry on.
On the hour mark, Satchell released Koulizakis who returned the favour to the New Zealander, but her shot was immediately swallowed up by a group of Sydney defenders and another Canberra opportunity was gone.
Again, Sydney emphasised the importance of taking chances when they come your way shortly afterwards. Nash lost possession and Sydney’s Teresa Polias fed Ibini who played a pass out to Charlotte Mclean. Her ball in found Wheeler who turned and hit a low volley goal wards. The ball deflected off of Lauren Keir and into the net to double the Harbour City side’s lead.
With just under twenty minutes left, the outcome was decided in magnificent style. Sydney gained possession just inside the Canberra half. Ally Green was in space and surged towards goal and unleashed a thunderbolt from almost thirty yards that flew into the top left hand corner.
The remainder of the game rather petered out as Sydney didn’t want to over-exert themselves in order to preserve energy for next weekend. Canberra did fashion one further opportunity with five minutes to go when Laura Hughes got in and fired an effort which referee Isabella Blaess ruled that Jada Mathyssen-Whyman got a hand to and pointed for a corner. The danger was cleared and Sydney were home and hosed.
Sydney’s win sees them make a fourth successive W-League Grand Final and their eighth in total. They have a chance to make amends for last season’s defeat in the decider when they face a #BigBlue showdown against Melbourne Victory at home next Sunday.
Mackenzie Hawkesby, who scored the opening goal said: “It was a good goal. I saw the ball coming and thought I’d make a run and it fell to me. I got a good touch on it, so I was happy with that. We defended really well and did a good job on the counter attack.”
Canberra United have had an excellent season and played some wonderful football at times. They may be left wondering what might have happened if Michelle Heyman, who scored almost half of their goal tally in the regular season had been fit to play. Yet, Sydney finished top of the table for a reason and they have proved that they are capable of taking chances when they come – a sign of a champion team.
Teams: SYDNEY FC: Mathyssen-Whyman, Mclean, Tobin, Prior, Green, Polias, Hawkesby, Wheeler, Lowe, Siemsen, Ibini. Substitutes: Campbell (GK), Toby, Hristodoulou, Ray, Rule.
Scorers: Hawkesby 15, Wheeler 64, Green 73.
CANBERRA UNITED: Richards, Keir, Nash, Fletcher, Ilijoski, Galic, Maher, Hughes, Flannery, Koulizakis, Satchell. Substitutes: Jones (GK), Goldstein, Taylor-Young, Rasschaert, Grove.
Referee: Isabella Blaess.
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