In the second of our three part preview of this weekend’s W-League Grand Final, Kris Goman looks in depth at Sydney FC.
Sydney came into the finals series as Premiers after leading the table for the bulk of the season. With losses only to Adelaide United and Brisbane Roar, who were both knocked out of the finals, and a single nil all draw to Canberra United, they are in a strong position to take the championship this weekend.
Despite being a young team, the core of the team have played together for a couple of years now and the new players for this season have gelled well and quickly.
Unfortunately, in the last couple of weeks, Sydney have lost two key players in Ellie Brush and Cortnee Vine to season ending injuries.
The loss of Vine in particular has been felt. Responsible for four goals, three assists and twenty chances created, she was a penetrating force on the left for Sydney and fed a lot of balls to Remy Siemsen.
There’s still plenty of solid attack though in Princess Ibini, Remy Siemsen, Allira Toby and Rachel Lowe. Saying that, other than Ibini’s penalty, the forwards haven’t scored any goals in the last four matches.
Siemsen has been stranded up field a lot and is often caught offside. Recent matches have seen her facing the wrong way a lot and passing back more than going forward. Yet when she gets the ball in the right space, she is deadly.
Ibini has upped her work-rate lately and is dropping back into defence a lot more, tackling more, intercepting more, shooting more. And when she shoots, she’s shooting missiles. On target missiles usually.
But the overriding factor for Sydney is their defence. They have the lowest number of goals conceded this season and there’s not a weak link at the back. While Ellie Brush is a huge loss, she has been more than ably replaced by Natasha Prior, who has just returned to the league after a serious concussion injury in 2019.
Combined with Natalie Tobin, Charlotte Mclean, Ally Green and Angelique Hristodoulou, who are all in top form, it’s a pretty formidable team at the back capable of bringing it forward as well as keeping it out. And that’s certainly going to be required to keep the likes of De Vanna, Ayres and Cooney-Cross under control.
And that’s not mentioning Jada Mathyssen-Whyman, who has been a rock at the back, coming equal first for clean sheets and having the least goals conceded by a margin of five goals. Along with a few saves of the round, she’s had an outstanding season.
Sydney’s last two games before the Finals were against Melbourne Victory and Canberra United and only Kyra Cooney-Cross was able to broach the defence with a spectacular rocket in the dying minutes of that game against Victory. Both teams had more possession than Sydney and, to be honest, looked the better teams but simply couldn’t get through the defence to score.
To win the championship, Sydney need to defeat both these teams again. Canberra are now taken care of so it’s just Melbourne Victory left to overcome. They seem to have their measure in defence but will need to step up in attack.
Midfield will be key, as it always is. With Teresa Polias leading the charge here, ably supported by Clare Wheeler, Mackenzie Hawkesby and Taylor Ray, they need to ensure the forwards get good balls and they get them in spaces they can shoot from. Or alternately, do what they did last weekend and let the midfield, and even backs, shoot. The Hawkesby, Wheeler and Green goals last weekend were all glorious. They played exciting football and took the chances that were offered. The final being a home match for Sydney should give them a slight advantage although it’s likely a few fans will make the journey from Victoria to offer some support to Melbourne Victory.
No doubt Ante Juric will have been fine-tuning the attack to address the lack of recent goals from the forwards. We’ll soon see if Sydney can take the long awaited double and lift the championship trophy for a record equalling fourth time.
STILL TO COME: We feature Grand Final referee Rebecca Durcau.
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