Sydney FC 0–1 Melbourne Victory
By Ben Gilby with EXCLUSIVE photos from Kogarah by Kris Goman
Melbourne Victory won a hugely dramatic Grand Final with an incredible goal straight from a corner by starlet Kyra Cooney-Cross.
Despite it taking almost two hours of play for a goal to be scored, it was a hugely entertaining Grand Final that was end to end for long periods in the second half.
The first W-League Grand Final to go to extra-time at Kogarah saw both sides going into the game with unchanged line-ups from their semi-finals.
The action was combative from the off. With just two minutes played, Princess Ibini escaped down the left and just as she was looking to get a ball across the box, Catherine Zimmerman came in with a robust challenge at the cost of a corner. Teresa Polias curled the flag kick in viciously and Gaby Garton had to watch closely as it just cleared the crossbar.
Lisa De Vanna was at the heart of Victory’s early forays forward, and with nine minutes gone looked to create down her left, but an excellent challenge from Charlotte Mclean prevented any further threat.
Shortly afterwards, Kyra Cooney-Cross got free down the left, cut inside and escaped from three Sydney defenders before curling in a shot which rebounded back off the crossbar with Jada Mathyssen-Whyman beaten.
Twenty minutes in, Clare Wheeler released Ibini with an inch perfect through ball. As the Sydney striker entered the left hand side of the box, she was dispossessed expertly by Polly Doran who did well to remain on her feet in making the challenge.
Wheeler’s influence was growing and with it was Sydney’s prominence in the game. She stole possession from Claudia Bunge just after the half hour mark and moved on into the box. Just as she got her shot away, Bunge was back snapping at her heels which aided Gaby Garton in gathering the eventual effort on goal.
Just before half-time Sydney threatened when Ibini showed great strength to hold off Doran before being taken out by Amy Jackson, who prevented real danger on the dark blues’ goal.
Yet, it was Victory who came close once more in hitting the woodwork for the second time just before the interval. Cooney-Cross popped up on the right this time and sent a ball towards De Vanna who found space in the middle of the box. Her header came back off the bar.
Melbourne Victory opened the second half on the front foot with De Vanna having two early shots blocked in the box.
Seven minutes in and Wheeler showed her worth once more, getting away down the left and playing in a teasing ball towards Remy Siemsen who couldn’t quite get there first.
Victory replied with De Vanna laying off a ball to Jackson on the edge of the box. She in turn found Catherine Zimmerman who turned and shot but Mathyssen-Whyman gathered.
An hour in, De Vanna was involved in the build-up again. This time she found Cooney-Cross whose effort was blocked but rebounded into the path of Annalie Longo, whose effort went just over the bar.
Sydney suffered a setback when Ibini, who was particularly prominent in the first half had to come off after picking up what at the time looked like an ankle knock. She was replaced by Allira Toby.
De Vanna the supplier was in evidence yet again shortly after this with a marauding run through the middle finding Ayers centrally, just outside the box. Her effort flew over the bar.
Victory’s dominance continued with another move which De Vanna had a hand in. She beat Nat Tobin on the left and laid off for Jackson. Her ball in was met by Zimmerman but the effort was well over.
With twelve minutes left, Sydney began to build with a dangerous ball in finding Wheeler who couldn’t quite make the contact that she would have liked in attempting a side-footed volley.
Victory responded instantly. Cooney-Cross played a ball in which Natasha Tobin looked to have cleared under heavy pressure but the ball came back in from Jackson which saw Mathyssen-Whyman get a palm to the ball just ahead of De Vanna.
The see saw nature of the game then went Sydney’s way as the match entered the last ten minutes. A sweeping cross field ball from Polias found Toby. She advanced towards the left hand edge of the box, got away from Doran and unleashed a rocket of a shot which Garton did well to get a touch to.
Back came Victory. Zimmerman’s high ball in to the back post was met by the head of Cooney-Cross but Mathyssen-Whyman saved with her midriff. The rebound came back to the Melbourne teenager who got a shot away which the Sydney keeper brilliantly blocked once more with her feet.
Deep into stoppage time at the end of the ninety minutes, Victory were within a whisker of scoring once more. Cooney-Cross’ corner came in from the left and Mathyssen-Whyman looked to have gathered but dropped the ball. Bunge, no more than two metres from the goal-line tried to make contact but couldn’t force the ball over the line and Natasha Prior was able to make the clearance.
Despite an action packed second half there were still no goals, which meant extra-time for the first time in a W-League Grand Final.
Sydney started extra-time on the offensive and the difficult opening to the additional thirty minutes continued for Victory when Zimmerman had to go off holding her calf, which saw Lia Privitelli introduced.
Despite this, Victory created the first real opportunity of the extra period when Jackson released Longo who hit a long range stunner from over thirty yards which Mathyssen-Whyman saved well.
The Sydney shot stopper was called into making another great save from a long range effort from Longo just before the end of the first period of extra time.
Shortly afterwards, Privitalli played a great ball in from the right to Cooney-Cross who was in the centre of the box. Her shot was well placed but cleared for a corner.
Three minutes into the second period of extra-time, Victory broke away with De Vanna who turned Tobin but shot over.
Mackenzie Hawkesby got Sydney away when dispossessing Cooney-Cross. She found Polias who in turn played a long ball through to Toby who rounded Doran and got a shot away which Garton held.
With five minutes left, De Vanna gained possession and played a ball in which Sydney substitute Angelique Hristodoulou missed allowing Ayres to get a shot away which went wide of the right hand post.
With the clock ticking towards 120 minutes, Cooney-Cross turned Polias and got away through the middle before playing a long ball out to De Vanna on the left who won a corner.
The first was cleared and a second was awarded, despite Sydney protestations that it should be a goal kick.
Up stepped Kyra Cooney-Cross once more. She curled in another vicious corner which flew straight in the net.
There was one last chance for Sydney as Ally Green sent an effort from almost forty yards which landed on the roof of Gaby Garton’s net.
It was Melbourne Victory’s day and given the incredible season she has had, entirely fitting that it was Kyra Cooney-Cross who settled it.
KRIS GOMAN CAPTURES THE REACTIONS POST GAME:
Teams: SYDNEY FC: Mathyssen-Whyman, Mclean, Tobin, Prior, Green, Hawkesby, Polias, Wheeler, Lowe, Siemsen, Ibini. Substitutes: Campbell (GK), Toby (for Ibini 62), Hristodoulou (for Mclean 89), Ray (for Hawkesby 114), Rule.
MELBOURNE VICTORY: Garton, Doran, Morrison, Bunge, Beard, Longo, Jackson, Cooney-Cross, De Vanna, Ayres, Zimmerman. Substitutes: Maizels (GK), Eliadis (for Longo 110), Martineau, Privitelli (for Zimmerman 93), Barbieri (for Doran 116).
Scorers: Cooney-Cross 120.
Referee: Rebecca Durcau.
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