Sydney FC 3-0 Wellington Phoenix
By Ben Gilby (19/12/21).
Above: Wellington Phoenix’s Kate Taylor tussles with Sydney FC’s Remy Siemsen earlier today. Photo: @SydneyFC
Sydney FC extended their winning start to the A-League Women’s campaign with a comfortable victory over a game Wellington Phoenix side in difficult conditions at Kogarah.
The match was played in hot conditions with rain then arriving in the second half at Netstrata Jubilee Stadium with four drinks breaks throughout the encounter.
The pre-game team news for the home side centred around goalkeeper Jada Whyman making her 50th W-/A-League Women appearance. For Phoenix, Alyssa Whinham was named in the starting lineup for the first time and attacker Kelli Brown made her debut for the New Zealanders.
Sydney started strongly with the in-form Cortnee Vine found on the right flank. She advanced towards the box, beating Saskia Vosper with something to spare and playing in Remy Siemsen, who couldn’t get any power into her shot and a combination of a deflection and the handiwork of Phoenix keeper Lily Alfeld cleared the danger.
Powerful runs along the flanks created another opportunity with nine minutes played when Ally Green’s cross from the left, got past Nix vice-captain Kate Taylor, who couldn’t get her head on the ball, and it fell towards Vine who couldn’t get an accurate shot away
Phoenix were having success in the middle of the park, asserting pressure on the home side. They also conjured up their first real opportunity when Whinham showed superb skill to turn away from Nat Tobin and Charlotte Mclean on the left of the box, but she couldn’t put in an effort to worry Whyman. The frustration showed on the teenage midfielder’s face, but it was further evidence that Wellington have some excellent creative players in their ranks.
It’s not just creativity that Phoenix possesses. They have some excellent readers of the game. 18-year-old Taylor was putting herself about physically on Siemsen with impressive results.
But for all that, Sydney still had the gun players to cause damage. With 24 minutes on the clock, in a move reminiscent of one of the early plays of the match, Jessika Nash’s throw saw Vine got free from Vosper on the right and have acres of space to drive into the box and curl home a beautiful finish from an acute angle between Phoenix’s would-be tacklers Grace Wisnewski and Taylor with the outside of her foot
Wellington reacted well initially with Whinham again creating an opportunity after combining with Brown.
With seven minutes of the half to go, Vine continued her rampage along the right before squaring the ball back to Siemsen but the Matilda’s effort went over the bar.
The right was Sydney’s most productive area of the pitch with crosses galore and a large number of set-pieces being awarded down this flank with Hawkesby and Vine causing untold damage throughout the half with Princess Ibini and occasionally Taylor Ray popping up to add additional pressure down that side.
Yet, it remained just 1-0 at the break as Phoenix’s block defence was largely well organised which ensured that despite having plenty of possession and opportunities, the Sky Blues could only force the ball into the net once.
Sydney created the first real chance of the second half six minutes in when Siemsen ran onto a perfectly weighted through ball. Her attempt to square it across to Vine was partially blocked by Taylor into the path of Hawkesby who fired a powerful shot straight into Alfeld’s midriff.
Sydney doubled their lead with 54 minutes played. Ibini won a free-kick down the left after being barged off of the ball by Isobel Gomez. The resulting set-piece was sliced out for a throw. Green then advanced along the left and won a corner from Zoe McMeeken. Hawkesby found Ibini in acres of space from the flag-kick on the left of the box. The striker turned Chloe Knott and side-footed what was most likely a shot that took a deflection into the path of Charlize Rule who was totally unmarked at the back post to tap home.
As the game approached the hour mark, whilst the temperature was dropping and rain began to fall, it was clear that the heat had impacted Phoenix with Sydney being able to find increased spaces to attack.
Vine had a great opportunity with 65 minutes on the clock as Ibini danced past McMeeken and a through ball came her way via interplay between Hawkesby and Siemsen, but Alfeld advanced quickly to push the ball away for a corner which was cleared.
Within seconds though, the Sky Blues grabbed their third. Ibini dispossessed Mackenzie Barry and played a 1-2 with Siemsen. From the return ball, Hawkesby hit a first-time effort with her left foot into the far corner.
With 20 minutes to go, Cote Rojas was brought on for her Sydney FC debut. The Chilean superstar had previously lit up the competition with Adelaide United and was in outrageous form for Salisbury Inter during the South Australia NPL this year. Shortly afterward, Paige Satchell entered the field to take on her fellow Kiwis, but her pacey battles along the right-hand side with Tabitha Kramer were largely won by the Phoenix’s former Western Sydney Wanderers defender.
With eight minutes left, the 22-year-old Katie Offer came on in goal to get some experience and she only had limited work to do in the period. When she was called into action, it was to prevent an own goal as Ibini sliced a clearance towards her own goal which the Sydney keeper had to palm away.
Rojas’s trickery and pace shone through in the final stages with one trademark curled long through ball with the outside of her foot towards Ibini highlighting just what she brings to the party. Her other stock in trades – those quick feet, swivel turns, and upper body strength were also well in evidence. The Chilean was certainly the last thing that the tiring Wellington youngsters wanted to face with the clock winding down.
Despite Sydney completely controlling the final part of the game, they could not add to their goal tally. With Rojas now an integral part of an attack that also contains Siemsen, Vine, and Ibini, the rest of the competition is on notice – the Sky Blues are coming for you.
Impetus heard from both head coaches after the game. Sydney’s Ante Juric was clear that he sees plenty of room for his team can get better: “I don’t think it was our best game but we are gradually getting there. Like last week we played in patches, when we did play well in patches we looked very good but I still think we are way off, however it’s nice to win. We’ve still go enormous growth left in us.”
Wellington Phoenix’s Gemma Lewis saw further positives from her team in what was their toughest test so far: “I definitely think there were better moments in the game. We were more organized. There were moments in the game where I think we had a little bit of momentum, a little bit more territory and we were trying to stick to the way we wanted to play.
“I’m really proud of them for still pushing, still playing through the 90, and still trying to look for a goal, even at the end. A three-nil result sucks but at the same time there were moments in that performance we can be happy with I think.”
Lewis believes that the hot weather at the start of the game had an impact on her young team, which has an average age of just 19.
“It was tough. We knew some of our girls were going to struggle with it. There’s a couple of our girls who do struggle in heat as you would have seen from that game. Even being over here hasn’t really helped us too much because the weather has been really rubbish up until this point.
“We actually haven’t had a lot of time to acclimatise to it either. The last couple of days have been the first days for us it’s really been above 30 degrees so it was tough conditions for the players. But they still pushed through, they were still professional, they knew it was the same for both sides, so they got on with it.”
Teams: SYDNEY FC (4-3-3): Whyman, Nash, Mclean, Tobin, Green, Hunter, Ray, Hawkesby, Vine, Siemsen, Ibini. Substitutes: Offer (GK), Lowe, Rojas, Satchell, Rule.
Scorers: Vine 24′, Rule 54′, Hawkesby 66′.
WELLINGTON PHOENIX: Alfeld, McMeeken, Barry, Taylor, Vosper, Whinham, Gomez, Wisnewski, Pritchard, Knott, Brown. Substitutes: Edwards (GK), Jasnos, Walker, Kramer, Martin.
Referee: Georgia Ghirardello.
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