Melbourne City 2-0 Newcastle Jets
Above: Newcastle Jets and Melbourne City battle it out on Tuesday. Photo: Newcastle Jets.
By Kieran Yap (2/3/22)
Melbourne City has delayed Sydney FC’s premiership celebrations with a 2-0 win over Newcastle Jets.
Anything less than three points would have handed to title to Sydney. Rado Vidosic brought Hannah Wilkinson and Rebekah Stott straight into the starting lineup after the 1-0 loss to Brisbane Roar.
Newcastle’s Cass Davis wore the captain’s armband to commemorate her record-setting game. The loyal Jet has played 108 consecutive games in the A-League Women. It is a remarkable feat, barely possible in the short season, and amounts to almost nine years of unmissed football.
The game started off in an open fashion, although both teams seemed in a hurry to get forward. The first chance fell to City. Hannah Wilkinson, Rhianna Pollicina, and Kaitlyn Torpey combined in a delightful move but the shot from Pollicina went wide.
Newcastle’s best chances came from the pace of Sophie Harding. In the absence of Marie Dølvik and Tara Andrews, the attacking fell to the explosive striker. She sped behind the City defence but got a little too close to Melissa Barbieri who saved.
Lauren Allen was available for the tap in but it would have been a difficult pass.
Hannah Wilkinson showed her value instantly to her side. Her mobility, holdup play, and intelligence create opportunities. She only needed the slightest touch to tee up Pollicina for another shot but it was overhit and sailed over the crossbar.
Although the game featured two of the league’s best goalkeepers, it was not long before the deadlock was broken. Wilkinson played the ball back to Torpey who’s well-directed low shot skidded into the bottom corner.
The Jets almost replied through a corner kick. City had trouble clearing the ball and it was almost scrambled in but Emma Checker eventually took the simplest approach to snuff out the danger.
Harding came close once more before halftime when she latched onto a defensive error. She hit it well but was straight at Barbieri who had no trouble collecting it safely.
Ash Brodigan created another chance for Newcastle with an impressive burst of pace to get past Tori Tunmeth. She cut inside and got as close to goal as possible but the angle was too difficult to beat Barbieri.
City looked to have doubled their lead before halftime when Rebekah Stott fired at Claire Coelho. The keeper saved well but it fell to Pollicina who tucked it away. The offside flag was immediately up though to rule out the strike.
City did eventually get their second goal and it was no surprise who was involved. Pollicina dribbled between the Newcastle defenders to make space for the shot on her left foot. Coelho was well-positioned to stop it and the ball looked to be headed out of bounds.
The City playmaker was alert to the play and directed it back across goal with the outside of her foot and Wilkinson had the easiest finish with her head to bring up her 11th goal of the season.
Despite the scoreline Newcastle did not give up. Harding created space in the area but could not beat Barbieri who must be in the running for Player of the Year by this point.
Kirsty Fenton’s excellent long pass found Lauren Allen in space on the wing. It was an area that Newcastle had no trouble getting into but they had lacked players in the middle to finish.
The winger cut the ball back but Harding was outnumbered and City remained untroubled.
City continued to add pressure, looking for a third but in the end, the 2-0 win was enough to mean the title is still within reach.
They will need a favour though. Even if they win their final match, Sydney FC will have to lose to Adelaide United to send the trophy back to Melbourne.
It is not an impossible scenario, The Reds have been in form and Sydney FC has lost their aura of invincibility.
City looked more like their old self with Wilkinson back up top. The New Zealand international linked up play and provided a focal point along with the goal.
The Jets had the opposite problem, Dølvik was introduced late and Brodigan has been impressive, but they lacked the firepower that they showed early in the season when everybody was fully fit.
Newcastle still has two more chances to finish their season on a high. They face Brisbane Roar twice more in the space of four days.
City will meet Western Sydney Wanderers in a game that they must win. They fill face a team that is determined not to finish bottom. The Wanderers have had a tough year but still have the quality up front to end City’s hopes no matter what happens between Adelaide United and Sydney FC.
Teams: MELBOURNE CITY (4-3-3): Barbieri, Torpey, Tunmeth, Checker, Vlajnic, Davidson, Stott, Heatley, Pollicina, Wilkinson, McKenna. Substitutes: Blissett, James (GK), Karic, Westland, van der Meer.
Scorers: Torpey 16′, Wilkinson 49′.
NEWCASTLE JETS (4-1-4-1): Coelho, Eddy, Brewer, Fenton, Jaber, Davis, Brodigan, Johnson, Gordon, Allan, Harding. Substitutes: Dølvik, Gooch, Magus (GK), Morley.
Referee: Caitlin Williams.