City Get The Win But Will It Be Enough?

Western Sydney Wanderers 0-2 Melbourne City

Above: Flying high – Melbourne City’s Hannah Wilkinson (right). Photo: Melbourne City.

By Kieran Yap (6/3/22)

Melbourne City travelled to play the Wanderers with a chance to jump into first place place in the league. A win against Western Sydney would mean that Sydney FC would need at least a draw against the in-form Adelaide United to retain the title.

Although the hosts were out on finals contention and still without Byrleeh Henry or Sarah Gallagher, they had pride to play for. A loss to City could potentially result in them finishing bottom of the ladder, an unthinkable result for the club in a season that began in optimism.

Melbourne City began with Caitlin Karic upfront. The 16-year-old NPLW star was playing as the centre-forward with Rhianna Pollicina in support and Hannah Wilkinson roaming the flanks for much of the game.

The Wanderers welcomed back Alex Huynh to the bench and began with Ashlie Crofts up front who was looking for score for the third game running.

City were in a precarious position. They needed to win, but also had to rest players as the “Football Frenzy” came to a conclusion.

Tyla-Jay Vlajnic and Rebekah Stott began on the bench but Rado Vidosic’s team has developed significant depth during the campaign and were solid favourites to take out the three points.

The first real chance of the game came in the 20th minute. Rhianna Pollicina took possession outside of the area and cleverly created space with a shift of her feet and a slight change of direction. Her shot from outside the box was low, hard, and beat Sarah Langman. It was the playmakers’ seventh goal of the season and as usual, it was done in some style.

Above: Melbourne City celebrate Rhianna Pollicina’s goal. Photo: Melbourne City.

Crofts almost pulled one back for Western Sydney but her shot crashed off the woodwork. She has been one of the good news stories to come out of a tough season. Crofts is a confident, unpredictable, and powerful forward and has given the Wanderers fans something to cheer for.

The goal aside, the first half was relatively even. City were in control at the break but Wanderers were not out of the contest. Crofts had a second half chance to level the scores again after some good team build-up play, but uncharacteristically mistimed her effort from directly in front of goal.

For all of City’s dominance, clear chances on goal were hard to come by. Tori Tunmeth had the best effort when she met a corner kick at full pace but her header flew over the bar.

Hannah Wilkinson entered the match two goals behind Fiona Worts in the race for the Golden Boot. In the 73rd minute, she took a step closer to catching the Adelaide star with she received the ball wide with only Caitlin Cooper to beat.

Wilkinson sized up her options, knocked the ball ahead, and surged past Cooper to finish beyond Langman and bring her season tally up to 12 goals.

With the result seemingly secured, the mission to catch Worts became the focus of neutral and City fans. Wilkinson was played in on goal by Pollicina but she unselfishly returned the pass instead of shooting. Pollicina’s curling shot glanced agonizingly off the bar when it looked likely to bounce in.

Above: Melbourne City’s Chelsie Blissett (left) battles with Western Sydney Wanderers’ Alexia Apostolakis. Photo: Western Sydney Wanderers.

The New Zealand striker had another chance to score a second when she headed well toward an empty net. Somehow the woodwork denied her again and it looked it like it was not meant to be.

The match ended 2-0. It was an unfussy, expected win by City. They took the opportunity to not only rest some players but to give others some much-needed minutes.

Sally James was brought on for Melissa Barbieri and responded with an encouraging display. Her close-range stop from Rosie Galea’s effort was a highlight of the second half.

Leticia McKenna entered in place of Karic and did well to forge an opportunity to score but Sarah Langman responded with what is likely the save of the round. The Wanderers keeper dove the wrong way but managed to stick a foot out to prevent a third goal.

With Adelaide United and hosting Sydney FC a few hours later, City’s players had done all they could, not they could watch the next match in support of The Reds who had every chance of beating the reigning premiers at home.

Teams: WESTERN SYDNEY WANDERERS (4-4-2): Langman, Matos, Cooper, Ralston, Apostolakis, Collister, Galic, Price, Halloway, Copus-Brown, Crofts. Substitutes: Abdul-Massih, Galea, Huynh, Khamis (GK), Steinmetz.

MELBOURNE CITY (3-5-2): Barbieri, Heatley, Checker, Tunmeth, Blissett, Westland, Pollicina, Davidson, Torpey, Katic, Wilkinson. Substitutes: James, McKenna, Malone, Vlajnic, van der Meer.

Scorers: Pollicina 21′, Wilkinson 73′.

Referee: Georgia Ghirardello.

Attendance: 220.

Artwork: Graphics by PW.

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