Sydney FC 4-2 Melbourne City
Above: Sydney FC players and fans go wild after Cote Rojas’ equalizer one minute into stoppage time at the end of 90 minutes. Photo: Kris Goman for Impetus.
Report and EXCLUSIVE pitch side photos from Kris Goman at Netstrata Jubilee Stadium (12/3/22).
What. A. Match. Seriously, just go and watch it.
It’s hard to even describe this match and do it justice, there was so much going on. Sydney FC v Melbourne City, arguably the two best teams in the comp by a stretch. Semi-Final. Winner goes straight to the grand final and gets to host the Grand Final. Loser plays the winner of the other semi for a second chance. There’s a lot at stake.
Before we even start, Sydney get presented the Premier’s Plate and plenty of fans got in early to enjoy that triumph. The plate was presented, the plate was hoisted, the fireworks went off and the streamers fell. A nice start to the evening for the Sydney fans.
Sydney started well and really dominated the first half with possession, territory, and shots however City got the first runs on the board on a transition play. Leticia McKenna sent a ball from midfield out to Tyla-Jay Vlajnic on the left. She ran onto it and with one touch, put it to the centre of the box just into reach of Nat Tobin who tapped it right into the path of Hannah Wilkinson coming around from behind her.
One movement with her left foot and the Kiwi striker had it into the bottom right corner of the box despite Jana Whyman’s best efforts and outstretched foot. Against the run of play, City take the lead and that’s the way it stayed going into halftime.
Into the second half and once again Sydney are dominating play but City are biding their time and at 58 minutes Rebekah Stott does a bit of nifty footwork to avoid Charlotte Mclean on the left and passes to an onrushing McKenna. She brings the ball into the box and down to the byline and cuts it back to Wilkinson who has timed her run beautifully and smashes it into the back of the net with Whyman unable to do anything about it. Melbourne have taken a 2-0 lead and have quietened the Sydney crowd. At this stage it looks like we’re going to Melbourne for the Grand Final.
However, Sydney don’t give up that easily and now it gets really interesting. Cortnee Vine came on at halftime for Paige Satchell and Maria Jose Rojas was subbed in at 64 minutes for Remy Siemsen and this partnership defines the term Game Changers.
With seventeen minutes left, Ally Green makes a gang busting run through the entire City defence on the left into the box and right down to the byline to then lob the ball back to the middle of the goal as Vine rushes through and leaps into the air to connect and put the ball past Melissa Barbieri who hasn’t missed a beat yet but is caught flat footed and dejectedly watches it sail past her. It’s a glorious goal and Sydney are back in the match. Green really did all the work on that and deserves the assist.
Things tighten up as Hawkesby lobs a ball from the far side of the centre circle to Vine who’s in the clear with only Barbieri to beat who rushes out from the box. Vine taps it past the City keeper and Vlajnic who is in hot pursuit catches her foot and sends both of them sprawling.
As the last defender, there’s only one result and the ref pulls out the red card. Unfortunately, Vlajnic has hurt herself quite badly in the process and would have been subbed off anyway but now there’s no sub and City are down to ten players which is the last thing they needed.
Shortly after, almost exactly the same thing occurs with Green sending the long ball to Vine who finds herself in wide-open spaces with just her and the City keeper. She chests to the left creating a tight angle before shooting high. It looks like Barbieri gets a hand to it before it slams into the woodwork and over the goal.
Due to a few injuries, we go past 90 minutes and Sydney keep pressing. Mackenzie Hawkesby punts into the box. Nat Tobin runs onto it and is tackled by Tori Tunmeth in the middle of the box and both go down. It’s play on as the ball is cleared by Marisa Van der Meer but it goes straight to Ally Green.
She kicks it straight back to almost where Tobin is still lying in the box and Hawkesby’s outstretched foot brings it down and under control and puts it in front of Rojas. She swivels past Tobin who’s still lying on the field and shoots and the little master makes no mistake as it avoids a diving Barbieri and hits the back of the net. The crowd goes wild. It’s even at 2-2 with minutes to go. The game must be decided so there’s be an extra 15 minutes each way.
At 96 minutes Sydney get a corner and Hawkesby steps up to take it as she usually does. She’s placed it perfectly to the back post and Sarah Hunter finds herself in a bit of space, jumps up, and heads the ball straight in across the goal to the top right. What a time to score your first goal for Sydney! She’s ecstatic and the team goes wild with congratulations and celebrations. As do the crowd.
With eight minutes left on the clock, after a shot on goal by City, Whyman catches and quickly boots the ball upfield, releasing Rojas. She’s not alone but splits Meisha Westland and Kaitlyn Torpey with a pass through to Vine who’s sprinted to catch up with play. She runs on to the ball and slots it past Barbieri. It seals the match at 4-2 and secures the home grand final for Sydney FC.
However, there’s one final piece of drama to unfold. Vine once again finds herself in the clear with just Bubs to beat. Barbieri isn’t having another goal though and comes out of the box and jumps with all arms and legs out as Vine shoots. It catches her hand and she knows it. The ref also knows it and brings out a red. The City keeper is off along with Vlajnic and both will miss the next game in a sensational finish.
There’s so much that’s not detailed in this report. The coaches got yellows too, there was drama, aggression, injury, heroes and some incredible play. 27 shots by Sydney. The full game needs watching. Seek it out.
Speaking after the game, Sydney FC attacker Cortnee Vine said: “I wanted to be a game-changer when I came on. I know our team is the fittest in the league and I knew we’d run over them and that’s what we ended up doing. I just wanted to get on and score and change the game and I think I ended up doing that.”
The Premier’s head coach Ante Juric was delighted and showed his pride in his team’s achievement. “It was an epic encounter. I wasn’t surprised because City are excellent and it went back and forth and we came back from 2-0 which was nice. I’m real happy and proud of everyone. I just want these girls to win the Grand Final so much and I’ll try and do everything I can to get them there.”
Kris Goman’s EXCLUSIVE Photo Gallery From Netstrata Jubilee Stadium For Impetus: Cick on first image to start sideshow
Teams: SYDNEY FC: Whyman, Green, Tobin, McLean, Rule, Ray, Hawkesby, Lowe, Ibini, Siemsen, Satchell Substitutes: Offer, Nash, Hunter, Rojas, Vine.
Scorers: Vine 73′, 113. Rojas 90+1, Hunter 96’.
MELBOURNE CITY: Barbieri, Torpey, Tunmeth, Checker, Heatley, Vlajnic, Davidson, Stott, McKenna, Pollicina, Wilkinson Substitutes: James (GK), Van der Meer, Blissett, Westland, Karic.
Scorers: Wilkinson 21′, 58′.
Referee: Georgia Ghirardello