Sydney FC 2-0 Melbourne Victory
Report By Kieran Yap with EXCLUSIVE pitchside photos from Kris Goman at Cromer Park (26/11/22).
Above: High-flying action as Cortnee Vine leaps over Melbourne Victory goalkeeper Casey Dumont. Photo: Kris Goman for Impetus.
Sydney FC have beaten Melbourne Victory 2-0 in the Grand Final replay. The reigning premiers got their first win of the season with a high-pressure display. The damage was done in the first half, with Victory unable to score in the second, and unable to match the intensity of Sydney’s midfield.
The hosts played with a similar game plan to their Round One loss to Adelaide United, except with a significant difference. For the visit of their championship rivals, they welcomed striker Madison Haley into the starting lineup.
The former Stanford player had an immediate impact. She provided her side with a focal point up front and looked dangerous from the opening whistle.
Cortnee Vine exploited the space on the right flank. She was opposed to Victory’s Emily Kos. The young fullback was in the starting 11 for the first time, after impressing coach Jeff Hopkins in Round One.
Kos performed well, but up against the Matildas’ winger, it was always unlikely that Vine would be entirely stopped.
Only the composure and experience of Casey Dumont in the Melbourne goal prevented Vine from having a brace by halftime. She broke free twice to create one-on-one chances, but could not beat the Victory keeper.
The visiting champions struggled to maintain possession or build play through the middle of the field. Alex Chidiac and Beattie Goad’s individual skill was not enough to beat a Sydney dude hungry to win the ball back.
Mackenzie Hawkesby, Shay Hollman, and Sarah Hunter all looked faster and fitter than Melbourne’s midfield. When Sydney eventually scored in the 41st minute, it looked like a steep up hill climb for Victory to get back into the game, even at 1-0.
It was a classy individual effort from Haley. She latched onto a poor Melbourne pass and tore through the defence. Dumont came off her line and looked like she’d done enough to force her wide. But a skilful finish into the roof of the jet from a tight angle set the stage for a Sky Blue win.
Deep into stoppage time, Sydney FC had a second. Princess Ibini outpaced Jessika Nash on the left. Her low cross was turned in through a miscommunication between Kayla Morrison and Dumont.
It was a moment that was symbolic of the unlucky first half that Victory endured. They ended the first 45 without Catherine Zimmerman. Their most lively striker was subbed out with what looked like a serious ankle injury.
Victory had more energy in the second half, with Ava Briedis particularly impressive on the wing. But they were unable to trouble the Sydney defence or test Jada Whyman.
Sydney FC maintained their intensity until the final whistle. Vine was removed, but it was of little relief to Victory’s defence that her replacement was fan favourite Remy Siemsen.
This was an impressive win by Sydney FC, their game plan looks slightly tweaked from 2021/22, but they look to be able to reproduce it weekly.
Speaking after the game, Sydney’s Madison Haley said: “It was really nice for me to actually finally have a game … it’s one thing to do it in training and it’s another thing to do it against opposition so again it looked really good today and hopefully we can keep going from here.
“When I was on the field I was very focused but it was really nice coming off the field and getting serenaded … I’m super glad we were able to get the win and everyone’s having a great time, getting their signatures and all the kids are out and that’s what it’s about, getting people excited and young girls excited to play.”
As for Victory, they still looked rusty and a little slow at times. They still have a number of possible starters out injured and are adjusting to new players in every line.
Melbourne Victory’s tests continue. They travel back home to play Wellington Phoenix who are also without a win.
Sydney FC have a local derby to look forward to. They face the Western Sydney Wanderers next weekend and have a real chance to build some momentum with only one trip outside New South Wales until late January.
Their midfield looks strong. Sarah Hunter continues to improve and Hawkesby has adapted well to more defensive responsibilities. The additions of Siemsen and Haley to a squad that also has Abbey Lemon, Shay Evans, and Marie Stanic-Floody in reserve means their attack suddenly looks terrifying.
Teams: SYDNEY FC 4-3-3: Whyman, Rule, Mclean, Tobin, Fenton, Hollman, Hunter, Hawkesby (Stanic-Floody), Ibini, Haley (Lemon), Vine (Siemsen)
Scorers: Haley 41′ Dumont (OG) 45′
MELBOURNE VICTORY 4-3-3: Dumont, Nash, Bunge, Morrison, Kos (Murphy), Kellond-Knight, Chidiac, Eliadis, Goad, Ayres, Zimmerman (Briedis)
Referee: Georgia Ghirardello.
More of Kris Goman’s EXCLUSIVE photos from Cromer Park: