Sydney FC 2-0 Western Sydney Wanderers
by Ben Gilby (24/12/22)
Above: Mackenzie Hawkesby dispatches the penalty that put Sydney FC ahead in the derby today. Photo: Sydney FC.
Sydney FC scored twice in a four-minute period just after the half-hour mark to claim a routine victory over cross-city rivals Western Sydney Wanderers in hot conditions at Allianz Stadium.
Goals from Mackenzie Hawkesby and a characteristic marauding run and rocket-propelled finish from Cortnee Vine sealed the points.
With Sydney FC’s outstanding American signing Madison Haley missing with a minor injury, Remy Siemsen was brought into the starting line-up. Rachel Lowe took her place on the bench, and captain Nat Tobin, harshly sent off in the first meeting between these two sides just three weeks ago, was in defence.
The home side were in control from the early stages. They were patient, looking to maintain possession until openings presented themselves. As is their wont, Wanderers worked hard and looked to close down the space available to the Sky Blues, but there remains a concerning lack of firepower, something that has dogged the club for a few seasons now.
This means that once Western Sydney go behind, the prospect of a comeback is almost inconceivable. The fact that the team has now gone scoreless in four of their five games merely underlines this.
The home side began to turn possession into concerted chances with just over 20 minutes gone. Kirsty Fenton cut in from the left into the box, leaving Sophie Harding for dead. She got a shot away which led to a mini pinball around the area before going out for a corner that Western Sydney dealt with.
Before the half-hour mark, the second corner in a row delivered by Mackenzie Hawkesby on the left was met by the head of Siemsen and flew well wide, but referee Rebecca Durcau pointed to the spot adjudging Amy Harrison held Sarah Hunter. It was not a foul that led to mass appeals – indeed the only thing the award did provoke was mass confusion. Regardless, up stepped Mackenzie Hawkesby to smash down the centre for the home side to take the lead.
Three minutes later, Sydney struck again with a piece of true Cortnee Vine magic along the right. A Wanderers attack was broken up and a long half-volleyed pass crossfield from Hawkesby fell into the path of an unmarked Vine. The Matildas star drove into the box, turned Danika Matos, and curled a sensational effort into the far corner of the net. It was some way to score her first goal of the season.
The home side were now rampant and Vine was involved again as she motored away along the right and fed Siemsen inside her who fired in a shot across goal that Jordyn Bloomer did well to get a hand to.
Three minutes before the break, Western Sydney carved out their first opening of the game as Hollie Caspers, left of centre, fed Harrison inside her. The ball was played on for Sheridan Gallagher to get a shot away that the advancing Jada Whyman repelled magnificently.
There was still time for Sydney create another golden opportunity. Princess Ibini laid off to Fenton on the left wing. The former Newcastle Jet advanced into the box, seeing off Alexia Apostolakis in the process, but her shot came off the outside of the post.
The second half opened with a change in goal for Western Sydney with Sham Khamis replacing Bloomer. Another change of note occurred when Lowe was introduced on the hour mark after Siemsen took a knock and had ice applied to her knee after leaving the pitch.
Western Sydney began their best period of the afternoon with 25 minutes remaining. Charlotte Mclean’s back pass from the left of the box was short allowing Gallagher in. Whyman went in with her feet to avert the danger, only for the ball to head Harrison’s way. The Sky Blues goalkeeper dived studs first and made connection with the Wanderers player’s shin first and the ball was cleared. Spot kicks have been given for less, but referee Durcau was unmoved.
Wanderers’ flurry continued as sub Cushla Rue broke through via Olivia Price and saw her shot come back off the right-hand post. The 19-year-old Rue had another opportunity five minutes from the end when she was found by Price again after a lovely lay-off from Bethany Gordon, but it was directed wide of the right-hand post. The substitute created headaches in this period for the home side in a way that few of her teammates had managed to date.
Vine delivered Sydney’s final chance of the afternoon as her run and curved ball into the box found Lowe who was denied by the onrushing Khamis.
There will be tougher tests for Sydney FC this season, and when they come, the Sky Blues will want to convert a larger percentage of their chances. The home side had seven shots on target to Wanderers’ two, 19 total shots to five with the visitors unable to force any corners until the final two minutes of the match.
Speaking after the encounter, Sydney FC head coach Ante Juric said: “I’m happy, it’s one of our better games, especially in the first half, considering the heat. We could have had a few more goals and put them to bed early but we played well.”
Reflecting on another strong showing by goalkeeper Jada Whyman, who kept her fourth clean sheet in five games this season, Juric opined: “I don’t understand how Jada doesn’t get the recognition she deserves, it’s harder to keep in a team that has less shots against them and she will step up when we need a save and she did that again today.”
Teams: SYDNEY FC (4-3-3): Whyman, Rule, Mclean, Tobin, Fenton, Hollman, Hunter, Hawkesby, Vine, Siemsen, Ibini. Substitutes: de la Harpe, Lemon, Lowe, Offer (GK), Stanic-Floody.
Scorers: Hawkesby (pen) 30′, Vine 33′.
WESTERN SYDNEY WANDERERS (4-2-3-1): Bloomer, Apostolakis, Hunt, Keir, Matos, Gordon, Steinmetz, Harding, Harrison, Caspers, Gallagher. Substitutes: Chlastáková, Hristodoulou, Khamis (GK), Price, Rue.
Referee: Rebecca Durcau.