Western Sydney Wanderers 2-0 Melbourne City
By Jonathan Tay (8/1/23)
Above: Sheridan Gallagher celebrates her opening goal for Western Sydney Wanderers. Image: @wswanderersfc
After going almost a calendar year without a win, Western Sydney Wanderers rang in 2023 with arguably the upset of the season, beating Melbourne City 2-0 at Wanderers Football Park.
Goals from Sheridan Gallagher and Olivia Price gave Western Sydney their maiden victory of the campaign, and their first since January 9th 2022, lifting them off the foot of the table.
Melbourne City looked to still be recovering from a New Year’s hangover, strangely unable to create clear-cut chances and missing their usual incisiveness, the loss seeing them relinquish first place in the Liberty A-League.
Ahead of a brutal stretch of three games in just seven days, City head coach Dario Vidosic made two changes, with Sally James back between the posts, and Rhianna Pollicina returning to the starting XI after Emina Ekic’s season-ending injury in the last match round. In the opposing dugout, Kat Smith handed new Philippine recruit Sarina Bolden her red-and-black debut, with Amy Harrison and Olivia Price also rotating into the midfield.
City, as has been the case all season thus far, customarily controlled the majority of ball possession in the game. They created the first chance in the 12th minute; Wilkinson’s sharp shot straight at Wanderers keeper Jordan Bloomer, after Daniela Galic, starting on the left wing, nipped in to force an interception.
The Wanderers though were competitive throughout; tenacious in their duels and resolute in the middle of the park. A wayward pass from Galic led to a glorious opportunity for Price to open the scoring, but with only keeper James to beat, her shot was off-target, having been played through by Bolden.
The cagey affair saw both teams struggle to cleanly progress the ball into dangerous areas until Western Sydney surprisingly opened the scoring somewhat fortuitously. Gallagher was found around the right corner of the 18-yard box, and whilst her left-footed shot was deflected off City’s Chelsea Blissett, it caught the wind, looped over James, and inside the back post.
Seeking a response to the unexpected setback, Vidosic brought on Julia Grosso for Leticia McKenna at halftime, with Galic moving back into central midfield. The Melbournians though started the second period shakily, with consecutive turnovers from centre-backs Naomi Chinnama and then Katie Bowen leading to a Bolden shot just clearing the bar, and a Gallagher cross just out of the Filipino’s reach.
The Wanderers didn’t have to wait long for their second though. Another City turnover in their defensive third saw Beth Gordon feed an unmarked Price at the top of the penalty area, who controlled and fired past James, giving Western Sydney an improbable two-goal lead.
Further substitutions could not help Melbourne City break down a compact Wanderers defence, with the Sydneysiders seeming more likely to notch a third on the counterattack instead. Bolden, having been put through one-on-one, almost capped off a memorable debut with a goal in the 75th minute, with keeper James getting fingertips on her strike to deflect it onto the crossbar.
The visitors looked alternately frantic and lost for ideas throughout, uncharacteristically amassing an expected goals (xG) of just 0.55 for the entirety of the match. The Wanderers though, were deserved winners with 15 shots to the Sky Blues’ nine, outworking their opponents and seeing out the game without much fanfare.
City will need to have short memory spans, hoping to rediscover their form against Adelaide United, with a rapid turnaround on Wednesday. Meanwhile, Western Sydney’s giant-killing triumph has jolted their season to life and should give Kat Smith’s charges confidence for the rest of their campaign ahead.
Teams: WESTERN SYDNEY WANDERERS (4-4-2): Bloomer; Matos, Keir, Hunt, Apostolakis; Steinmetz, Harrison, Price, Gordon; Bolden, Gallagher. Substitutes: Abdul-Massih, Caceres, Harding, Khamis (GK), Saveska.
Scorers: Gallagher 40’, Price 55’.
MELBOURNE CITY (4-3-3): James; Torpey, Chinnama, Bowen, Blissett; Davidson, McKenna, Pollicina; Henry, Wilkinson, Galic. Substitutes: Barbieri (GK), Checker, Grosso, Karic, Røstbakken.
Referee: Lara Lee.