Western Sydney Wanderers 0-0 Melbourne Victory
Report by Kieran Yap, with EXCLUSIVE photos from Wanderers Football Park by Kris Goman (19/1/23).
Above: Western Sydney Wanderers’ Sarina Bolden gets up highest in an aerial battle. Photo: Kris Goman for Impetus.
Neither side would have been happy with the draw, but both clubs maintained strong records as Western Sydney Wanderers drew 0-0 with Melbourne Victory in the midweek match.
Going into the game, Victory had not lost a game since round two, in their last trip to the city to face Sydney FC. The Wanderers have been enjoying a hot streak of form, beating Melbourne City and Western United in back-to-back matches.
The Wanderers’ reversal in fortunes has coincided with the arrival of Sarina Bolden. The Philippines international has been exactly what Kat Smith’s team was lacking. In their last two wins, Bolden has provided The Wanderers with a focal point up front and occupies defences. She has only scored once, but her presence has opened space for others in the attack, where previously there was no pressure on the opposition defence.
It was a quality signing by Kat Smith, who’s side was more competitive than results suggested, and have usually been defensively organized. While fans and observers demanded they sign any centre-forward, they waited for the right one. Bolden’s influence has been huge on the field, and the star arrival seems invested in the club. It may be a case of a player needing game time before a World Cup, but there is no questioning the drive to get results for the previously struggling side.
Victory finds themselves in a similar situation to where Western Sydney were a month ago. Without Melina Ayres or Catherine Zimmerman available due to injury, Jeff Hopkins’ side lacks a specialist striker. Maja Markovski continues to return to full fitness and new signings Rikke Madsen, and Sarah Rowe are forwards, but not natural poachers.
The best chances of a tightly contested encounter both fell to Madsen. A perfect cross from the left could easily ended up in the back of the net but crashed off the post. Madsen might have had a penalty claim when she was cleaned up by Jordyn Bloomer coming off her line. But the referee waved it away.
Madsen’s other chance came from an Alex Chidiac corner kick. It found her unmarked at the back post but her attempt skimmed off the top of her head. It was an escape for The Wanderers who had otherwise kept the Victory attack contained.
The Wanderers’ defence was admirable. Clare Hunt and Alexia Apostolakis were especially impressive when faced with Goad, Chidiac, and Madsen. The 16-year-old Apostolakis continues to impress. She rarely loses one-on-ones and has the pace to keep up with Victory’s experienced and speedy wingers.
When Goad swapped flanks with Lia Privitelli, the Young Matildas defender was not fazed and rarely beaten.
Victory’s own defence was equally strong, which goes some way to explaining the first 0-0 of the A-League Women’s season. Kayla Morrison and Claudia Bunge controlled Bolden, and frustrated substitute speedster Sophie Harding, helped by Nat Tathem. Jessika Nash was among the best players on the field at right back. Her distribution and movement made her one of Victory’s best outlets for beginning attacks.
With neither attack firing, and both defences impervious, the midfield was the area where any win could be forged.
Victory started with Amy Jackson, Alex Chidiac, and Alana Murphy. Western Sydney had Amy Harrison, Olivia Price, Bethany Gordon, and Malia Steinmetz.
It was in this area of the pitch that Victory looked slightly stronger. Price created a few openings for herself and when Harrison got the ball facing goal she looked dangerous, but Victory’s midfield controlled most of the play.
Jackson played a typically no-fuss role of screening the defence and getting the ball to the attacking players. Chidiac started to find pockets of space, and when she struck from the edge of the box in the first half, it felt surprising that it did not hit the back of the net.
The most impressive player on the pitch was young Murphy. The Victory midfielder was involved for every minute of the game and in every possible way. Murphy attempted shots, the linked play, took on players and did it all without neglecting her defensive duties.
Hopkins has been patient with the prodigious talent and used her sparingly last season while she adapted to life as an A-League player. Victory are seeing the results of that growth now. Murphy is turning into a dominant player and stood out amongst an illustrious list of midfielders on the pitch.
The game was a 90-minute arm wrestle with few chances, but Western Sydney almost stole it at the end.
Kat Smith rolled the dice late, introducing 16-year-old Sienna Saveska. The impressive attacker was entrusted with a last-minute free kick and the Victory bench and fans held their breath as it was struck.
It beat the wall and swerved, but avoided the goal by inches. It would have been an incredible winner, but in the end 0-0 was probably a fair result, although Victory will feel it was a missed opportunity to grab a valuable three points.
The Wanderers continued their undefeated run which now extends to four matches. Victory will feel disappointed, but it is more important that they do not lose any games in the hectic schedule. They now travel to play Adelaide United, before flying back to face Sydney FC in one week’s time.
They hold onto their top-four position and two more good performances will go a long way to solidifying it as the season passes the halfway mark.
Kris Goman’s EXCLUSIVE photo gallery from Wanderers Football Park:
Teams: WESTERN SYDNEY WANDERERS (4-4-2): Bloomer, Apostolakis, Hunt, Keir, Matos, Harrison, Gordon, Steinmetz, Price, Bolden, Gallagher. Substitutes: Chessari, Harding, Saveska, Khamis (GK), Abdul Massih.
MELBOURNE VICTORY (4-3-3): Dumont, Nash, Bunge, Morrison, Tathem, Jackson, Murphy, Chidiac, Privitelli, Goad, Madsen. Substitutes: Eliadis, Rowe, Zois, Markovski, Templeman (GK).
Referee: Isabella Libri.