Melbourne Victory 3-6 Sydney FC
By Kieran Yap at AAMI Park (26/1/23).
Above: Hat-trick hero Princess Ibini gets a shot away for Sydney FC at Melbourne Victory today. Photo: Keep Up.
That was a crazy couple of hours. Nine goals, multiple goalkeeper changes, a hattrick, three penalty kicks, and a ticketing fiasco are the highlights in Sydney FC’s 6-3 win over Melbourne Victory.
This was an incident-packed afternoon. The drama began an hour before kick-off when Victory announced that popular 2021 Grand Final winner Gaby Garton was returning to the side. The downside was it was as an injury replacement for the talismanic Casey Dumont.
There was a steady crowd headed to AAMI Park. Sydney FC supporters arrived in hope of beating Victory outside of NSW for the first time since 2020. Melbourne fans were hopeful of a result but having watched their team play four games in 11 days, just getting through this last one unscathed was acceptable.
The club itself should be lauded for its pre-match efforts. Gema Simon did the Welcome to Country, and both sides held up flags representing Australia’s Aboriginal and Torres Strait Island communities together.
Unfortunately, few were in the stadium to see it. Although fans were being directed by a stadium attendant to their correct gates, the ticket machines were not working. The result was hundreds of supporters around the ground stuck between the security check and the ticket scanners. Comically, a ground announcer was reading out the lineups to an empty stadium within.
A technical issue was obviously the cause of the hold-up, but not opening the gates until 20 minutes before kickoff was the reason that there was no room for error.
Most fans got to their seats after the game had begun, and the contest was enthralling enough to park any discontent for the rest of the afternoon.
Sydney looked sharper than Victory in the opening 20 minutes. This was no surprise, although they travelled, their last game was 15 days ago, and they looked fresher and hungry. Their last game was a loss to Western United and were eager to respond.
The visitors opened the scoring in the 20th minute. Mackenzie Hawkesby’s corner kick found the head of Charli Rule at the back post. The Young Matilda leapt highest and headed cleanly. Garton got low to save it, but Princess Ibini was on hand to prod home the rebound.
Sydney scored a second soon after. In the 29th minute, Cortnee Vine raced clear on the right. She curled a pass beyond the Victory defence and Hawkesby only needed one touch to score after a perfectly timed run.
There was collateral damage for Victory. At two goals down, they had to replace Garton who was injured in the collision. On came youngster Miranda Templeman who impressed against Adelaide United on the weekend.
Templeman’s first meaningful action was to face a penalty kick from Ibini. She reacted quickly and guessed correctly, getting a strong hand to the shot. Ibini was on hand to tuck away the rebound for her second of the half.
Victory looked finished already but gave themselves a lifeline when Rikke Madsen charged down debut goalkeeper Tahlia Franco and scored her first goal for the club.
They scored a second when Beattie Goad’s cross found Lia Privitelli at the back post to make it 3-2 in injury time of the first half.
Both managers must have changed their halftime talk constantly before the whistle. Just moment later, Sydney had a fourth. Another dangerous corner from Hawkesby was nodded home by Madison Haley and Sydney FC’s two-goal cushion was restored.
The second half followed a similarly eclectic theme. Victory’s hill became even steeper to climb when Vine raced onto Haley’s through ball, rounded Templeman, and snuck the shot into the far corner. It was 5-2 and although a comeback for Victory felt unlikely, goal difference was a defining factor for them last season and they kept that in mind.
Vine was tormenting a tired-looking Victory back four. Their defence is usually reliable and stingy, but the pace of the Matildas winger was difficult to deal with. When she twisted past Nat Tathem, to set up Ibini for her third it was well and truly game over.
Melbourne scored a third when Maja Markovski converted a penalty kick. While it had no bearing on the result, it could be important by the season’s end. Additionally, if Markovski can build from that goal, she could be the answer to Victory’s need for a traditional striker.
Sydney FC never looked like losing, they were faster, more organized, and clinical in front of goal. Victory looked like a side that had just played four games across three states. When the final whistle blew, the players looked relieved more than sad about the loss. Both teams have a decent rest now with home games on 4th February.
This was about as entertaining a match as a neutral could hope for. The atmosphere was enthusiastic and colorful, the football was at times incredible, and both teams engaged in a one of the best shootouts of the season.
Princess Ibini scored her first hat trick for the club. Vine rediscovered her best form, and Templeman enhanced her reputation with some strong saves and confident keeping. Her penalty save in the second half brought a huge cheer from the home support and seemed to make her grow taller for the rest of the game.
Although Victory are unlikely to be happy with the result, there are silver linings. They had three new goal scorers, with Markovski, Privitelli and Madsen all netting for the first time this season. That is important in the absence of Melina Ayres and the potential departure of Alex Chidiac.
Speaking after the game, Sydney FC boss Ante Juric couldn’t quite overlook his team’s defending, saying: “I’m happy. You can’t say you’re not when you are winning, scoring six, and getting three points but we did concede three stupid goals.
“That’s not good but going forward we had a lot of chances and we had a lot of intent which was really good and a lot of players were at eight out of 10 compared to our last game.”
Victory will have to regroup to play Western Sydney Wanderers in the next round. Sydney FC have a tough test with the visit of Melbourne City on the same day.
Teams: MELBOURNE VICTORY (4-3-3): Garton, Nash, Bunge, Morrison, Tathem, Murphy, Chidiac, Kellond-Knight, Privitelli, Madsen, Goad. Substitutes: Templeman, Eliadis, Zois, Markovski, Jackson.
Scorers: Madsen 42’, Privitelli 45+3’, Markovski 88’
SYDNEY FC (4-3-3): Franco, Rule, Mclean, Tobin, de la Harpe, Hunter, Hollman, Hawkesby, Vine, Haley, Ibini. Substitutes: Stanic-Floody, Fenton, Lowe, Badawiya, Offer.
Scorers: Ibini 24’, 36’, 60’. Hawkesby 30’, Haley 45+5’, Vine 48’.
Referee: Casey Reibelt.