Victory celebrates Dub Round with an important win

Melbourne Victory 3-1 Western Sydney Wanderers

By Kieran Yap (4/2/23)

Above: Melbourne Victory celebrate Alex Chidiac’s goal from the penalty spot. Photo: @LibertyALeague twitter

Melbourne Victory strengthened their hold on a top-four position with a 3-1 win against Western Sydney Wanderers at CB Smith Reserve that was more challenging than the scoreline suggested.

It was the second time in less than a month that these two sides met. The previous encounter was a 0-0 draw in Sydney. For this meeting, the stakes had changed a little. Western Sydney has continued their revival under Kat Smith. Going into Week 14 of the A-League Women, they had jumped to sixth on the ladder, and are appearing as a dark horse for finals.

Melbourne Victory were coming off a 6-3 loss to Sydney FC, it was the final game of a gruelling schedule that saw them play four games in 15 days.

Victory needed to bounce back and a match against the fast-improving giant killers from Western Sydney was seen as a potentially dangerous test.

Amy Jackson started in midfield for the home side. Jeff Hopkins used his Grand Final hero as an anchor in possession and a defensive screen without it. The idea was to cut off easy supply to Sarina Bolden and Sophie Harding.

It meant Elise Kellond-Knight pushed higher up the pitch and Alex Chidiac has more freedom. That produced almost immediate results.

In the fourth minute, Jackson got a toe to a loose ball, Chidiac took possession and darted into space before sliding a perfect lateral through ball into the path of Beattie Goad.

Goad’s pace took her clear and her composure gave Victory the lead with a well-placed finish beyond Jordyn Bloomer.

Western Sydney equalised through Sophie Harding’s excellent run along the left wing and bottom corner finish at full pace. The speedster was proving a handful for Jess Nash. There are few players with the raw pace that Harding possesses. If she can continue to finish in this manner, Western Sydney’s finals chances greatly increase.

The afternoon got harder for the visitors when Young Matilda Alexia Apostolakis was injured after a collision with her own teammate while trying to thwart Goad.

The prodigious defender is more than an up-and-comer. She is already one of the best defenders in the competition and has been in form lately. Angelieu Hristodoulou was brought on as her replacement to try and curb Goad’s influence.

Those two goals came from the best two chances of the first half. Maja Markovski came closest to another with a flicked-on header that the crowd thought was goalbound, but the sides went into the break level.

Above: Melbourne Victory celebrations against Western Sydney Wanderers. Photo: Keep Up.

The second half saw the return of Catherine Zimmerman. The American attacker has been missed by Victory since she fractured her leg in Round Two. She replaced Markovski at centre forward and Victory sought to use her pace to get behind the Wanderers defence.

Zimmerman’s impact was definitive. She earned a penalty in the 82nd minute, which was smashed in off the cross bare by Chidiac. There did not look to be too much in the contact, but Victory made the most of the opportunity to retake the lead.

Added time seemed to take an eternity. Victory brought on Paige Zois and Tiff Eliadis to help close out the result, with Alana Murphy also replacing Jackson in the holding role.

Western Sydney introduced Sheridan Gallagher into the match in an attempt to unlock the Victory defence.

Victory waited until the final seconds to seal the result. After seven nerve-wracking minutes of added time, Zimmerman broke free down the right and cut into the penalty area. The safest option would have been to play for the corner, but the gamble paid off and she laid it on a platter for Eliadis to tap into the net from close range.

The win keeps Victory in fourth spot, and with Melbourne City and Western United both losing, the top of the table remains as open as the rest of the league.

Chidiac was dominant as always, but Goad was influential, Zimmerman was pivotal, while Jackson and Markovski put in their best performances for the season.

The downside for Victory fans is that time with Chidiac may be running out. It is not known when she returns to the US with Racing Louisville, but as the NWSL pre-season has already begun, it may be soon.

The timing of Zimmerman to fitness could not be better timed. Theoretically, Goad or Zois could take over the playmaker role with Zimmerman and Privitelli occupying the flanks. But no matter how you move the magnets around, Chidiac is a generation talent and if this is the last time Victory fans see her at home, she put on a virtuoso performance to be remembered by.

Western Sydney might regret that final goal. The can recover the three points next week against Wellington Phoenix, but goal difference could prove vital.

But the day belonged to Melbourne Victory, both on and off the field, the club put on a good show. for Dub Week, the members were invited to listen to a pre-match tactical talk by assistant manager Johnno Clemente. Fans were treated to the early release of the starting lineup and given an example of the information the players receive midweek.

After the win, there was an organized meet and greet with the team, and an opportunity to take photos with the last two Grand Final trophies.

The only criticism that could possibly be labelled at the event was that it was overdue, but it was an interesting and enjoyable occasion that the club should definitely repeat in future. It delighted current fans and would have earned some new ones.

Victory’s next opponent is Brisbane Roar. They will travel to Queensland next Saturday and a win could see them push for second or third place if other results go their way again.

Teams: MELBOURNE VICTORY (4-1-2-3): Dumont, Nash, Bunge, Morrison, Tathem, Jackson, Kellond-Knight, Chidiac, Goad, Privitelli, Markovski. Substitutes: Templeman, Zois, Murphy, Eliadis, Zimmerman.

Scorers: Goad 4’ Chidiac (pen) 82’, Eliadis 90+7′.

WESTERN SYDNEY WANDERERS (3-5-2): Bloomer, Hunt, Matos, Apostolakis, Gordon, Steinmetz, Harrison, Price, Bolden, Harding. Substitutes: Hristodoulou, Khamis, Caceres, Gallagher, Chlastakova.

Scorers: Harding 15’.

Referee: Georgia Ghirardello.

Attendance: 511.

Artwork: Charlotte Stacey, founder of On Her Side.

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