Sydney show class to topple leaders

Sydney FC 3-0 Western United

by Ben Carey (5/3/23)

Above:  Mackenzie Hawkesby and Rachel Lowe celebrate after Lowe gave Sydney the lead. Photo: KeepUp.

Sydney FC emerged victorious from an exciting top-of-the-table clash against Western United on Sunday afternoon.

It was their second meeting of the season, with Western getting the better of Sydney last time in Melbourne. This time, Sydney had the home advantage, and they used it to full effect, exacting revenge over their closest A-League competitor in match full of goals and drama.

Western had the first big chance of the game. Four minutes in, Hannah Keane made an amazing run towards the goal, weaving past Sydney defenders, eventually cutting it back to Danielle Steer, who had an opportunity to tap it past the keeper but could not find the back of the net.

About 15 minutes later, Western United attacked unsuccessfully and Sydney pounced on an opportunity for a counterattack. Cortnee Vine made a good run and linked up with Mackenzie Hawkesby out wide who had a superior angle. She put a good shot on target, but Hilary Beall in the Western goal was equal to it, jumping upwards and tipping the ball onto the crossbar and out.

Sydney had the upper hand for the rest of the first half. On numerous occasions they pinned Western into their defensive half and were just relentless, passing the ball around and trying different avenues of attack. But Sydney was unable to convert on any of their chances and Western United did just enough to stay out of trouble.

Above: Sydney FC turn away from Western United and maintain possession. Photo: Keep Up.

Not long into the second half, the deadlock was broken. In the 51st minute, Hawkesby in the midfield hit a good cross to Vine who played an immaculate through ball to Rachel Lowe. Lowe had made a fantastic run and done very well to stay onside and Vine’s ball set her up to go one on one with the keeper. She didn’t panic, remained composed, and tucked it past Beall to draw first blood for Sydney.

10 minutes later, Vine intercepted a poor pass in the midfield and ran through all the way to the goal line, and crossed a dangerous ball into the box. Western United failed to block or clear the ball and Lowe slotted in her second goal of the match.

Princess Ibini, who had been quiet in the first half, had been looking very threatening in the second. In the 81st minute, she decided to join the goalscoring party. She received a wonderful ball from Nat Tobin in the midfield, ran forward, and chipped the keeper. The ball hit the inside of the crossbar and bounced in. It was Ibini’s sixth goal of the season.

With 10 minutes to go, it seemed like Sydney would simply close out this emphatic win over Western United. But there were still a few more twists in the tale. A minute into stoppage time, Tobin received a second yellow card, resulting in an indirect red card and she had to leave the pitch. The decision puzzled a number of people on and off the field, most of all Tobin, who was confused about what she’d done to earn a second yellow.

Immediately prior to the booking, a Western player was tugging on Tobin’s shoulder. Tobin broke free, perhaps brushing the player in the chest with a stray arm, but certainly not with any force or malice. It was either that or backchat about the initial foul.

Above: Western United’s Jaclyn Sawicki and Sydney’s Nat Tobin contest possession. Photo: Keep Up.

Either way, it was a baffling decision by referee Lara Lee. Moments like this are evidence of why the A-League needs a low-tech VAR system or at the very least an external review process to get bad on-field decisions overturned (as was seen recently in the WSL with Ella Toone’s overturned red card).

A few minutes after the Tobin incident, Jada Whyman had a rough collision in the air with several players when she came out to collect a ball. She and Charlotte Mclean both received medical attention and were substituted due to injury. Despite all of the drama, Sydney managed to close out the match without conceding.

All in all, it was an exciting, but surprisingly one-sided clash. The first half was tight, but Sydney came out guns blazing in the second. Their accurate and quick passing, dynamic movement, and intent to move forward and attack proved too much for Western.

It was a stark contrast to their last meeting where Western United were pulling all of the strings. But they have looked like a completely different team ever since losing Chloe Logarzo and Jessica McDonald, who were a vital part of the team who dominated the first half of the season. It’s like if The Beatles lost John Lennon and Paul McCartney. They just don’t seem to be as sound in the midfield or have as many options in attack anymore.

Next Saturday, Western United will play Brisbane Roar away and Sydney FC will take on Wellington Phoenix at home.

Teams: SYDNEY FC (4-3-3): Whyman, Mclean, Fenton, De La Harpe, Hunter, Vine, Tobin, Hawkesby, Rule, Ibini, Lowe. Substitutes: Offer, Green, Collister, Dos Santos, Badawiya.

Scorers: Lowe 51’, 64’, Ibini 81’.

WESTERN UNITED (4-3-3): Beall, Beard, Cummings, Cerne, Sardo, A. Taranto, Sawicki, M. Taranto, Vlajnic, Keane, Steer. Substitutes: Dall’Oste, Iermano, Dakic, Jaber, Robers.

Referee: Lara Lee.

Attendance: 566.

Artwork: Charlotte Stacey, founder of On Her Side.

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