Sydney FC and Wellington both have big wins with different implications

Adelaide United 1-3 Wellington Phoenix

By Kieran Yap (29/3/23)

Above: Indiana Dos Santos becomes the fifth youngest scorer in league history. Photo: KeepUp.

Wellington Phoenix scored twice in the second half to beat Adelaide United 3-1. The Reds have endured a tough season, and the match against Wellington summed up much of their campaign.

It was not a bad performance by Adelaide, over the 90 minutes it was one of their best. But they were undone by the ball not falling their way when it mattered, and a masterclass by Millie Clegg.

Having played just days earlier, both sides made changes. Wellington made five to their starting lineup, while Adelaide welcomed back Ella Tonkin into defence.

The most decisive inclusion was 17-year-old playmaker Millie Clegg for the Phoenix. There have been growing calls to include her in the New Zealand World Cup squad and on Tuesday night she showed why.

Both teams started aggressively, but it was Wellington who opened the scoring, Clegg’s turn and shot on the edge of the area earned a corner kick. Chloe Knott rose highest to nod home Michaela Foster’s trademark delivery.

Adelaide hit back almost immediately. Emilia Murray had looked dangerous on the right flank early on, and the Young Matildas captain delivered a perfect cross from deep. Fiona Worts connected at the back post for her third and final goal of the season.

Adelaide continued to attack in the second half and probably controlled most of the play, but Wellington remained dangerous. Foster came close to retaking the lead with a vicious strike from long-range. The effort skimmed wide of Annalee Grove’s post.

Wellington’s second goal came from Clegg. Emma Main played a perfect pass beyond the Adelaide defence and Clegg sprinted clear. She rounded Grove calmly and finished into the empty net to make it 2-1.

Dylan Holmes came close with a stinging shot for Adelaide, and Maruschka Waldus almost scored from a header, but Wellington struck again.

Grace Wisnewski embarked on a surging run down the right. She cut inside and played the ball to Clegg who’s finish deflected off a defender and looped over Grove to seal the result.

The win will give Wellington a confidence boost heading into their final match with Melbourne Victory. With so many players pushing for a World Cup spot, they should not be taken lightly despite the lowly ladder position. There is still more than pride at stake for much of this young side.

Adelaide end the campaign in their worst position for three seasons. Although it would have been a frustrating one for the players, coach, and fans, it was not exactly a wasted year.

The Reds have seen steady progression over the past few campaigns and this year could be more of a bump in the road than a significant step backwards. They have unearthed some bright new talents like Murray, Sasha Coorey, and Katie Bowler.

Without Emily Condon for much of the season, they were missing one of their best players, and a fully fit Ella Tonkin would have made a big difference.

In a league with no relegation, risks can be taken, and when Adelaide assess this season, they should avoid panic. It was bad, but not a disaster.

Teams: ADELAIDE UNITED (4-3-3): Grove, I. Hodgson, Tonkin, Waldus, E. Hodgson, Holmes, Sasaki, Westland, Murray, Barbieri, Worts. Substitutes: McCormick, Bowler, Tolland, Coorey, Wilson

Scorer: Worts 21′.

WELLINGTON PHOENIX (4-3-3): Candy, Cicco, Barry, Taylor, Foster, Knott, Hassett, Wisnewski, Clegg, Lancaster, Pritchard. Substitutes: Vosper, walker, McMeeken, Edwards, Main.

Scorers: Knott 19’, Clegg, 75’, 90+6’.

Referee: Isabella Blaess.

Attendance: 694.

Sydney FC 4-2 Perth Glory

by Kieran Yap

Sydney FC now have one hand on the premiership after a dramatic 4-2 win over Perth Glory. The Wednesday night fixture was originally scheduled for Round 11, but when no ground could be located it was delayed until this week.

This was far from ideal for Perth Glory who had to travel across the country midweek, but made for a suitably dramatic game of football. The visitors had to win to keep a potential finals spot in their own hands. Sydney FC had to win in order to reclaim top spot with one game to play.

The home side were on the attack early on, their midfield and fullbacks swarmed Perth Glory’s and they created a series of great chances in the opening stages. Cortnee Vine was in unplayable form. The Matildas winger tormented the Perth defence who did very well to hold out as long as they did. Chances to Princess Ibini, Mackenzie Hawkesby and Vine all missed, but were warning signs for the visitors.

When the opening goal came, it was no surprise that Vine was the source. She cut outside of Isabella Foletta and cruised past Liz Anton. The cross flashed across goal and the ball touched back to 15-year-old Indiana Dos Santos. The youngster tucked away the ball with admirable composure to give her side the lead and become the fifth youngest scorer in A-League Women history.

Perth had spent the entire half performing desperate clearances and speculative long passes but were given a lifeline toward the end of the half. Hana Lowry was judged to have been fouled in the box by Sarah Hunter. She did not have possession and it was the only blemish on an otherwise perfect performance by Hunter, but Alana Jancevski was cool, and merciless from the penalty spot.

It looked like staying 1-1 at halftime, but Vine had other ideas. She received the ball on the wing, and upon looking up to see three defenders decided to cut through them all using a mix of pace, touch, and physicality. The finish across goal was as good as the build-up, it was a terrific solo effort.

Alex Epakis introduced Gabby Coleman and Cyera Hintzen at halftime, and Ella Mastrantonio throughout the half. All three made an impact, with Coleman scoring another equaliser for Glory.

Hannah Blake’s cross was slightly mis-hit but Jada Whyman struggled to deal with the high ball and Coleman bundled it home from point-blank range.

The pair almost combined again, when Coleman’s surging run for the right played in Blake, but Sarah Hunter was able to clear when a goal looked certain.

It would be Perth’s last real chance on goal. Madison Haley earned a controversial free kick in the 74th minute, but there was no confusion about the end product. Mackenzie Hawkesby’s free-kick caused havoc in the box, and Haley ghosted in at the far post to bury the strike past Morgan Aquino.

It gave Perth another mountain to climb with time ticking down. Perth became increasingly vulnerable on the counter-attack and  Princess Ibini made sure of the result late in the game with a cool finish for Sydney FC’s fourth.

The result means that Sydney FC only need one more win to capture their third consecutive premiership. It would be a massive achievement and they have played some terrific football to earn it. While much of the attention will rightfully go to the prodigious Dos Santos, Sarah Hunter, and Charlize Rule were both excellent in both defensive and attacking roles.

With Shay Hollman returning from national team duty, and to accommodate Dos Santos, Hunter has been shifted into the ‘six’ role and put in an excellent performance. She was calm in possession, disciplined without it, and may have made the clearance to change the course of the game.

It’s a tough outcome for Perth Glory. They require Melbourne Victory and Canberra United need to lose to potentially make the Finals, but even then it will come down to goal difference. The Western Australians face another away trip to the dangerous Brisbane Roar and it will be a tough task for the battle-weary side. But crazier things have happened this season, and they will not be losing hope yet.

Speaking after the game, Sydney FC head coach Ante Juric said: “We dominated the first half and our dominance showed in the second too. Viney is outstanding and has done it for three or four years, it’s no surprise to us, that’s her job out wide.  Today she had a particularly good game.”

Juric was also hugely proud of Indiana Dos Santos and believes she can be a star for years to come. “She’s excellent, when I first saw her a year ago she was playing in the 17’s and she is a gem of a talent and has developed well over the last couple of months and has taken her chance. She’s unbelievable for 15.”

Looking ahead to the club’s final game of the season at home to Newcastle Jets, Juric said: “We go out to win and next weekend the end result is the Premiership but we are focused on how we play and what we do, and the reward will be there if we get through.”

A thrilled Indiana Dos Santos reflected on her historic goal, saying: “It just meant the world, I just couldn’t believe it, I was going to start crying but I just had to focus on the game. “It shows all the hard work I’ve been putting in is finally paying off.”

Teams: SYDNEY FC (4-3-3): Whyman, Rule, Tobin, de la Harpe, Green, Hunter, Hawkesby, Dos Santos, Vine, Lowe, Ibini. Substitutes: Fenton, Haley, Hollman, Stajcic.

Scorers: Dos Santos 25’, Vine 45’, Haley 70’ Ibini 89’.

PERTH GLORY: (4-2-3-1): Aquino, Rigby, Anton, Carroll, Foletta, Cain, Lawrence, Blake, Lowry, Sakalis, Jancevski. Substitutes: McKenna, Hintzen, Langman, Mastrantonio, Coleman.

Scorers: Jancevski (pen) 45’, Coleman 58’

Referee: Casey Reibelt.

Attendance: 414.

Artwork: Charlotte Stacey, founder of On Her Side.

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