Keane as mustard Western United make maiden Grand Final

Sydney FC 0-1 Western United

By Ben Carey (16/4/23)

Above: Hannah Keane celebrates with teammates after she scored the match-winning goal. Photo: Keep Up.

Western United beat Sydney FC in a tight contest on Sunday night in front of a vocal crowd at Allianz Stadium to advance directly to the A-League Women Grand Final in their first season in the competition.

Before the match, Sydney had won all four of their matches played in the stadium, scoring 13 goals, and had never conceded. But that imperious record did not rattle Western United at all, who took it to the Premiers.

The match started in an energetic fashion, with Western United pressing high from kick-off to put pressure on the Sydney defence, hoping for an opportunity or a mistake to capitalise on. But Sydney weathered the storm and began to wrestle control of the match back.

Cortnee Vine looked threatening early on in the match, but she was well-marked by Angie Beard. The Matilda had an injury scare during her national team duties earlier in the month, but thankfully it was just a cramp.

In the 15th minute, some sloppy defending from Western meant that Vine ended up with the ball in a dangerous position. She took a great shot at the goal, but Hillary Beall pulled out a strong save to deny her. Princess Ibini was in the perfect position for the follow-up, but she wasn’t ready for it. 10 minutes later, Vine intercepted a ball in the midfield, making a run into the box and taking another shot on goals, but it was saved once again by Beall.

In the 27th minute, totally against the run of play, Western launched an exceptional attack. It started with Emma Robers outfoxing a Sydney defender and passing out to Kahli Johnson who made a run down the right flank and hit an incredible cross into the box that found the Golden Boot winner Hannah Keane, who tapped it into the Sydney net past Jada Whyman. It was Keane’s 14th goal of the campaign.

But Sydney did not roll over, they kept playing their high-energy, attacking football, dominating possession, and creating chances. They had a flurry of chances just before halftime, but the Western defensive line was equal to each of them.

Just before the break, the visitors had to play their Get Out of Jail Free card. Beall came off her line to clear the ball and made a sloppy pass to her defender and the ball was easily intercepted by Rachel Lowe. Beall scrambled back as Lowe took a shot, but it drifted just wide of the goals. Western United breathed a sigh of relief.

In the second half, the match continued at a slightly lower tempo, but with Sydney still dominating proceedings and creating chances. Madison Haley made her presence known just minutes after being substituted on. In the 56th minute, Vine made a fantastic run but was cut off by a defender, so she cut the ball back to Haley, who took a shot but pushed it wide.

Just after the hour mark, a great corner from Mackenzie Hawkesby found the head of Haley who put the shot on target this time, but there was not enough power on it to trouble Beall. About 10 minutes later, an amazing pass from Haley up the field set up Rola Badawiya who took a cracking first-time shot which was parried away by Beall. A follow-up shot came from Nat Tobin, but Beall pulled out a great reflex save to deny Sydney yet again.

Sydney continued their relentless attack during the final 20 minutes of regulation time. Western United were able to withstand the pressure with solid defending and exceptional goalkeeping. There were eight minutes of stoppage time and they were frantic. Sydney kept pressing, but they couldn’t get any meaningful shots on target and Western did enough to deny them and close out the match with a win.

Above: Cortnee Vine (left) battles against Angie Beard today. Photo: Liberty A-League Women.

Sydney FC played a very good match. They defended very well and attacked relentlessly, with a total of 12 shots on goal, but they were unable to convert on any of the chances that they created. Western United on the other hand were far more clinical. They only had three shots on goal, but they were able to convert, which meant that their solid defending and goalkeeping could get them over the line.

Charlotte Mclean put in a phenomenal shift in the backline for Sydney. Ante Juric has been singing her praises all season long as the best defender in the league and she definitely showed it against Western United. She also created a goalscoring opportunity and took two shots at the goal up the other end. Vine put in a great shift as well, but she didn’t have the fitness to play the full 90 minutes, which hurt Sydney.

Up the other end of the pitch, there were a number of stellar performances for Western United. Johnson had a great all-round performance, providing the match-winning assist and creating several more chances. Angela Beard defended very well the whole match and was able to keep Vine relatively quiet down the left flank. And you can’t go past Beall, who made 12 saves against the Premiers to keep a clean sheet and give Western a big win.

By winning the match, Western United booked a ticket to their first-ever Grand Final, which will be played on April 30th. Sydney FC will face Melbourne Victory in the Preliminary Final next weekend, a rematch of the past two Grand Finals.

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

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

Scorers: Keane 26’.

Referee: Georgia Ghirardello.

Attendance: TBC.

Artwork: Charlotte Stacey, founder of On Her Side.

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