Story and photo by Ann Odong
Reigning Westfield W-League champions Sydney FC have earned the right to defend their title following a clinical 5-1 win Sunday over the Melbourne Victory at Campbelltown Stadium. The victory sets up a mouth-watering grand final replay between Sydney and semifinal one winners Brisbane Roar on Saturday, Feb. 12.
In front of their home crowd, Sydney FC made a confident start, launching wave after wave of attack. The pressure finally told in the 26th minute when Melbourne captain and goalkeeper Melissa Barbieri made an uncharacteristic mistake. Playing out from the back, the Matildas’ captain misdirected her pass into the path of Leena Khamis. With Barbieri off her line, Khamis deftly lobbed her to put Sydney ahead.
Although behind, Melbourne were not deterred, and three minutes later the Victorians were level. Again, errant passing was the culprit with Caitlin Friend picking up the loose midfield ball. In space, the forward played in speedster Stephanie Catley. Muscling her way past the Sydney defense, Catley finished beautifully on her left foot to equalize. However, 10 minutes, later Sydney took the lead when a goalmouth scramble saw the ball ricochet onto the hand of Melbourne defender Maika Ruyter-Hooley. The referee quickly pointed to the spot and Severt Uzunlar had no problem stepping to give her team a 2-1 halftime lead.
It was a tight battle for dominance in the second half with both sides having chances in the opening 30 minutes. Victory substitute and former Oregan State forward Jodie Taylor caused problems for the Sky Blue’s defense while Khamis again went close. The stalemate was broken in the 74th minute when a neat one-two between Sydney captain Kylie Ledbrook and Kyah Simon put the latter in space. Cutting inside, the Golden Boot winner finished clinically despite a slight deflection off Barbieri. A minute later, Ledbrook was again in the play this time teeing up Khamis who scored her double. Nicola Bolger capped off a memorial day for the defending champions when she netted the fifth with two minutes left in the game.
After hanging up her gloves on a football career that only reached the heights she could jump, Ann Odong has turned her attention to reporting and supporting the game she loves. Ann will be looking at the game down under as well as examining those behind the game.