The question of who would host the second semi-final of the 2016/17 W-League finals series came down to the final 30 seconds of the season with Perth Glory clinching the crucial home field advantage ahead of Sydney FC.
A meeting between the two sides in the semis is not an unfamiliar sight with the Glory meeting the Sky Blues in the 2014 semi final series with the then premiers cementing a home final with a comfortable 3-0 win. Will it be a case of history repeating or can Sydney FC turn the tables?
Coming to the 2015/16 season as premiers and grand finalists, Perth Glory – under new coach Bobby Despotovski – finished the season a disappointing second last. With personnel changes – including some key international recruits – the Glory started off their season with a strong 4-2 win over the Western Sydney Wanderers.
Led by their captain Sam Kerr and an attacking front third that included Rosie Sutton, Vanessa DiBernardo and Nikki Stanton, the Glory picked up regular points in the front half the season recording just the one loss to the Newcastle Jets (1-0) in Round 3. A six game unbeaten run on the middle portion of the season resulted in the Glory sewing up their finals spot in Round 9. It proved to be good timing as losses to Canberra United and Adelaide United followed before a Caitlin Doeglas 92nd minute goal lined up a home final.
Last season’s grand finalists, Sydney FC were looking to go one better after a sound beating in the end of season decider. It started well with the returning Caitlin Foord netting the first goal of the season against Brisbane Roar but the Sky Blues went on to lose the match.
Sydney too embarked on several unbeaten runs throughout the season with regular wins against potential top 4 opponents. The highlight for the Sky Blues was a scintillating display against eventual premiers Canberra United with Sydney claiming a 6-1 win. Like Perth, late losses in the season slowed down the Sky Blues momentum and they will be looking to return to the form that saw them lead the competition for the majority of Season 9.
The Good and key Players
With 22 goals apiece this season (equal second for the Top 4 teams), for both teams it is about their attacking third.
Perth Glory has arguably the Player of the Season within their ranks with Sam Kerr being the catalyst for much of Perth’s attacks this year. With 10 goals this season, the forward has stormed into the Top 5 of the all time leading W-League goalscorers. Kerr has been prolific with 74 shots on goal (38 on target) this season for her 10 goals. But it’s not just the goals that makes her so important, it is the creativity and her ability to provide for her teammates with Kerr creating 34 chances (moves that end in shots) and winning 3 penalties.
However to think it is all about the Matildas forward would be to underestimate the rest of the attack. Rosie Sutton has returned to the Glory and proved a perfect foil and strike partner. American Vanessa DiBernardo returned to the Glory for a second season and this time, with a fit Kerr in the team, Despotovski has been able to deploy the midfielder in her preferred number 10 role. Nikki Stanton and Alyssia Mautz have played key holding roles and provided the stability in the midfield and the link between the defence and attack that Glory sorely missed last season.
“They have been the dark horse this season. Credit to them they have worked hard to get to where they are,” Sydney FC midfielder Kyah Simon told the Daily Football Show.
“I have full trust in our defenders but also our attacking line and our attacking force that we can cause their defence trouble.”
“I think Sam Kerr is definitely a player to look out for as everyone knows,” said Sydney FC captain Teresa Polias. “I think limiting her input in the game will be a huge factor.”
While an old head has lead the Perth attack, for Sydney it has been the emergence of a new player that has been the surprise attacking threat for the Sky Blues. Teenager Remy Siemsen has surprisingly lead the Sydney FC attack this season with 6 goals from on and off the bench. The teenager has been reliable when called upon and relatively accurate with 6 goals from just 14 shots (10 on target).
Siemsen has not had to carry the goalscoring load on her own with more familiar Sydney names Kyah Simon (4) and Leena Khamis (4) also providing their share. The signing of Francisca Ordega in the back half of 2016 has added to the attack with the Nigerian international providing both pace and width
Under Dan Barrett, Sydney FC have continued to evolve into a more pragmatic team with measured build up (average a league leading 429 passes per game) interchanged with rapid counter attacks lead by the likes of Georgia Yeoman-Dale and Caitlin Foord. If Kerr is the X factor for Perth then Foord is that unpredictable, game changing player for Sydney. The 2016 AFC Player of the Year may have only netted the two goals this season, but she has ability to turn the game on its head with a surging run and goal.
“We won’t be changing too much other than obviously playing far better than we did last weekend,” said Simon. “But [we will be] sticking to the usual Sydney FC style of play and banging in some goals.”
“Look they have got 6 or 7 Matildas so there is a few [players to shut down] but there is a the same on our team,” said Sam Kerr.
“I think the main one is Caitlin Foord. She played here last year and is one of the best footballers in the world. “It depends where she plays – she can play at the back or up front – but I think we have the players to match her. They would be just as worried about our players.”
The Bad & Ugly
For most of the season both sides defences have held up reasonably well. However when the defence has an off day, they really have an off day with an ugly scoreline the result. For Perth it was a 7-2 loss to premiers Canberra and for Sydney it was a 5-1 loss to Adelaide (preceded by a 3-1 Newcastle loss).
The goalkeeper question will also be a big one. Perth have rotated between Melissa Maizels and Gabby Dal Busco. Both have their pros and cons but after ably keeping between the sticks, the youngster and pre-season number 2 Dal Busco seems to have received the nod late in the season. Limiting errors and standing up in a pressure situation will be a true test for the Young Matildas goalie.
As will the possible injection of Claire Coelho into the match day squad. Coelho was signed from the Newcastle Jets (as their season is finished) late in the week due to concussion received by Sham Khamis. Barrett has a key decision to make; choose the green and inexperienced Sky Blues number 2 Sarah Easthope (1 W-League game) or the slightly more experienced (10 W-League games).
At the centrepiece of the defences have been two standout centre backs in Ari Romero for Perth and Alanna Kennedy for Sydney. How these two perform on the day could have a big bearing on their respective team’s chances.
Where will it be won?
Whichever defence can hold up to the pressure will ultimately decide the game. Sydney FC will have to contend with the pace and Perth’s ability to counter-attack quickly from the wide areas. Whichever goalkeeper gets the nod will also have to contend with Perth’s continual peppering of the goal.
For Perth it will be about whether they can deny Sydney the ball. When Sydney have moved into their passing rhythms, their ball movement can open up sides and the Glory has already proven susceptible to the foot speed of players like Foord, Yeoman-Dale and Ordega.
None of these weaknesses will be new to either team, after all they have both seen one what happens when another team ruthlessly exposes and capitalises on them.
If it goes to extra time and penalties, with the players available on the bench, the advantage would shift to Sydney. With Siemsen, Ibini, Harrison and Price possible substitutes, the Sky Blues have the advantage in pedigree and experience.
- Sydney FC have made the semi finals in all eight previous seasons. Their record stands at 4 wins and 4 losses
- Perth Glory have made two previous semi finals with a record of 1 win and 1 loss
- Perth v Sydney is the highest scoring W-League encounter with 77 goals scored in 16 matches. An average of 4.8 goals per match.
- Sydney FC has the highest average possession per game (58%) of the Top 4 sides but the lowest Shots on target per game (4.3)
- Perth Glory has one of the lowest possession per game (50.6%) but the highest shots on goal (19.1).
- Glory also average 7 shots on target per game
- Glory are the highest tackling team in the Top 4 averaging 26 tackles per game
Perth Glory vs Sydney FC
Saturday, 4 February 2017
nib Stadium, Perth
Kick-Off: 3.30pm local (6.30pm AEDT)
TV Broadcast: Live coverage on FOX SPORTS 506 from 6.30pm (AEDT), Live coverage on ABC TV in WA from 3.30pm (AWST) and ABC TV in other states from 10.55pm (AEDT)
Perth Glory squad: 1.Melissa MAIZELS (gk), 2.Sarah CARROLL, 3.Kim CARROLL, 4.Alyssa MAUTZ, 5.Patricia CHARALAMBOUS, 6.Carla BENNETT, 7.Nicole STANTON, 8.Shawn BILLAM, 9.Rosie SUTTON, 10.Vanessa DIBERNARDO, 12.Roisin CONNOLLY, 13.JAYMEE GIBBONS, 14.Caitlin DOEGLAS, 17.Natasha RIGBY, 18.Gabby DAL BUSCO (gk), 20.Samantha KERR, 22.Arianna ROMERO **one to be omitted**
Ins: 7.Nicole STANTON (returns from suspension), 20.Samantha KERR (returns from suspension)
Sydney FC squad: 2.Teresa POLIAS (c), 3.Remy SIEMSEN, 4.Elizabeth RALSTON, 6.Servet UZUNLAR, 7.Nicola BOLGER, 8.Amy HARRISON, 9.Caitlin FOORD, 10.Francisca ORDEGA, 11.Natalie TOBIN, 12.Olivia PRICE, 13.Georgia YEOMAN-DALE, 14.Alanna KENNDY, 15.Sarah EASTHOPE (gk), 17.Kyah SIMON, 19.Leena KHAMIS, 20.Princess IBINI, 22.Claire COELHO (gk) **one to be omitted**
Ins: 11.Natalie TOBIN (promoted), 20.Princess IBINI (promoted), 22.Claire COELHO (gk) (new signing)
Outs: 1.Sham KHAMIS (gk) (concussion – 1 week)