In muggy overcast conditions Brisbane Roar came to Allianz Stadium and taught Sydney FC a lesson in a solid 3-1 win.
The opening game of the 2017/18 W-league season did not disappoint with the two old rivals delivering end-to-end action and plenty of goals.
The outcome was written early with an opening goal scored within 17 seconds by star Brisbane midfielder Katrina Gorry. Gorry’s beautiful finish from an Abby Lloyd cross stamped out any ideas that Brisbane Roar came to Sydney for anything other than 3 points.
Sydney FC had some moments of rallying after the early goal but looked far from scoring. With many players out of their natural positions and missing attackers Lisa De Vanna and Remy Siemsen it was tough going for the sky blues in the first half.
Georgia Yeoman-Dale and Leena Khamis unable to get organised and link up well with Amy Harrison and Julia Vignes on the attacking wings. Sydney FC looked fit and showed hustle but sloppily turned over possession time and time again. Without the ball at their feet Sydney were forced to chase which is not their style and they looked uncomfortable across the park.
Chloe Logarzo and Harrison both looking dangerous at times but the latter worryingly pulled up with a limp after landing heavily which took energy from the game and she was later subbed.
Adding to these issues in the attack was a lack of aerial defence from Sydney in the box. With Sydney being so easily beaten on the wings they needed to protect the air in the 18 yard box but defenders Caitlin Cooper, Rachael Soutar, Lizzie Ralston and ‘keeper Sham Khamis were often not aggressive enough clearing the danger.
Critically Brisbane Roar were able to again penetrate Sydney’s defence just before halftime scoring a second goal. A magnificent cross from standout Hong Kong international Wai Ki Cheung found Allira Toby who fumbled the ball beyond Sham Khamis.
A comeback for Sydney was looking unlikely going into the half trailing Brisbane 2-0.
The second half saw a change with US women’s national team and Portland Thorns defender Emily Sonnett taking the field for Sydney and her impact was immediate. Sonnett confidently able to run the ball through the midfield from the centreback position, she put Roar on notice.
Sydney FC’s possession and positioning in the early part of the second half was a vast improvement but still they did not look like overcoming the physicality of Clare Polkinghorne nor the smarts of Mackenzie Arnold in goals.
A Summer O’Brien high foot on Leena Khamis in the box was (eventually) deemed to be a penalty which finally opened a door for Sydney to rally at the 80th minute. Sonnett, on debut with the Sky Blues, stood on the spot and calmly put the penalty away.
Sydney were back in the game only briefly when just a few minutes later another glorious Brisbane Roar cross was headed over Sham Khamis by Allira Toby. Toby, having an absolute blinding performance, produced a fade-away header that was pinpoint and a well-earned brace was secured.
Brisbane Roar leading 3-1 with only 7 minutes remaining the momentum was taken out of Sydney’s post-goal comeback before it even started.
Lots of lessons for Sydney FC from this game but nothing the group cannot resolve once the full squad is available. Plugging the defensive gaps on the wings will help to avoid the issue of Khamis and the centrebacks not winning the balls in the air.
Lessons also for Roar who must stay alert despite taking home the 3 points away from home. Roar were notably caught out behind their lines on occasion. A striker of De Vanna’s quality would have punished them for these errors.
Sydney FC will rue the missed points as they now face an extra tough few rounds. The sky blues are travelling away to Newcastle and Canberra for Round 2 and 3 before heading back to Allianz Stadium to battle Melbourne City.
Sydney FC 1 (Sonnett 80′ pen)
Brisbane Roar 3 (Gorry 1’, Toby 37′, 84′)