Last season’s Champions Melbourne City are one step closer to their fourth consecutive finals appearance after defeating Sydney FC 2-0 on a windy Thursday night in Wollongong.
Not long afterwards, just as Sydney seemed to be working their way into the game, City were given a golden opportunity to take an early lead.
Elise Kellond-Knight, standing over a free kick just outside the box, played a sneaky pass into the path of Tameka Butt, who was bumped in her attempt to collect the ball. Penalty. Up stepped Japanese star Yukari Kinga, but after re-setting the ball twice due to the howling wind, she sent her spot-kick wide of the post.
The rest of the first half unfolded in much the same way: City controlled majority of the possession and tried to break down Sydney’s packed defensive unit. Spencer had the most joy for City down the right side, Catley worked her way into the game down the left, making several piercing runs through her markers and sending crosses into dangerous areas.
Sydney’s defence, though, held firm, clearing the ball anywhere they could as they continued to absorb City’s relentless pressure. The hosts had a few more chances to break, but tired legs and losses of concentration were evident, as a number of passes and crosses went astray.
Sydney were lucky to head into the sheds at half-time with the scores still locked at 0-0.
Unfortunately, Sydney weren't so lucky in the second half.
Despite running into the wind, City maintained their dominant possession and kept Sydney sitting deep, with Alanna Kennedy and her new centre-back partner Ally Green both making several outstanding blocks and interceptions as City continued edging closer towards goal.
Their relentless pressure would pay off in the 65th minute as City’s stand-out player Spencer made yet another charging run down the right and fizzed a cross across goal. Goalkeeper Aubrey Bledsoe palmed the initial ball away, but it fell right into the path of Yukari Kinga at the back of the six-yard box, who made up for her earlier penalty miss by slotting it into the net.
But City weren’t done yet.
A goal-mouth scramble almost saw them double their lead ten minutes later with Spencer once again the provider from the right wing. However, Sydney defender Amy Harrison made a crucial diving block on Kinga's follow-up shot, followed by two outstanding saves by Bledsoe before the ball was finally cleared.