Lakeside Stadium was treated to a spicy performance today at The Big Blue, with the drama curtailed at 2-2.
Both sides entered the match with an understanding that the outcome would have definitive consequences. A win for Sydney could inch them closer to the coveted top four, whilst a win for the home side would mean solidifying both premier and finals chances.
In turn, the game was intense, competitive and physical. The first half was busy with turnovers and chances.
In the first ten minutes, a penalty was awarded to Sydney when Chloe Logarzo toppled in the box after contact from Laura Alleway.
Casey Dumont saved the resulting spot-kick from Caitlin Foord, shocking the crowd and keeping the score-line 0-0.
A determined Sydney side, powered by attackers Princess Ibini and Foord, kept Victory on their toes. However, the forwards may have been cut off at the source.
Season star Savannah McCaskill seemed to be stifled out of her usual role as smart playmaker. Whilst some of signature balls found their way through the defence, for the most part she was locked out. However, her set plays remained dangerous.
It was off one of her free kicks that resulted in Sydney’s lead in the 36th minute. The free floated to Ibini and Dumont was unable to completely smother the ensuing shot. Centre back Alanna Kennedy reacted instantly and volleyed in the remains. She followed her goal with a tribute to Socceroo Awer Mabil.
️⚽️ | A touching goal celebration from @AlannaKennedy in tribute to @awermabil17's family, as your Sky Blues took a first half lead at Lakeside Stadium!— Sydney FC (@SydneyFC) January 27, 2019
Second half coming up, #WatchWithUs LIVE streamed on the My Football Live App...#SydneyIsSkyBlue #ComeWithUs #BigBlue pic.twitter.com/2wOpgGPOEJ
The final third was a problem area for Victory. Midfield trio Dani Weatherholt, Christine Nairn and Ella Mastrantonio maintained control over the centre of the park, providing a more cohesive performance than their opponents. Yet, scrappy passes and mistimed runs left the side goalless in the first half.
Emily Gielnik – initially a little shaky - came out firing in the second. Many of Victory’s attempts came from slow build up in the box. In contrast, Natasha Dowie tucked back and held the ball up, feeding Gielnik out on the right. The striker cut in and unleashed from a tight angle.
On her performance, Gielnik said “I had so many good chances, and I wasted a lot of good opportunities… I feel like we should have put a lot more away than we did.”
The high was cut short as Sydney responded less than two minutes later. Logarzo skilfully brought down a high ball from Foord and knocked it in, the shot bouncing down off the crossbar.
Once again Victory came from behind, with captain Dowie nabbing the second equalising goal in the 77th minute. Mastrantonio played her in just outside the 6 yard, with Dowie making the turn-and-shoot manoeuvre look easy.
Things did not slow down in the final 20 minutes, with both Sydney’s Lisa De Vanna and Victory’s Melina Ayres injecting energy into the game. Both defences demonstrated grit, ultimately preventing any more goals slipping through.
“It was one of those games, back and back, neck and neck,” Gielnik noted. “Everyone had it out for each other… no one was friends on the field, but it was fun.”
The draw sees Victory through the semi-finals for the first time since 2014. They are top of the table, separated from Brisbane Roar on goal difference. Next Friday, they will face off with finals contenders Perth Glory at Dorrien Gardens, kick off 7pm local time.
Sydney – currently on equal footing with Perth – will have to win against City at to guarantee their spot. They will host the game on Thursday night at WIN Stadium, kick-off 7.30pm.