W-League League: Season 5 (2012 - 2013 Season)
By Zee Ko
'A Share of the Spoils! '
(Zee Ko was pitch side at Wembley Park (Box Hill South))
Melburnians always talk about how you might get four seasons in a day here, but it isn't till you experience a game under such ever-changing weather conditions do you realise what it's all about. Such was the case at Wembley Park on Saturday when Melbourne Victory and Sydney FC fought to a hard earned 1-1 draw.
As blazing sunshine gave way to overcast skies and fierce gusts of wind that made lobbed passes all but an exercise in futility, the two sides gave it a commendable go before settling for a share of the spoils. You could hardly blame them for a lack of effort, as even referee Peta Maccallum succumbed to the heat at halftime and failed to return for the second half.
Thing did not get off to the greatest possible start for Sydney as goalkeeper Sian McLaren was taken ill during the warm up and had to be replaced by backup custodian Shamiran Khamis.
Samantha Kerr had been warming up gingerly on her own apart from the rest of the team too, and took her place on the bench.
Victory's 2-1 win over Sydney in the reverse fixture earlier this season had been a watershed of sorts, the first time Melbourne had triumphed over their intra-city rivals.
A subsequent morale-sapping injury time loss to Brisbane Roar had done much to dampen talk of a Finals run, but there was the feeling that another win over the Sky Blues would get the campaign right back on track.
Sydney were not going to make things easy though, as some slack defending allowed Caitlin Foord plenty of time and space on the right flank four minutes into proceedings.
Victory head coach Mike Mulvey had opted for two strikers up front for the first time this season, ostensibly to allow the in-form Laura Spiranovic to pair up with American import Jessica McDonald.
However, the lack of wingers meant that the Victory flanks were left horribly exposed and Sydney duly capitalised early on with Stephanie Catley out of position and unable to prevent Foord from swinging an early cross-shot into the box.
Goalkeeper Brianna Davey was caught in two minds as the ball seemed to hang in mid-air, carrying further than seemed possible before dropping softly behind her and into goal for the opener.
The home crowd were stunned into silence for a split-second and then a roar of appreciation for the audacious effort from a nonplussed Foord as her teammates rushed over to offer their congratulations.
Foord's day took a turn for the worse soon after though, as a brave block on a Catley cross up the other end four minutes later left her sprawled in agony on the turf.
She bravely returned to the field of play after extensive treatment but was switched for Kerr on 18 minutes as her day came to a premature end.
Victory were upping the tempo by now, the swashbuckling Jessica Fishlock a commanding presence in the middle as she jinked this way and that and carved a swathe through the Sydney defenders.
The hosts would have been under instruction to test Khamis at every opportunity as the long range shots came in thick and fast, but the replacement custodian was equal to the task as many an effort whistled just over the crossbar.
McDonald did well to get off a snapshot in the 26th minute as a scrum developed in the Sydney box, her shot striking a Sydney defender's legs and going out for a corner kick.
Up stepped Petra Larsson as she sent the set piece delivery straight and true to the far post where the giant form of Maika Ruyter-Hooley was lurking.
The towering defender leapt highest for the ball and connected well enough as the header snuck over the line for a deserved equaliser to the home team.
The momentum had shifted with the equaliser as the marauding Victory attackers began to trouble the Sydney defence.
Larsson was laid low with an accidental elbow to the face in the 36th minute, but it didn't seem to affect her passing range three minutes later with a perfect through ball to Fishlock who swivelled and fired a shot narrowly over the bar.
Not a single Sydney defender had attempted to close down the diminutive Welsh national team captain, as the heat started to take its toll.
Victory almost went ahead six minutes before the break as Larsson's venomous strike from range crashed into the crossbar with Khamis well beaten, before Spiranovic had two shots blocked in the box and the ball was scrambled away to safety.
There was some drama at the halftime break as an ambulance was called for the referee, as the fourth official took up duties on the sideline.
Melbourne Victory wing back Enza Barilla also did not return for the second half and was replaced by Gόlcan Koca as the game got underway again.
As some cloud cover moved in and the wind become to pick up, the girls in navy and white once again had a gilt edged chance to take the game by the scruff of the neck, but McDonald's good work in luring away a defender was wasted as Amy Jackson fluffed a one-on-one chance against the Sydney goalkeeper in the box.
The visitors were starting to find their way back into the match, led by captain Kyah Simon, as she almost fashioned two chances in as many minutes.
She first robbed Ruyter-Hooley on the edge of the penalty area only for the ball to run wide, before her hopeful punt into the box was picked up by the win and almost wrongfooted Davey who had run out to collect.
A sweet one-two between her and Chloe Logarzo then bamboozled the Victory defence, only for the attack to break down as the final pass forward went out of bounds for a goal kick.
But in the end, neither side had anything much left in the tank as the final whistle blew, bringing an entertaining game to a close.
Player of the Match: Petra Larsson
Unlike her flashier counterpart Fishlock in midfield, Larsson prefers a more understated role in proceedings, sitting deeper and playing passes to the attackers in front of her. Opposition teams will have to ignore her at their peril though, as she showed a good understanding with her fellow midfielders on the day. That shot that hit the bar was quite something, and would have been a marvellous scorcher of a goal had it gone in.
Melbourne Victory Verdict:
It was an interesting tactic to change what had been a decent formation that worked so far this season, especially against a strong team like Sydney. Last week against Adelaide would have been a better opportunity, but Mulvey had preferred to play Spiranovic on the wing then. Fishlock was excellent once again, and only she will know how she managed to run around nonstop for ninety minutes in the extreme conditions. Victory will surely be wondering how they can keep hold of her after her guest stint runs out and failing that, how they will cope without her.
Sydney FC Verdict:
This is a team that should be doing significantly better than they are at the moment, considering the talent they have in their ranks. They allowed the opposition to dictate play for much of the game despite scoring first, and only really perked up in the last ten to fifteen minutes or so. Ellyse Perry was once again a no show after missing the reverse fixture earlier in the season. Foord should not have suffered any lasting damage, but it is vital that both her and Kerr are fit for the rest of the season.
A near capacity crowd at Wembley Park, with many locals turning up to see how the team was doing after two consecutive away trips. The football on display was excellent, and while three points were not achieved, they would have gone home happy with the effort shown by their team.
Details: Westfied Womens League, Round 8:
Brisbane Roar FC 2 (Tameka Butt 61, Katrina Gorry 86) - Perth Glory FC 2 (Kate Gill 35, Marianna Tabain 45)
By Zee Ko, at Wembley Park (Box Hill South) - Sat 8 December, 2012 [Photos by Zee Ko]
Crafted lovingly by hand © Magic Llama 2000 - 2013