Sydney slide through on sopping pitch

By Stephen Webb:

Westfield W-League Season 2014-15
Week 12
Lambert Park, Leichhardt, Sydney
Saturday 6 December, 5 pm

Sydney FC 2 (Amy Harrison 22’, Kyah Simon 78’ pen) drew with Newcastle Jets FC 2 (Rhali Dobson 50’, Tara Andrews 67’)


Sydney FC have secured their place in the Westfield W-League finals, keeping afloat with some desperate defending against Newcastle while literally keeping afloat on Lambert Park’s waterlogged synthetic pitch.

When the fiercest of kicks often couldn’t move the ball more than a metre, it took ingenuity from Kyah Simon to get the ball in the air and win the penalty that kept Sydney’s hopes alive.

The game began before the afternoon storm reached Leichhardt. Sydney attacked early, winning a corner and then Jasmyne Spencer shooting across the face of goal.

Captain Teresa Polias mopped up Newcastle’s counter attacks until Tara Andrews collided with her. Polias was injured and returned to the pitch after treatment, with Sydney awarded a free kick.

Samantha Johnson turned over the ball and Newcastle had three crosses and shot from 20 metres, wide to the right of goal.

It took several minutes before Sydney again got the ball out of their own half and even then it was Servet Uzunlar kicking long and out, so Newcastle recommenced applying the pressure, winning a free kick from the left and a corner from the right.

In the tenth minute Sydney cleared long and Newcastle came again, Renee Rollason stopping Rhali Dobson. Newcastle won another free kick and Johnson headed clear. Angela Salem took the corner for Newcastle, headed over by Hayley Crawford.

Sydney got away briefly and Spencer attempted a fanciful shot. Amy Harrison went down in the Newcastle box but there was no penalty.

Rollason fouled Victoria Huster on the right sideline and Emily Van Egmond kicked too long.

Newcastle were still on top of Sydney as the skies overhead grew darker.

The visitors switched the ball right to left before playing back for Salem to shoot wide. Then the ball was squared right to centre for Georgia Yeoman-Dale to fire at Casey Dumont.

Sydney countered and Spencer hit a decent shot from the top right of the box that called a good save from Hannah Southwell. The corner was cleared but Harrison volleyed home to put Sydney in the lead. The goal was Sydney’s 200th in the W-League, and made Sydney the first club to reach that mark.

With renewed confidence, Sydney went forward again, Polias breaking but giving Chloe Logarzo too long a chase.

Teigen Allen made an athletic clearance on a cross from Yeoman-Dale, who Sydney was allowing way too much room on the right.

svn allen

In the 27th minute the rain came and Sydney kept the ball for a few minutes around the Newcastle penalty area before defending again. Uzunlar cut out a cross looking for Andrews.

Dumont came far out of her area to stop Huster reaching a long ball.

svn dumont

Sydney were stringing some passes together before the 38th minute when Van Egmond robbed Rollason and put Huster through on goal. Polias, chasing back, just got a toe to the ball, putting off Huster until Allen made it safe.

Polias was hurt again, fouled by Huster, and Sydney had the free kick. Then Yeoman-Dale cleaned up Polias.

There was more unwanted penalty box action for Sydney as they struggled to clear after a Newcastle free kick. Relief came when Newcastle were pulled up for a foul on Dumont.

As the rain tipped down, fouls also came thick and fast.

The first period ended with action in both halves, though Newcastle were more successful at penetrating their opponent’s penalty area.

Water started accumulating on the surface at half time, though that was probably not an excuse for Sydney giving away a penalty (Dumont fouling Tara Andrews) in the 47th minute, nor for Van Egmond to put her kick wide right.

And it wasn’t an excuse for Allen to leave Dobson in too much space in the left of the Sydney penalty area a few minutes later. Dobson took the ball on a cross from the right, cut in across Allen and scored easily inside the left upright.

svn dobson

But the condition of the pitch did then become problematic for both sides looking for a winner (or for Sydney just to keep the ball away from their goal). In many areas of the pitch the ball wouldn’t bounce or run. It was like playing in a shallow wading pool. And it only got worse as the game splashed on.

Rollason had a free kick 25 metres from goal but hit it high and wide.

Elizabeth Copus-Brown took the ball down the right and crossed to Dumont, who soon had to catch a long shot from Huster.

In the 54th minute, with both sides struggling to cope with the ball on the squelchy surface, Nicola Bolger was replaced by Simon. Simon, having seen the futility of trying to pass along the ground, attempted to shoot from 40 metres.

Referee Kirralee Andruschak called a halt for a ten-minute pitch inspection, during which time the pitch became more sodden. But the game continued, for the interest of the fans if not for the pleasure, comfort or sanity of the players.

Newcastle won another corner, Dobson again got the better of Allen and crossed, and Newcastle had a shot from the right of the box.

Van Egmond shot wide.

Where before it was possible to move the ball by flicking it, now players had to scoop it out of the water. Frantically kicking at it was serving Sydney’s defence no purpose.

svn servet

Newcastle, however, managed to loft the ball for Tara Andrews to rise and head home at the left post.

Allen earned a caution for fouling Dobson and Newcastle had a free kick 25 metres from goal. Salem couldn’t lift the ball but neither could Sydney clear.

Chloe Logarzo, injuring her knee in a clash with Katherine Reynolds, was replaced by Alesha Clifford. Clifford’s height and heading ability turned out to be handy as Newcastle dropped long balls into Sydney’s box as the game drew to its frantic conclusion.

Natalie Tobin belted a shot over the crossbar from 30 metres and then Simon … on the right edge of Newcastle’s penalty area with Reynolds to beat and Salem closing in, paused, thought “What to do?” and then did. Flicked the ball up an over Reynolds, ran into the box and was brought down in a Salem-Reynolds sandwich.

svn simon 1

Simon took the penalty. Southwell was rooted to the turf as Simon struck true.

Newcastle responded with a long bomb that Dumont just managed to touch over. From the corner, Amber Neilson shot high.

Newcastle won another corner and Dobson made a great run into the box from the left, before being surrounded by blue shirts.

With most of the pitch inundated but parts of one side and the Newcastle box playing less spongy, nothing was predictable. Would the ball stick or skid? Is the kicking the ball an option or not? Sydney realised it was worth sending balls down the left for Spencer to chase. Newcastle sent four players after her but it kept Newcastle away from Sydney’s goal.

In stoppage time Simon latched onto a ball from Polias and hit a cracker from the top right corner of Newcastle’s penalty area; it was no problem for Southwell to take.

On the final whistle Sydney’s players were doubly relieved. To have the point. And to finish the bemired torment.

Newcastle played better and adjusted (slightly) better to the conditions. But Sydney got bodies behind the ball and slugged away to keep the black and white stripes at bay.

It was ugly but strangely fascinating.

And it means on December 14 Sydney will visit nib Stadium, Perth, to take on Perth Glory in the Westfield W-League 2014-15 Semi-Final 1.

Match stats

Sydney FC:
1. Casey Dumont (gk), 2. Teresa Polias, 5. Jasmyne Spencer, 6. Servet Uzunlar, 7. Nicola Bolger (17. Kyah Simon 53’), 8. Amy Harrison (13. Trudy Camilleri 57’), 10. Renee Rollason, 11. Natalie Tobin, 12. Chloe Logarzo (4. Alesha Clifford 74’), 15. Teigen Allen, 16. Samantha Johnson
Substitute not used: 21. Sian McLaren (gk)
Yellow card: Teigen Allen 69’

Newcastle Jets:
1. Hannah Southwell (gk), 2. Georgia Yeoman-Dale, 3. Hayley Crawford, 5. Katherine Reynolds, 6. Angela Salem, 7. Tori Huster, 9. Tara Andrews, 10. Emily van Egmond, 11. Rhali Dobson, 15. Elizabeth Copus-Brown (8. Amber Neilson 70’), 16. Cassidy Davis
Substitutes not sued: 20. Claire Coelho (gk), 12. Sophie Nenadovic, 24. Brooke Miller
Yellow cards: Georgia Yeoman-Dale 41’, Angela Salem 86’

Referee: Kirralee Andruschak
Assistants: Sarah Ho and Lily David
Fourth Official: Katie Patterson

Best players:
3. Teresa Polias (Sydney FC)
2. Victoria Huster (Newcastle Jets)
1. Rhali Dobson (Newcastle Jets)

Report and photographs by Stephen Webb