Brisbane women keep hopes alive in sweltering Gosford
By Corinthian (Paul Green):
Westfield W-League – Season 8 – 2015/2016 – Round 10
2:15pm, Sunday 20th December 2015 – Central Coast Stadium, Gosford
Sydney FC 0
Brisbane Roar FC 3 (Tameka Butt 19’, Alanna Kennedy 38’ o.g. , Clare Polkinghorne 63’)
Sydney FC have not made the best of starts to the 2015-16 Women’s League season. Well, it’s almost over before it started, as the nine teams don’t even play one another twice before the Finals Series kicks in.
There’s no doubt about who’s going to host the Grand Final this season, with Melbourne City so far ahead that we can all put away the glasses, even if they lose their remaining matches, assuming they still win their other game or games during the knock-out stages.
But beating the former Melbourne Heart has proven beyond every side they’ve faced so far, although one or two did go close to holding them to a draw at least.
In this game the hitherto unheralded Brisbane Roar knew that they needed a result, if their Finals’ hopes were not to disappear entirely and they came out firing against a Sky Blues’ team which would have normally been expected to make the Finals untroubled.
That’s by no means certain this time around, though, as Melbourne City have essentially moved the goalposts and former giants like Sydney, Melbourne Victory and Canberra United have been left floundering to some extent.
Sydney FC were admittedly playing away from their normal home ground of Lambert Park, forming the curtain-raiser to the Central Coast Mariners-Brisbane Roar A League game.
Brisbane had begun the season without a number of their better players from past campaigns and a focus on rebuilding was the best way to describe the reasons for their slow start to their latest quest for glory.
They’d only won two of their previous seven going into this game, with a negative goal difference of nine, while Sydney had won four of their own nine matches played and drawn one.
Under oppressive conditions, as forecast a temperature of 33 degrees greeted the women as they took the field for the warm-up and it never wavered from that by more than one degree at any stage, once the game kicked-off at 2.15pm.
Brisbane might be a little more familiar with the sultry weather than the Sydney team, though it’s not unusual for the time of year in NSW for it to be this hot.
Going ahead with the game was not in doubt, we were told, as the breeze off Brisbane Water at the southern end was expected to provide sufficient relief for the participants.
Two drinks’ breaks were scheduled, midway through each half, with the game played at a steady pace, even in the conditions.
After a very early corner for Sydney FC, the game was more or less controlled by the Roar side for the entire match.
Two minutes in and Sydney FC’s Matildas’ defender, Alanna Kennedy, nearly put a cross from the right by Emily Gielnik into her own net.
The ball sliced off her boot and flashed just wide of the near-post, to the relief of Sydney keeper, Michelle Betos.
Brisbane continued to press hard, with corners and free-kicks coming their way, Katrina Gorry leading strongly from midfield, accompanying Tameka Butt and Ayesha Norrie, in support of a three-strong front-line.
The thrust of Brisbane’s attack came through Gorry, as much as anyone, though the wide players were always in the thick of the action, too.
Chances came and went in the opening 15 minutes or so, with Gabrielle Marzano almost getting there in time to slot home Gorry’s cross from the right in the eighth minute.
The break came, however, in the 19th ,when Gielnik again got the ball over to the near-post, a superb angled cross that Butt converged on to slide past Betos with perfect timing.
Sydney tried to make some headway in the match, before things got too far out of hand, a long-range speculative shot from skipper, Teresa Polias, in the 21st, testing Roar keeper, Haley Kopmeyer, who claimed the high ball just under her crossbar.
Kennedy also tried one in the 31st with a free-kick from deep, but while, to the naked eye, the ball appeared to have found the net, the optical illusion didn’t fool the Brisbane team, who knew that the powerful shot had flashed just wide.
Then, after more Brisbane pressure, Gielnik again caused panic in the Sydney defence with another of her clever crosses.
This time, unfortunately for the nominal home side, Kennedy tried to clear unsuccessfully and the ball flew high into her own net.
That would be enough to lower the spirits of any side, but Sydney came back strongly with never-say-die midfielder Jasmyne Spencer jumping as high as she could to try and head in a cross from the left, as first-half stoppage-time ticked away.
The diminutive Spencer made a valiant attempt at the far-post, but just couldn’t find the extra spring in her step that was needed to reach the high cross.
Brisbane remained on top after the break, forcing four corners in the first 15 minutes.
Sydney threw on Princess Ibini, after 57 minutes, along with Olivia Price, giving Sunny Franco and Nicola Bolger some relief from the blazing sun.
Ibini was into the action almost immediately and certainly helped lift her side going forward, making a strong run on the hour mark, then feeding Spencer, whose cross just eluded the hard-working Kyah Simon.
A minute later Ibini’s curling shot from just outside the area went narrowly over the bar.
After that, however, Brisbane extended their lead to 3-0 in the 63rd, after a well-taken free-kick from Norrie on the left found defender Clare Polkinghorne, whose first-time header sizzled into the Sydney net.
Sydney had a couple of chances after that, but the damage had already been inflicted by a rampaging Roar side.
Simon set up Spencer for a heading chance in the 65th, but while this time Spencer managed to connect, her header came back off the crossbar.
Roar’s 75th minute substitute, Corrie Vine, almost made it 4-0 in the first minute of stoppage-time, but a smart save from Betos denied her that moment of glory, from off the bench.
Brisbane thus clambered off the bottom of the ladder and along with Western Sydney Wanderers, Newcastle Jets and even second-last Perth Glory, now have an outside chance of making the Finals after all.
Sydney have it all to do, still, with no chance of making it to second and with it a prized home fixture at the knock-out stage, but still needing a couple more wins to secure their anticipated top-four spot.
The Sky Blues have only one home game left, a tricky one against Newcastle Jets, and have to travel twice to Melbourne, their final game against Melbourne City the toughest by far.
Brisbane Roar must now win all of their remaining games to keep the pressure on the improving Adelaide United and Sydney FC.
The win in this game was crucial for them and there was no doubt that they went about things in the most determined fashion.
Attendance: 250 approx
Sydney FC: 1 Michelle BETOS (gk); 2 Liz ALSTON (16 Hannah BACON 81’), 14 Alanna KENNEDY; 15 Teigen ALLEN, 6 Teresa POLIAS (c), 8 Amy HARRISON; 7 Nicola BOLGER (12 Olivia PRICE 57’), 19 Leena KHAMIS; 5 Jasmyne SPENCER, 17 Kyah SIMON, 4 Sunny FRANCO (9 Princess IBINI 57’)
Sub not used: 18 Shamiran KHAMIS (rgk)
Yellow cards: Teresa Polias 81; Red cards: Nil
Coach: Daniel Barrett
Brisbane Roar: 1 Haley KOPMEYER (gk); 15 Ruth BLACKBURN, 4 Clare POLKINGHORNE (c); 14 Summer O’BRIEN (18 Maili FORBES 86’), 8 Ayesha NORRIE (12 Alisha FOOTE 71’),6 Angela BEARD; 13 Tameka BUTT, 10 Katrina GORRY; 17 Emily GIELNIK, 3 Amy CHAPMAN, 7 Gabrielle MARZANO (9 Cortnee VINE 75’)
Sub not used: 20 Carrie SIMPSON (rgk)
Yellow cards: Summer O’Brien 30, Katrina Gorry 50; Red cards: Nil
Coach: Belinda Wilson
Referee: Kate Jacewicz
Assistants: Allyson Flynn and Sarah Wikeley
Fourth Official: Kelly Jones
Ratings and points
Players noted: Sunny Franco (SFC) Jasmyne Spencer (SFC), Teresa Polias (SFC), Katrina Gorry (BR), Clare Polkinghorne (BR), Summer O’Brien (BR)