Sydney FC and Melbourne Victory, the two best teams in recent Liberty A-League history will clash this Saturday at Allianz Stadium with a place in the Grand Final on the line.
After meeting in the previous two Grand Finals and finding themselves on the losing side, Sydney FC will be looking to get one over their rivals Melbourne Victory this weekend as they chase the double.
After winning the Premiers Plate by being the most consistent side across the whole season, the Sky Blues earnt their second chance which they activated following last week’s defeat to Western United. It was a tough night at the office for the Sky Blues after they dominated much of the contest, created most of the chances, had more possession, but yet couldn’t find a way past Hillary Beale in the Western United net.
In front of goal they didn’t do much wrong apart from score, creating chances and getting into good areas, however they couldn’t see a route through to goal. The pleasing thing for Ante Juric will be the fact that they created plenty of chances at goal and it simply wasn’t their night.
Throughout the evening they had 26 shots and 12 of them were on target. It was the kind of performance that was akin to last season’s Grand Final against Melbourne Victory where Sydney had majority of the chances but failed to convert and ultimately were punished for that.
Melbourne Victory came through a tight season and only just scraped into finals after they drew all three of their last three games of the season. They had to rely on a favour from Melbourne City in the final game of the season to clinch the fourth and final spot in the finals.
Last weekend in the Elimination Final, they travelled across to the other side of Melbourne to take on Melbourne City and played out one of the all-time great Semi-Finals. Going behind early, Victory fought back to earn a two goal lead, all of which came from the boot of Melina Ayres who scored her 9th goal of the season. City scored two in reply including a 97th minute equaliser to force extra time.
Victory were reduced to ten after Amy Jackson was shown a second yellow for a foul on Rhianna Pollicina however they managed to see out the remainder of the time and force a penalty shoot-out. Melbourne Victory did not miss a spot kick with City seeing one cannon off the crossbar and another other saved by Casey Dumont.
It was a thrilling contest that ebbed and flowed however, the Sky Blues will be hoping that that encounter has drained Victory as they head to NSW for this clash.
The two sides have met twice this season with Sydney winning both matches, a 2-0 victory at Cromer Park in the second match of the season, and a 6-3 victory on Australia Day in Melbourne. Princess Ibini scored a hat-trick that afternoon and bizarrely, the Sky Blues also missed two penalties which could have made the score line much worse than what it was.
This time around, with finals pressure on the line, you expect the contest to be much tighter. Having won the previous two meetings in finals, Victory will be looking to play upon that hoodoo and stun the back to back Premiers at their own home once again.
With a place in next Sunday’s decider at CommBank Stadium on the line, there is plenty at stake for both teams and they will both be wanting victory as badly as one another. This is football that is not to be missed.
Ones to Watch
Cortnee Vine – Sydney FC
Ante Juric has managed to really get the best out of Cortnee Vine this campaign after she finished the season as Sydney’s 2nd best goal-scorer (7 goals) but also with the most number of assists at the club. Better still, Vine topped the assists charts for the league after she set up eight goals this campaign from 18 matches and created the most big chances in 14, with the next best being Chelsie Dawber’s 8. .
This season has been one to remember for Cortnee Vine after she cemented her spot in the Matildas team ahead of the FIFA Women’s World Cup and earnt the PFA Player of the Month award for March. She has created 53 chances and has scored half of her goals with her left foot, and half with her right. One of the strongest parts of her game is her dribbling and the fact that she has completed 38 successful dribbles this season.
After suffering from jet lag and injury, Vine only managed 60 minutes against Western United and she will be looking to have much more of an impact this weekend against Victory.
Melina Ayres – Melbourne Victory
What an end to the season Melina Ayres has had after she found the net a number of times to help push Victory into the finals equation. Last week she scored a hat-trick and became only the second player to do so in a Semi-Final after Sam Kerr. This season she has made 12 appearances and scored 12 goals, of which 9 have been with her left foot, two with her left and one with her head.
Having only started 10 matches in the regular season, Ayres boasts an impressive minutes per goal ratio of 97 and has created 10 chances for others.
Melina Ayres has scored in each of her last three matches, netting against Brisbane Roar, Wellington Phoenix and three times against City last week. If Sydney FC wish to progress to the Grand Final, they will have to prevent the 24 year old getting on the ball.
Sydney FC v Melbourne Victory
Liberty A-League Preliminary Final
Saturday 22nd April
Allianz Stadium, Sydney, NSW
Kick Off: 3pm AEST
Gates Open: 2pm AEST
Broadcast Live: Paramount+ & 10Play
Tickets: Click Here