Match Day Monday – Semi Finals

On YouTube there are a bunch of videos of previous FIFA Women’s World Cups, I thought it was time to educate myself on the history of our game, so I watched them. One thing that stuck out to me was a referee claiming during an interview that semi-finals are often more intense than even the grand final. Gee, did that sentiment end up ringing out true. For both games! Both were always bound to be tense because all four teams have shown throughout the season they are worthy, big game competitors.

One game saw a red card, five goals and the dreaded extra time, ultimately seeing Sydney FC secure a spot in the final and Newcastle Jets bowing out after a valiant fight. The other game let witness the strength of being a “big game” club and the midfield battle of the season, seeing Melbourne City pip Brisbane Roar to make it through for a date with destiny against Sydney FC in the grand final.

 

Sydney FC v Newcastle Jets

A storm was brewing, not just on the field, but in Hobart. With that storm brought the Foxtel outages at my Dad’s place, where I had decided to watch the game. The first five minutes of sketchy phone streams and Foxtel, eventually settled down so I could get to watching this important game.

Despite a strong start from Newcastle, it was an early goal by Caitlin Foord, whose fancy footwork fooled young defender Natasha Prior, put Sydney FC ahead on eight minutes. A goal down and the Jet’s continued to press high on the Sydney defence, with Sydney often resorting to a the long ball, trying to get in behind the Jet’s defence.

Eventually the rhythm of the game settled, Newcastle’s high press started to drop off and Sydney found themselves with a lot more possession. After a couple of good opportunities going forward, that wasn’t the old clear from the back and hope for the best, Sydney finally got another breakthrough through by none other than the ever reliable Kylie Ledbrook. The goal was a cracker, thundering in under the crossbar from the outside of her left foot. The replay made it look even better.

With two goals down, further problems were to arise for Newcastle. A trip up of Lisa De Vanna by Hannah Brewer, resulted in Brewer being on the receiving end of the referee’s red card. Even for this Sydney FC supporter, a red card seems incredibly harsh here. Brewer wasn’t the last defender, with Prior right by the tackle, and there was no maliciousness or danger to the players.

Half time meant, Sydney heading in cruising with two goals up, Newcastle left with only ten players on the field and an injury Foord meaning she missed the second half action for Sydney, plus is ruled out for a while with a foot injury. I would also like to point out it was here my Dad said the famous last words in reply to the halftime “this half had everything call”, by claiming “good thing that because the second half will have nothing”.

Enter the second half. Newcastle demonstrate their fight, by pulling back an goal early. The Sydney FC defence was caught ball watching a deep, Emily Van Egmond corner, which landed perfectly for American Arin Gilliland to head home into the back of the net. With no Foord on the field, Prior had a much easier time in defence for Newcastle. Meanwhile further up the field, Emily Van Egmond was running rings, and somehow managed to be everywhere on the field in an attempt to get Newcastle level.

For Sydney, they looked content to keep a hold of the current score and not capitalise on the extra player by means of another goal. Instead they threw away opportunities to bury the game, especially on the 80th minute where De Vanna had an opportunity but decided to have a shot, rather than pass the ball one more time to Julia Vignes who had an open net, which resulted in an off target shot under pressure and a bunch of frustrated Sydney supporters.

Sydney were to rue what could have been. Newcastle with barely any time left, managed to get the best of the mess the Sydney defence left with the ball being bounced around close to the goal, for Tara Andrews to comfortably slot in an equaliser. This was a time to look away if you’re a Sydney fan. It was a mess. I’ve no idea how it got to a Newcastle equaliser at that point, but flaming heck.

So here we are, the thing players and fans all wish against. EXTRA TIME. How? I’m still reeling on how. Look honestly? Newcastle just had more guts and determination in that second half. The moment Foord didn’t return to the field in the second half, Sydney lost their sting up top and became complacent.

It was always going to be a tough battle for Newcastle to go through an entire half a player down, then to carry on that intensity and drive for a further half an hour to see out Sydney. In the end it did prove to be too much, Sydney got the break through in the first half of extra time.

Boy was (soon to be) winner for Sydney a beautiful sight! The Jet’s had just had a corner dealt with by Sydney goalkeeper, Aubrey Bledsloe, who released the ball to Emily Sonnett, who made a bulldozing run through the guts of the field, box to box to then coolly pass the ball to Lisa De Vanna to slot home. Sonnett’s run was a thing of beauty, free roaming centre backs, who make stuff happen. Who wouldn’t get behind that? (Besides Newcastle supporters right now, I’m sorry. But I’m sure you guys can recognise the art of all of this).

The rest of extra time was edge of your seat. Both teams had opportunities, because apparently tired players equal a heap of scoring opportunities. Each time the Jet’s got a corner or Stengel got a shot off outside of the box, I was thinking to myself “dear god, not again”. Meanwhile Sydney were finally making use of the extra player and utilising some of the available width that allowed.

Finally the game finished, 3-2 to Sydney. Last week’s prediction thursday I predicted Sydney would win 3-2 with a Lisa De Vanna winner. I didn’t realise how much I wanted to be proved wrong until this actually happened. My heart barely dealt with it. BUT SYDNEY FC ARE GOING TO THE FINALS!!!! So in the end, I’ll take it, because we live to play again next week in the game that matters most.

Final Result: Sydney FC 3 – 2 Newcastle Jets
Brisbane Roar v Melbourne City

I was not prepared for another game after yesterday’s Sydney/Newcastle game. But the moment I heard the Brisbane supporters group singing sweet, sweet chants through my TV screen, I was reminded this game was a new one, without the emotional attachment of supporting Sydney FC. So I decided to woman up and settle in to watch who else was to make this season’s grand final.

Early on there were a few things that seemed obvious for this game. One, the pitch seemed much smaller than other venues, which isn’t ideal for a Brisbane side who rely on Hayley Raso and Emily Geilnik to stretch defences with the width they provide. Secondly, this game was going to be a brutal midfield battles. Right from the start, players were flying into tackles, determined to win the ball, with no team clearly gaining the advantage.

Brisbane seemed to have the best of the chances in the first half, although when City had the ball around the box their passing looks outrageously good. Unfortunately for both sides, neither could get a good final ball happening to really threaten the goals in a meaningful way. The major talking point of this half though has to be the non-penalty call late in the half. Raso was taken out by Aivi Luik, and honestly if this happened in the previous semi-final, this challenge would have been a penalty, clear as day. However today, the referee waved play on, determining Luik won enough of the ball.

Enter the second half. Play was reminiscent of a game of tennis. End to end stuff and absolutely brutal for the competitors. Brisbane seemed to have the better of the chances, but City were starting to gain confidence.

Unfortunately City’s goal seemed inevitable, once Brisbane began to drop off, City had a few solid chances and clearly they only needed one to put it away and they got it. Luik pulled off a shot outside of the box, for the ball to receive a massive deflection off Claire Polkinghorne to beat goalkeeper Mackenzie Arnold.

To add salt to the wound for Brisbane, shortly after conceding the first goal a drinks break was called, and it was City who woke up first from the drinks break. What would a semi-final with City playing be without a Jess Fishlock goal? It wouldn’t be a thing. So of course it was Fishlock who got on the end of an impressive bit of play, and flicked it over the Brisbane keeper to get City’s second goal.

City are nothing if not professional. It was park the bus time for a team who have traditionally been all about defence in seasons past. And they did. Brisbane threw everything they could at this City side, even getting an opportunity bouncing off the line. However breaking down such a quality side, parking the bus from two goals down proved to be just too much for this Brisbane side.

The game ended (without extra time thank goodness!) at two nil for Melbourne City. City proved once again to be clinical in front of goal. Meanwhile Brisbane have lacked an experienced out and out centre forward, and with them chasing the game during the second half it really showed. The Premiers are out and City head off to another grand final, this time to meet Sydney FC.

Final Score: Brisbane Roar 0 – 2 Melbourne City

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