Christmas has come early! Not only for me personally, as I’m getting ready to celebrate on Christmas Eve instead of my normal Christmas day, but because the W-League has been serving us a festive feast all season of mayhem and chaos with a side of roast. Upsets, near upsets, close-to-almost-comebacks and Kerr headers, this round follows both the norm and creates an entirely new one. In other words, I’m loving it as much as I love Christmas roast veg and gravy (so, like a lot).
With all the matches finishing before Sunday to allow for the Christmas break, this is the first Match Day Monday in a long time I’ve been able to do comfortably by the end of Sunday night before the time weird movies start up on SBS. Credit to the league schedule there, it’s well appreciated by teams, players and me. So hope you’re gearing up for a sparkly Christmas, in the meantime of this Eve sit back, relax and let’s discuss what happened in the latest edition of the W-League.
Thursday Night|| Brisbane Roar 3 – 1 Western Sydney Wanderers
Marking the end of my Queensland holiday was Thursday Night footy somewhere north of Brisbane at a ground called Dolphin Stadium. The state clearly loves animal named stadiums, as last rounds we were at Lions. As expected by everyone, bar my tipping picks that always back a bit of unpredictability, the Roar came away with all the spills in this one. There was a brief moment right when the Wanderers drew level where I had hope mayhem would persist and reach new levels, however that was ultimately in vain.
One word to summarise this match is messy. The fouls, the challenges, it was all kind of yucky. It was difficult for either side to find a flow or work good combinations for lengths of the game, as players went flying into one another to prevent any masterpieces from occurring. Another element of the game, especially for the Wanderers, was the amount of long balls hit to the wing that were never destined to hit their targeted player. Honestly finding a good long ball at times during this match was a lot like finding Santa after Christmas. I mean he could be hiding somewhere if you squint your eyes enough, but hard to find
For Brisbane, much like their first game against the Wanderers, they did what they needed to get a vital win. They’ve obviously worked hard on their set pieces on the training ground, finding goals off perfectly swinging corners where the scorer didn’t even need to know much about it to score off one (seriously stoked for Riley to get that goal though, legend). In the end, being able to clean up the game with three goals is probably a bit kind to their finishing ability. They’re a side capable of some really entertaining football, and can get the ball around the box with some mint passes. However, finding the final ball or someone to shoot at times is tough work. Again, Brisbane are a good side in defence. They’ve got a stellar centre back pairing, who both give us the glorious defender runs, and whilst they missed a bit of guts in the midfield with Gorry out, the side adapted well in her absence.
For the Wanderers, another game to provide hope, but then to tear it up awat from you, providing flashbacks to eying up a christmas present as yours to realise at crunch time it was always intended for your sibling. Surprisingly the Wanderers came out with a super narrow top three, with Yeoman-Dale in the centre. Whilst that’s not a horrible idea for the crafty players at their disposal in the midfield, they need to find a ball to the forwards better than the long ones out wide that often missed their mark. Credit to the Roar centre backs, they were quality and made life difficult for the Wanderers forwards. The kicker for the Wanderers was they found themselves in a position to go ahead in the first half had they been patient on the ball, finding some good territory, then even when a goal behind, on both occasions they created chances to get back, doing so on the first. Unfortunately within 10 minutes of the score reaching 2-1, the Wanderers lost their fire and momentum, essentially throwing the game at this point to succumb to another loss. It’s tough only having the one point all season and that moment is just a result of a tough season that is only just over half way done.
Friday Evening, come Sunday Afternoon|| Perth Glory 2 – 1 Sydney FC
Apparently I’m useless at figuring out travel times and adding in the lost hour that comes along with jumping the board back from Queensland into the daylight savings states. Further, on my mind was Sydney playing in Perth would mean the game would be a late one, much like the late 10pm matches we’ve been adjusting to for our wild, wild west matches. Boy did I muck up. This match being a double header, to be played BEFORE the men, meant the match was 3.30pm WA time, making it 6.30pm Sydney time. Once my head finally did the maths of what time I landed from Brisbane and equated the time difference, I belatedly realised I would likely be on a train for this match, flying in and out of my phone’s vodafone reception (I know the service is average, but my brother has me on a good deal ok). This all meant I missed watching the game live. I had intended to catch the other Friday game, then flick to watch Perth v Sydney afterwards too. But I’m a fool and was trying to be tricky with my new Kayo subscription and accidentally ruined the score clicking into the post-game interview by mistake. What does that mean? I’m no sucker, I wasn’t going to watch Sydney lose in my travel tired state. I watched this match on Sunday instead.
To start with, this match was a warm one. Not only were there drink breaks, but there were two. Let’s have a serious think of that. Should we be letting people run in such heat? I’m going to go with no. Unless we turn it into sprinkler soccer, then I’m down. Further, the referee had to tap out during half time due to dehydration. I understand there are logistics, but this is the second game Sydney have been apart of a match where a check of the old weather map probably would’ve meant for the players safety the match should’ve been delayed or called off. Let’s put some common sense into our game yeah?
For Perth, Sam Kerr headers. Do I need to go on? Ok I will. But honestly, Kerr’s headers are class. If you want to watch a player time a header perfectly, then hit it with precision into the back of the net, look no further, this is Kerr’s bread and butter. Whist Kerr clearly stole the show with more success than the Grinch stealing Christmas, it was Naughton in the back who had a pearler of a match. Making a handful of last ditch, superb challenges on Sydney forwards intent on going one on one with Campbell after getting in behind Glory’s defence, Naughton pulled out a stunning performance. The side didn’t concede from open play, an improvement from their recent outings. Considering Perth came up against a Sydney side who have scored 10 in their previous two games, to not concede a goal from open play here is a success and needs as much recognition as Kerr’s game winning headers do. Defenses win championships after all, and Perth are now on top of the pack, on the road to this season’s championship.
For Sydney, it was a tough game. They probably deserved a draw, biased yes but also they were able to keep Perth largely at bay for most of the game, again Kerr’s head being the only real difference between the sides. Questions need to be asked whether changing the winning formula of Ibini being a super sub and De Vanna starting to the reverse situation is one to persist with. My hunch off the back of this display is no. Ibini could be a starter on many other sides sure, but being able to use her hunger for the ball on tired defences and midfields is essential to win games late. Whilst De Vanna brings experience to work the game early, even with a hissy fit for the inevitable 60 minute substitution. However, here’s another game for Sydney fans who were dearly hoping to not have any flashbacks to the first half of the season before the Roar game, but were left to suffer. Again Sydney flooded the box with the ball and opportunities, but just couldn’t find their shooting boots. Kennedy’s free kick was truly something though, cleaned out the net’s cobwebs and should be played on repeat on every screen for the rest of the month.
Friday Night|| Adelaide United 3-2 Melbourne Victory
I was able to watch this one live. Unlike my bad timing for the day’s earlier kick off. For this one I’d made it home to my Aunts, had some dinner and comfortably in my room, ipad in hand, in time for the kick off. Happy days.
For Adelaide, they were well organised and worked the counters. No surprises here. Whilst there may be some people who are surprised Victory lost this one, Adelaide know their game well and played it to a tee. Little doubt in my mind that this is a side who are the most organised defensively in the league. Sure they conceded two goals late, which nearly gave Victory room to find an equaliser. But Adelaide marked Dowie out of the match, a genius move, executed brilliantly. Whilst there is room to suggest their goals were against the run of play, they shut Victory out of the box and were always going to work off the counters. They’ve recruited well in finding Latsko, who seems to be the ideal player to work off their opportunities from the break away. Again Latsko found the back of the net for the first goal. A penalty, rewarding Heyman to her first goal in red, plus Condon able to clean up the scraps for a third after some lazy Victory defending, gave Adelaide the breathing room they wound up needing to secure this game. My football brain actually loves this Adelaide side. Teamwork makes the dream work.
For Victory, disappointment. Again they struggled to find a way to break a team down when Dowie is marked completely out of the game. They’ve got other players more than capable of finding the back of the net, but it appears Dowie is their talisman, who is needed for Victory to seriously fire on all cylinders. Some of the luck in this one didn’t fall their way. Last weekend saw Victory earn a majority of the free kick calls, they weren’t so lucky this weekend, including having a very strong penalty call for Dowie waived away. But Victory also looked unable to create their own luck, with how much of the ball they had, there really should’ve been more goal scoring chances. The first half saw them dominate in possession, and whilst the second half was a bit more murky, Victory remained largely in control and shouldn’t have conceded three with no reward until a late effort of two goals served as a bittersweet consolation.
Saturday Evening|| Melbourne City 3-0 Canberra United
The lone Saturday game provided the entertainment. Especially for the look of the ladder, the result ensured the chaos level remained unlocked. It was pointed out that as a Sydney FC fan I shouldn’t be advocating for chaos, especially with a City win. However my reply is that my other Tasmanian side of me is a devil and loves the mayhem surrounding a top four race tighter than a pair of jeans after Christmas dinner.
For City, this was a classy display. Take away their tendency to consistently play the short corner AND the reality of it paying off early in the 7th minute, catching the Canberra defence napping for Dobson to nudge the ball home, this City side hit their straps here. In the first half the side dominated possession, controlling the tempo and created enough opportunities to comfortably be ahead on half time by three goals. The half was a master class and a glimpse of what this City side are capable of for the remainder of the season. I’d mentioned somewhere a Kyah Simon goal would be grand and she delivered. While Dobson deserves recognition for her second goal, where she weaved like a boxer around players, then sent a rocket into the net. For the second half, City still looked good maintaining their lead, despite parking a bus. No point in burning players after their first half performance. Instead City merely produced a training ground performance, where the defence is to hold out the other side and protect their goal, whilst not really searching too hard for one themselves. The quality City have in their defence completely allows City to play this way. Consider the amount of games players across the park for this side have played this season, to sit back and hold Canberra out for the remainder of the game saves players for tougher matches and is good practice for games where they’ll need to rely on their defensive discipline.
For Canberra, back to the drawing board, maybe? They’ve been working a back three turn back five for a lot of this season. Today was their worst performance. Being far too flat, neglecting to man-mark against a side who unpicked their zonal marking with ease, the defence wasn’t up to scratch here. They’ve got the quality of players individually, but the defensive play Canberra have played in swamping the ball with 3-4 players was exposed by a City side who are very good at passing. I’ll poke fun at City with them “having the highest passing accuracy in the league” due to how many back and side passes they have with their defence, but look to their midfield. They’re capable of playing surrounded by players, able to find the space on the park this create and if you’re caught ball watching against the likes of Butt, Kinga and Kellond-Knight, you’re going to be left for dead. That’s what happened to Canberra. For the second half, Canberra were searching, but just couldn’t break down a side happy to park the bus. Honestly it probably would’ve been more productive for everyone to call the game at halftime, grab a cuppa and let Canberra have some shooting practice by themselves against a brick wall. You’ve got to wonder where to next week round for Canberra, who won’t have O’Sullivan in the centre of the park putting in absolutely massive shifts. Maybe someone will rise up to the challenge? Otherwise, without the Irish Woman, this could be a rough back end of the season.