Melbourne City played out a hard-fought scoreless draw with Sydney FC on Saturday evening at City Football Academy.
A second half Melissa Barbieri penalty save was the highlight from a City perspective as we ensured we’d finish another weekend on top of the table.
We were without arguably our two most important players, Captain Rebekah Stott and all-time leading scorer Hannah Wilkinson both away with New Zealand on international duty.
Compounded with the midweek departures of Kaitlyn Torpey and Lysianne Proulx – along with Julia Grosso who remains sidelined due to a calf injury – it meant Dario Vidosic had to try a few different things with his line-up.
Starting XI: 23. Melissa BARBIERI, 19. Tijan McKENNA, 16. Karly ROESTBAKKEN, 5. Taylor OTTO, 3. Naomi CHINNAMA, 14. Laura HUGHES, 18. Leah DAVIDSON, 24. Daniela GALIC, 10. Rhianna POLLICINA (C), 6. Leticia McKENNA, 11. Emina EKIC.
Substitutes: 1. Sophia VARLEY (GK), 2. Leia VARLEY, 12. Shelby McMAHON, 15. Kiera MEYERS, 22. Bryleeh HENRY.
As we’ve become accustomed to, we settled into the early possession and we looked to play the game on our terms from the outset despite some key absences.
It was Sydney FC who’d create the better of the early chances though, and a big block from Taylor Otto denied Cortnee Vine a great look at the opener in the 25th minute.
The visitors continued to up the pressure and it was Princess Ibini the next to go close, using some quick feet to create some space but seeing her strike cannon off the upright.
The work of Leah Davidson and Leticia McKenna in midfield ensured we were able to keep the ball for extended periods, but chances in the final third were few and far between.
Despite making just her second appearance of the season following the departure of Proulx, Melissa Barbieri was strong in goal – ensuring it would take something special to get past her.
We’d come out strongly in the second half, Leticia McKenna playing a dangerous ball across the face of goal into the direction of Emina Ekic, who couldn’t turn it goalward.
Taylor Otto was pinged for handball in the 56th minute, the referee pointing to the spot as Ibini stepped up for what was the crucial moment of the game to that point.
Unfazed by the pressure, Barbieri picked correctly, going low to her left and showing every ounce of experience to claim the spot-kick.
Barbieri was again called into action in the 77th minute after a defensive lapse for City, but she expertly covered her near post to deny substitute Abby Lemon.
Six minutes of stoppage time was added but there was no way through at either end as the points were shared.
We’ll return to City Football Academy next Sunday, set to host Adelaide United at 5pm on Sunday evening.