ALW Report: City 3(1)-3(4) Victory

Melbourne City saw its A-League Women’s season come to a disappointing end on Saturday afternoon, going down on penalties after a spirited comeback second half comeback.

Rhianna Pollicina struck a little before half time but three Victory goals in less than 20 minutes saw our season on life support, 3-1 down with less than half an hour to play.

Another goal to Pollicina and a 97th-minute Hannah Wilkinson header ensured we’d take it to extra time and then eventually, a shootout.

Team News

Head Coach Dario Vidosic made one change to his XI from the final match of the regular season, bringing Maria Jose Rojas in up top in place of Hannah Wilkinson.

Starting XI: 23. Melissa BARBIERI, 8. Kaitlyn TORPEY, 15. Emma CHECKER, 3. Naomi CHINNAMA, 7. Julia GROSSO, 14. Katie BOWEN, 6. Leticia MCKENNA, 24. Daniela GALIC, 10. Rhianna POLLICINA, 9. Holly MCNAMARA, 19. Maria Jose ROJAS.

Substitutes: 1. Sally JAMES (GK), 4. Chelsea BLISSETT, 17. Hannah WILKINSON, 21. Isabellla ACCARDO, 22. Bryleeh HENRY.

What happened?

It was a bit of a nervy start for City, with the visiting Victory side the first to settle.

Melissa Barbieri was tested early and pulled off a strong save to deny Alana Murphy’s free kick, getting down quickly to her left.

City was able to see off the early threats after and managed to enjoy more of the possession-style game we’re used to seeing after about 10 minutes of action.

Holly McNamara started to get into the thick of things and went close to finding that crucial first goal in the 14th minute. Rhianna Pollicina spotted Julia Grosso in space on the left, before the American full-back went on a nice run and cut back to McNamara, whose close-range shot was well saved by Casey Dumont.

The likes of Katie Bowen and Leticia McKenna impressed in midfield which allowed City to wrestle back some control of the contest.

Both sides traded chances for much of the remainder of the opening half, but Pollicina would strike first, giving City the lead in the 40th minute.

Pollicina found McNamara with the Matildas forward again causing issues for the Victory defence, threading the needle between two defenders from the right to play it back to Pollicina who tapped home.

The second half got off to a far from ideal start, Victory equalising from the penalty spot after just eight minutes in after Beattie Goad was brought down in the box by Naomi Chinnama.

City looked to bounce back quickly though and almost found an immediate response through Grosso, but the American couldn’t get the required power on her shot to trouble Dumont after being well-found by Pollicina.

A five-minute patch saw things quickly go south for City, Melina Ayres scoring twice to put the visitors 3-1 ahead.

The twists and turns didn’t stop there though…

Pollicina continued to show her class and got on the scoresheet for the second time of the day with 10 minutes plus stoppages time to play, setting up a grandstand finish.

A Grosso cross to the back-post was headed down by substitute Bryleeh Henry, directly into the path of the City number 10 who tucked it home into the bottom corner.

City pushed and pushed in the dying stages of the contest, with McNamara first unleashing a curling strike from outside the box which was just inches away from finding the top corner.

She would then have a chance from the spot in the 89th minute after a Claudia Bunge handball saw City awarded a penalty, but Dumont was the hero and saved the attempt.

It wasn’t over yet though. That missed penalty did little to dampen City’s spirits as we continued to search for a goal deep into stoppage time.

All of the perseverance would pay off in the final seconds, Wilkinson getting her head on a deflected Kaitlyn Torpey shot to find a way past Dumont for the third time of the afternoon.

Substitute Bryleeh Henry had City’s best chance on goal for the first period of extra time, forcing a good diving save from Dumont with her strike from outside the box.

There were plenty of tired legs all over the pitch throughout extra time, but neither side was willing to give an inch with a spot in the Preliminary Final on the line.

McKenna had the best chance of the second period, almost finding the bottom corner if not for another good save.

It wasn’t a shootout to remember for City fans, with our season now over and the focus shifting to 2023/24.