Melbourne City FC is now within two points of league leaders Sydney FC with a game in hand after the team secured a 2-1 win at home on Sunday afternoon. Rhianna Pollicina and Kaitlyn Torpey netted in the first half but a late Princess Ibini spot-kick made for a tense finish to the blockbuster clash.
Rado Vidosic was forced into two changes for the do-or-die clash, bringing Meisha Westland and Leticia McKenna into the starting lineup in place of Rebekah Stott and Hannah Wilkinson, who are away on international duty with New Zealand.
In a high-stakes bout, the competing teams traded blows early, with a Cortnee Vine opportunity well-saved by Melissa Barbieri in the opening two minutes before Rhianna Pollicina came close from a free-kick in the 6th.
Following an end-to-end opening period, City began to get on top and the team’s strong start was rewarded with a goal in the 13th minute. A great team move culminated in Kaitlyn Torpey feeding a ball into the box for Pollicina, who found the bottom left corner with a composed finish.
Whilst the game settled after the early goal, it was still City who remained on top in the majority of general play over the first half, with our back five and Barbieri holding strong against the pace of Sydney’s front three.
The home side got another good chance in the 39th when Leah Davidson pulled a ball back into the penalty area for Pollicina, who fired straight at Whyman to save comfortably.
City’s strong first-half showing would continue right into stoppage time too, with the team netting a second through Torpey, who placed her shot into the bottom left corner after she was found with an exquisite, line-breaking through ball from TJ Vlajnic.
Fans were treated to an exhilarating start to the second half, with massive moments for either side.
It began with a 48th-minute McNamara cross from the byline that nearly became an impossible goal, with the ball bouncing off the top of the crossbar to the huge relief of Whyman who appeared beaten.
It was City’s keeper who was in action next, with Barbieri pulling off two brilliant diving saves in the 49th and 53rd to keep Sydney at bay amidst a five-minute barrage from the Sky Blues.
It was then City’s turn to draw some unbelievable saves from Whyman as momentum swung back in the home side’s favour over the next five.
The result seemed written in the stars for City given some extraordinary Sydney misses soon after, with Charlize Rule blazing a point-blank opportunity over the bar and Mackenzie Hawkesby missing from near the penalty spot when she met a cross in from the left completely unmarked.
The remainder of the encounter was overshadowed by a game-ending knee injury for Holly McNamara, who needed to be supported off the field by her teammates after going down without contact.
A 78th-minute penalty for Sydney set up a grandstand finish but the City girls were able to withstand the pressure and hold on for the 2-1 win.
Our destiny is now in our own hands, as wins in our final three games will ensure that City finishes top of the A-League Women’s table. That massive task begins on Thursday night against Brisbane Roar at Kingston Heath Soccer Complex. Click here to get your tickets!