Round Nine of the Westfield W-League saw a major shake-up in the standings, with Perth Glory falling into a tie for fourth place after leading the league for the first seven weeks of the season. With Perth's loss, the Newcastle Jets and Sydney FC were able to leapfrog the Glory on the league ladder. Sydney FC secured their fifth consecutive win after losing their first three games.
The Jets fly over the Melbourne Victory
The Newcastle Jets have ridden a four-game unbeaten streak to second place in the standings after cruising to a 3-1 victory over the Melbourne Victory in Melbourne on Friday. The game was well attended, with 5,533 fans showing up to AAMI Park after an extended break without soccer.
The scoring got started early, with Newcastle midfielder Tori Huster popping the ball over Melbourne goalkeeper Casey Dumont in the fifth minute from the corner of the six-yard box off a cross from forward Jenna Kingsley. Huster is an American who plays for the Washington Spirit in the National Women's Soccer League. Melbourne pulled back to a 1-1 draw in the 28th minute when forward Kyra Cooney-Cross headed in a cross from fellow forward Lia Privitelli. Cooney-Cross is just 15 years old and plays for the Australian U-17 Women's National Soccer Team.
Things went south for the Victory in the 40th minute when Newcastle defender Hannah Brewer was taken down in the box by Melbourne defender Annabel Martin. One minute later the penalty was finished by forward Katie Stengel (Boston Breakers). Stengel is in third place with six goals on the season, behind Perth teammates Sam Kerr (Sky Blue FC) and Rachel Hill (Orlando Pride). Stengel returned the favor in the 72nd minute when she played a short pass to Brewer in the box, who slotted it past the keeper. It was Brewer's first goal in 80 W-League appearances.
The Jets (5-1-2) will face off against the red-hot Sydney FC (5-0-3) next weekend, while Melbourne (2-1-4) will face the first-place Brisbane Roar (6-0-2).
Sydney squeaks past Adelaide for their fifth straight win
Sydney FC has roared back from an early-season slump while Adelaide United continues to languish at the bottom of the W-League ladder. FC was expected to be one of the stronger teams in the league heading into the season, but a three-loss start to the season left supporters wondering what went wrong. They need not worry now, with Sydney rolling to five victories in a row, and getting into playoff position for the first time in the 2017-18 season. Adelaide remains squarely at the bottom of the table, with just four points in eight games.
Sydney took an early lead when the Adelaide defense broke down and Sydney midfielder Kylie Ledbrook collected the ball at the top of the six-yard box and powered it past Adelaide goalkeeper Sarah Willacy. Adelaide forward Alexandra Chidiac took a hard shoulder check in the box, which led to her 55th-minute penalty conversion to tie the game at one apiece, and Adelaide was feeling good about the draw right up until the closing seconds.
It remained tied until the third minute of stoppage time at the end of the game when a through ball found the feet of substitute Caitlin Foord, and she deftly slipped it past Willacy. The star of the game for Sydney was goalkeeper Aubrey Bledsoe (Orlando Pride) who made numerous excellent saves to keep the game tied until her forwards could secure the win.
Sydney FC (5-0-3) will try to move into second place with a win over the Newcastle Jets (5-1-2) next weekend, while Adelaide (1-1-6) will try to start a renaissance against Canberra United (3-0-4).
Brisbane Roars to victory over Perth
A 2-0 victory kept the Brisbane Roar at the top of the league standings while pushing Perth down to fourth. Sam Kerr, one of the most decorated women's athletes of 2017, was unable to attend the match due to family reasons, and the Perth Glory offense suffered without her. The Glory have now lost all three of the games in which Kerr has not played. They are undefeated in games that she participates in. The win gives Brisbane a two-point lead over second-place Newcastle Jets and a five-point advantage over the fifth-place Melbourne City FC.
The first half ended without any goals, but Brisbane was notably on the attack for the majority of the match. Perth goalkeeper Melissa Maizels and the defense were kept busy with 14 shots by Brisbane to just one by Perth during the first 45 minutes.
It was clear that the floodgates would eventually give way, and they did in the 59th minute. A shot by Brisbane was headed off the line by a Perth defender, but the ball bounced around an eventually found the back of the net with the goal credited to Matildas and Portland Thorns rising star Hayley Raso. A second Brisbane goal came just seven minutes later when forward Tameka Butt found the head of forward Allira Toby, who redirected the ball into the net. The game would end at 2-0, with Brisbane goalkeeper Mackenzie Arnold making just three saves throughout the night.
Brisbane (6-0-2) will face off against Melbourne Victory (2-1-4) next weekend in a game that they should win. Perth (4-1-3), hopefully with Kerr back in action, will battle Melbourne City FC (4-1-3). The two teams are currently tied for fourth place in the standings.
Fishlock saves City once again
It took more than 90 minutes to break the 0-0 deadlock between Melbourne City FC and the Western Sydney Wanderers on New Year's Day, and it surprised no one when it was Welsh superstar Jess Fishlock (Seattle Reign) who finally scored. Fishlock has five goals on the season, good enough for fourth place in the league.
Neither team made much of their chances through the first 90 minutes of play, with both keepers containing the opposition nicely. The goal in the closing seconds of the game came about when the Melbourne City attack carefully broke down the Wanderer defense in transition. Melbourne defender Steph Catley (Orlando Pride) sent the ball to Fishlock, who made a beautiful dummy and let the ball slip through to midfielder Yukari Kinga. Fishlock looped around to the box while Kinga played the ball out to Kyah Simon on the wing, and then Simon played a low cross in to Fishlock who redirected the ball past Western Sydney goalkeeper Jada Mathyssen-Whyman.
The victory brings Melbourne into a tie with the Perth Glory for fourth place in the league, but City would be on the outside looking in at the playoffs if the season ended today because Perth holds the tiebreaker. Next week Melbourne City (4-1-3) will face off against Perth (4-1-3) in a battle for playoff position. Western Sydney (2-1-5) will be on bye.