Westfield W-League Round 12 recap: Three draws and a narrowing finals field

Round 12 of the Westfield W-League saw three draws and three teams on bye, leading into a tight last two weekends of the season. Perth Glory were officially eliminated from finals playoff contention despite a hat-trick from superstar Matildas striker Sam Kerr, and the draw moved Canberra United briefly into playoff contention. Melbourne City FC couldn't break down the Brisbane Roar defense, leaving them in a precarious position with a bye coming up in Round 13. Brisbane holds a three-point advantage over second-place Sydney FC at the top of the table.

Western Sydney plays Melbourne Victory to a 1-1 draw

Despite securing an early goal, the Western Sydney Wanderers were unable to find their third win of the season over the Melbourne Victory. Western Sydney has beaten the Victory just once since joining the W-League.

Western Sydney midfielder Susan Phonsongkham got the scoring started in the 24th minute when she looped the ball over Melbourne keeper Casey Dumont. Phonsongkham is just 16-years-old, but she isn't the youngest player to score a goal in the W-League this season. Kyra Cooney-Cross, who entered the game in the 72nd minute for the Victory is 15 and scored a goal earlier on December 29, 2017.

The Victory had multiple near-goals before half-time, but a shot finally broke through the Wanderers defense when forward Natasha Dowie sent a rocket into the top-left corner of the goal. Western Sydney goalkeeper Jada Mathyssen-Whyman was able to get a hand on the shot, but she couldn't redirect it outside the frame of goal. The score was Dowie's sixth on the season, good for fourth in the W-League this season. Dowie, an Englishwoman, plays for the Boston Breakers in the National Women's Soccer League in the United States.

The game would end 1-1, but both teams were already out of playoff position entering the weekend. Western Sydney (2-2-6) will face off against the Perth Glory (4-2-5) next weekend, while Melbourne (3-2-5) will play red-hot Sydney FC (6-1-3).

Natasha Dowie (9) wins a header against the Western Sydney Wanderers, Dowie scored the game-tying goal for Melbourne Victory. | Photo: Matt King - Getty Images
Natasha Dowie (9) wins a header against the Western Sydney Wanderers, Dowie scored the game-tying goal for Melbourne Victory. | Photo: Matt King - Getty Images

Glory squandered after holding a 3-0 lead over Canberra

Sam Kerr and Rachel Hill (Orlando Pride) scored three times in the first 22 minutes for Perth against Canberra United, but it wouldn't be enough to earn the three points they so desperately needed.

The scoring got started early when Sam Kerr beat Canberra goalkeeper Haley Kopmeyer in 13th and 16th minutes to gain an early 2-0 lead. It seemed like the night would be won early for the Glory when forward Rachel Hill put a third goal past the keeper in the 22nd minute. Kerr (11 goals) and Hill (8 goals) are first and second in the W-League respectively in that category this season. Unfortunately for the gals in purple, the defense wouldn't be able to support them yet again.

The tide began to turn in the 24th minute when Ashleigh Sykes (Portland Thorns) beat Perth goalkeeper Melissa Maizels, and she followed it up by a second goal 10 minutes later. It was the first brace by the young forward this season, bringing the score to 3-2.

Sam Kerr tried to give her team some breathing room, scoring her third goal of the game in the 43rd minute, but Canberra midfielder Grace Maher would score three minutes into stoppage time after a poor play by Maizels. The teams went into the locker rooms for halftime with a 4-3 scoreline. 

The game was quieter in the second half, with forward Elise Thorsnes scoring the tying goal for United in the 62nd minute. Despite their best efforts, Perth couldn't find a fifth goal, knocking them out of finals contention. Canberra is still alive, one point behind Melbourne City FC at 16 points with a game in hand. 

The game was reminiscent in many ways of two meetings between Kerr and Kopmeyer in NWSL play from the 2017 season. On July 22, Kopmeyer's Seattle Reign beat Kerr's Sky Blue FC 5-4 in a game where Kerr scored one goal. Kerr got the better of Kopmeyer in the next match on August 19, when she scored four goals in a 5-4 victory of her own, including a goal four minute into stoppage time. Kerr was traded to the Chicago Red Stars on Thursday.

Canberra (5-1-4) will face off against third-place Newcastle Jets (5-2-3) next weekend in an important game for both squads, while Perth (4-2-5) will challenge the Western Sydney Wanderers (2-2-6).

City frustrated by Roar defense when they needed a win

Melbourne City FC is in danger of missing the finals and a chance to go for their third-consecutive championship after playing to a 0-0 draw against league-leading Brisbane Roar on Sunday. City currently holds a one-point advantage over Canberra United in the race to the finals, but Melbourne will be on bye this weekend while United will be facing off against Newcastle. 

Despite having some of the best attacking players in the league, City could never find a way through the Brisbane defense. Neither team mounted much on offense, with the credit going more to the defense than the goalkeepers in this match. Melbourne keeper Lydia Williams and Brisbane keeper Mackenzie Arnold had a few saves each in the first half, but they were relatively unused in the second half. Instead, both attacking sides failed to put the ball on frame despite some excellent chances. The best chance came late in the game when Melbourne forward Rhali Dobson bounced a low shot off the inside of the post and no City players were able to finish.

Melbourne (5-2-4) will be on bye next weekend, while Brisbane (7-1-2) will hope to guarantee themselves top place on the ladder when they face off against league-worst Adelaide United (2-1-7).