W-League round-up: Victory, Sky Blues to meet in decider

It took two nailbiters to establish the 2012-13 W-League grand finalists, while there was a familiar face to Goal.com's player of the week
GOAL.com Indonesia   By TAKU TANEKA


Given the playing history between Brisbane Roar and Sydney FC, which has seen them meet in all four W-League finals series, Saturday's fixture was destined to be special.  Such was the importance of the match, Sydney FC's dual-international Ellyse Perry prioritised the Sky Blues' semi-final over her state cricket Twenty20 final.  From the opening whistle, that commitment was on show for Sydney FC in front of 1909 spectators at the Queensland Sport and Athletics Centre in Brisbane.  The Sky Blues nearly made the perfect start when Samantha Kerr crossed in the opening minute to fellow Australia international forward Kyah Simon, who missed the target.  It was a sign of things to come, and for the opening 10 minutes Sydney FC looked likely to break the deadlock only for their finishing to consistently let them down.  And as they have done often during the 2012-2013 campaign, the premiers made the visitors pay for their profligacy when they took one of their few early chances in the 14th minute.  A long ball from Laura Alleway put Tameka Butt through on goal, and she passed to team-mate Emily Gielnik to strike for the eighth time of the season.  But the lead was short lived, as 21-year-old Annalie Longo restored parity five minutes later with a stunning curled shot from outside the area sure to feature in season highlights.  Somewhat deservedly, the Sky Blues went in front 10 minutes later, thanks to 19-year-old Kerr.  She received possession on the left flank, advanced and drove home a powerful shot.  The score remained 2-1 until the second half when, in the 61st minute, Kerr bagged her brace, beating Roar defender Brooke Spence before producing another clinical finish.  With their hopes of a fourth-straight final fast fading, the Roar launched a comeback when Vedrana Popovic headed Butt's cross into the net to make it 3-2 with 15 minutes left.  The pressure-cooker environment that was the last quarter of the match led to the dismissal of Sydney FC's New Zealand international Emma Kete.  Despite being a player down, Sydney FC defended with vigour in the closing stages to hold on for a 3-2 win in the latest edition of arguably the W-League's fiercest rivalry.


With one fixture played between Perth Glory and Melbourne Victory during 2012-2013 season - with the former winning 2-0 on the opening day of the campaign - picking a favourite was tough.  A worthy semi-final in terms of preceding form, both Victory and the Glory were looking to maintain unbeaten runs dating back to Week 6 and Week 7 respectively.  Given just one point separated the sides on the regular season ladder, the opening 45 minutes was a hard-fought slog, but the Glory had the better chances to take the lead.  One opportunity came in the sixth minute, when Marianna Tabain put Matildas forward Lisa De Vanna clear, but the striker had her first shot blocked and skied her follow-up.  De Vanna's team-mate Kate Gill nearly scored late in the half. Nifty play by Elisa D'Ovidio led to Gill's shot, but she was denied by a desperate block by the Victory's Maika Ruyter-Hooley.  Following the half-time interval, the affair sprung to life as both teams found the scoresheet within ten minutes of the resumption of play.  In the 51st minute, Stephanie Catley's cross found an unmarked Laura Spiranovic at the far post and the two-time Victorian Women's Premier League Golden Boot winner did the rest.  But a moment of individual brilliance from the Glory’s Collette McCallum in the 56th minute resulted in her splendid equaliser from a free-kick.  Such was the evenness of the fixture, few other chances were created throughout the rest of the game as extra-time beckoned.  Both teams traded penalties before the momentum swung in favour of the home side, as goalkeeper Kaitlyn Savage saved Caitlin Friend's attempt from the spot.  However, Victory shot-stopper Brianna Davey provided some semi-final heroics when she saved two penalties from devastated Glory pair Aivi Luik and Rosie Sutton.  The deciding penalty fell to Victory striker Jessica McDonald and drama soon struck at nib Stadium when her penalty was stopped by Savage.  But in wild scenes, referee Katie Patterson ruled the Glory goalkeeper moved off her line prematurely and gifted McDonald a re-kick. She did not make the same mistake twice.  Melbourne Victory's win means they advance to Saturday's grand final at AAMI Park, where they will oppose Sydney FC to determine the 2012-2013 W-League champions.


Approaching the grand final, Sydney FC's Samantha Kerr is undoubtedly the form player of the competition. For two consecutive weeks, the 19-year-old has mesmerised defences with her menacing darting runs and quality assists. If that is not enough to make opposing defenders nervous, Kerr has also scored three times in the last fortnight. Her rich vein of form, should she be able to uphold it, could be the catalyst for Sydney FC's first championship victory since 2009-2010.

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