Melbourne City secured the W-League Championship with a 1-0 win over Sydney FC. City captain Steph Catley scored the only goal in the 15th minute, although Sydney more than held their own against the premiers.
Sydney's high press in the opening 20 minutes was some of the most impressive in the league so far, forcing City to recycle the ball repeatedly in an attempt to find openings further upfield. The Sky Blues also created some positive chances on goal through their two most dangerous attacking outlets, Remy Siemsen and Veronica Latsko, and their second half was more promising going forward after the substitution of Princess Ibini.
- Melbourne City Ratings: Catley leads City to W-League glory
The club have maintained their record of making every finals series in the history of the W-League, and will be optimistic about the integration of younger players into their side over the course of the season.
After an encouraging start, an own goal from keeper Aubrey Bledsoe took the wind out of Sydney's sails. The reigning champions were under siege for most of the first half but were robbed of a penalty after Catley clearly handballed it in the box.
Sydney's full-backs also struggled to keep Catley and Ellie Carpenter quiet, the two continuing their hot chance-creating form from wide areas. More clinical finishing would have changed the dynamic of the game entirely, particularly from Latsko and Ibini.
Manager rating (out of 10)
Ante Juric, 7: His tactic of a high midfield press worked well before the goal that ended up deciding the game. The substitution of Ibini for Siemsen almost paid off, but he misused Huerta by forcing her to stay wide instead of bringing her into central midfield where City became dominant.
Player ratings (1-10; 10 = best, players introduced after 70 minutes get no rating)
GK Aubrey Bledsoe, 5: A poor reaction to deflect the championship-deciding goal into her own net but stood back up to make some important saves -- particularly when Alanna Kennedy's poor back-pass could have made it 2-0 in the 31st minute. Another error in the 90th minute almost saw Milica Mijatovic bundle home a goal after she was too slow to release the ball.
DF Ally Green, 5: Got sucked in centrally and left Catley in acres of space to charge down the left and score the opening goal. Curled a great pass in to create a chance for Veronica Latsko but the striker couldn't finish. Rallied in the second half to keep Catley quieter.
DF Alanna Kennedy, 7: As expected, did well to rally her defence and sweep up through-balls from City, particularly in wide areas. Almost let them snatch a second goal after a frightening back-pass in the 31st minute but stayed mostly clean and disciplined.
DF Ellie Brush, 7: Kept Claire Emslie man-marked for most of the match, which forced City to improvise and find other attacking outlets. Was largely solid but got too easily burnt by a simple one-two passing move that Kyah Simon almost scored in the 55th minute.
DF Lindsay Agnew, 5: Allowed Carpenter to gallop down the right wing far too often and offered little going forward. Latsko was forced to track back and double-up on Carpenter, meaning one of Sydney's most important attacking threats was taken out of the equation, which was the opposite of what they needed when they were behind.
MF Teresa Polias, 8: Made some important interceptions in the opening period and delivered some dangerous set-piece balls. Was able to cover the errors of her midfielders and keep the pressure on Emily van Egmond from behind, ensuring she didn't have many clear opportunities on goal.
MF Taylor Ray, 7: Great spatial awareness through the middle, creating channels and triangles to connect defence with attack. Was a calming presence on the ball but needed to be more involved going forward. Faded out of the game in the final half-hour.
MF Nat Tobin, 6: Allowed Yukari Kinga too much time and space on the ball in the second half. Like Ray, in the absence of a classic No. 10, she needed to be more involved and more creative in attacking build-ups.
FW Veronica Latsko, 8: Sydney's most promising attacking outlet as a left-sided forward despite a lack of quality service. Missed a rare chance to lob City keeper Lydia Williams. Also contributed to Sydney's defensive responsibilities several times by tracking back to help defend in and around her own box.
FW Remy Siemsen, 7: Largely forced to create her own opportunities due to being isolated. Worked hard in leading the high press but as the game wore on, she waned. Subbed off in the 62nd minute.
FW Princess Ibini, 6: Subbed on in the 62nd minute for Siemsen and warmed into the game the longer she was on the park, but was left largely isolated and lacked service in transition moments. She had a huge opportunity in the 79th minute to equalise, finding herself in acres of space just on the edge of the box, but hit the ball almost straight at Williams.
MF Amy Sayer, NR: Came on with 15 minutes to go and showed neat technical skills but wasn't on the pitch for long enough to affect much. Lost the ball too often when she had it.
MF Mackenzie Hawkesby, NR: Was unable to make an impression after coming on for the final five minutes.