Western’s Cinderella story continues into a decider that not even their head coach saw coming

This time a year ago, Western United’s women’s team did not exist. Fast forward to Sunday and the newest side on the block are through to their first Liberty A-League Grand Final.

Three-time reigning premiers Sydney FC were the overwhelming favourites on home soil to advance to the April 30 decider, however, Western flipped the script thanks to their 1-0 upset at Allianz Stadium on Sunday night.

A 26th-minute goal from Golden Boot winner Hannah Keane sent the team through to a Grand Final, not even their head coach saw coming at the start of the season.

KEANE: Inside an A-Leagues splash six years in the making via Germany, Portugal, Spain & the Champions League
WESTERN: How their fairytale in the Liberty A-League was born in the NPL
SEMI FINAL: Dumont the match-winner as Victory trump City in penalty-shoot-out
DUMONT: The surprise shoot-out move Victory ‘practised all week’ to unleash Semi Final hero
AYRES: The message to Victory’s hat-trick hero that inspired her incredible second-half showing

Western’s foundations were established in the NPL thanks to their close partnership with Victorian women’s juggernaut Calder United – coach Mark Torcaso and players Alana Cerne, sisters Adriana and Melissa Taranto, Emma Robers, Julia Sardo, Aleks Sinclair, Natasha Dakic, Alyssa Dall’Oste, Stacey Papadopoulos, Raquel Deralas and Harriet Withers – all arrived from the National Premier Leagues outfit.

This was a team with 12 players who had never experienced the A-Leagues before the season. Now, the Cinderella story continues into a Grand Final against either Sydney FC or defending champions Melbourne Victory in Sydney.

“Never thought we’d be in this position to be honest,” Torcaso told Network 10 post-match.

“We worked extremely hard in the off-season to get this team right and this club right in regards to the girl space.

“To be in this moment right and to be playing in a Grand Final is absolutely amazing.”

Sydney controlled the majority of the match and kept Western goalkeeper Hillary Beall busy throughout.

The Sky Blues had 26 shots to eight, 12 shots on target compared to Western’s three.

However, Western came out on top in the most important category – goals – thanks to their American import Keane.

“I didn’t expect them to have that many shots on target against us but we defended extremely well,” Torcaso added. “We knew it would be tough – they probably have the best front line in the league.

“For us it was about sticking to our task and get a sucker-punch goal and we got one, and defended well today.”

Their star goalkeeper Beall added: “It means a lot to us. I think we’ve grinded all season for this, so we’re thrilled to come out of a Sydney with a win and come back here in two weeks.”

It was a big performance from Beall, who stood in between Sydney and their Grand Final hopes.

“Big players show up in big moments. Obviously I had some mistakes, but my team is frigging phenomenal,” she said.

There was a nervy moment for Western when star Angie Beard was forced from the field with an ankle injury.

Beard went down without contact after appearing to twist her ankle.

The 25-year-old played down the issue as she talked up Cortnee Vine and her battle with the Matildas star.

Beard and Vine both grew up in Queensland, and both were seen carrying knocks during the game as the pair shared a touching embrace after the former exited the field.

“I was sitting on the couch at home watching the Matildas obviously against Scotland I London,” Beard told Network 10.

“I grew up with Cortnee and always knew she was something special. I think for me personally I’m not too bad myself I guess.

“I just wanted to bring that thing extra, that something to lean on as a team. You can bring 100% to players like Cortnee, Madison Haley and Princess Ibini and know you can come out on top.”

Match report – AAP

Western United’s fairytale existence as an A-League Women side continued with the Melbourne club reaching the Grand Final in their first year in the competition with a 1-0 win over Sydney FC.

Hannah Keane’s 26th-minute goal helped Western seal their passage to the decider, to be played at Parramatta’s CommBank Stadium on April 30.

The sole concern for Mark Torcaso’s side will be the fitness of defender Angie Beard after she limped off with a suspected ankle injury in the second half of Sunday’s Semi FInal at Allianz Stadium.

Sydney, meanwhile, will have to face Melbourne Victory next week in a Preliminary Final in a bid to get to the Grand Final and take revenge over Western.

Ante Juric’s team struggled to capitalise on a mountain of chances and Cortnee Vine, who only returned from national team duty in Europe on Thursday, lacked her usual cutting edge.

The winger picked up a calf injury in Australia’s win over England earlier in the week but was cleared to start before coming off with half an hour left.

Vine’s fortunes summed up Sydney’s night where they clutched at good opportunities and were short of composure.

Western goalkeeper Hillary Beall was able to withstand a blitz from the Sydney attack as her side were left to feed off scraps.

It was only through a counter attack that they took the lead courtesy of Keane.

A ball came out to Kahli Johnston on the right who slipped a low cross across the face of goal for Keane to thump the ball past Jada Whyman for her 14th goal of the season.

Sydney spent the next hour trying to get Western’s dogged and organised defence to crack but they had no luck.

Juric sent American import Madison Haley into the fray but she, Mackenzie Hawkesby and Sarah Hunter all failed to take advantage of good opportunities.

Beard’s injury created uncertainty at the back for Western but some last-gasp saves from Beall ensured they secured their passage to the grand final.