Matildas star’s masterclass fires in-form Sydney to crucial Liberty A-League victory

Check out all the highlights from the Round 20 Liberty A-League clash between Wellington Phoenix and Sydney FC

A double from Cortnee Vine has fired Sydney FC to the top of the Liberty A-League ladder as the Sky Blues defeated Wellington Phoenix 4-2 at Porirua Park, a result which leaves the Nix’s finals hopes hanging by a thread.

Matildas forward Vine made it 1-0 in the 18th minute, lashing home a brilliant half-volley before an own goal from Tiana Jaber made it 2-0 to Sydney soon after half-time on Sunday.

The Sky Blues – now seven matches unbeaten – threatened to run away with it after that as Vine scored her second of the game with a good header from inside the box before Wellington launched a late comeback.

Two goals in eight minutes from substitute Isabel Cox and striker Marianna Speckmaier made it 3-2 before American defender Jordan Thompson calmed any Sydney nerves, firing home their fourth to seal an impressive win.

The result moves the Sky Blues a point clear of Western United at the top of the ladder while Ante Juric’s side also now have a game in hand over their rivals.

As for Wellington they sit 10th on the ladder, eight points outside the top six, and will have to win their remaining three games to have any chance of sealing a spot in the finals.

Sydney Almost broke the deadlock in the seventh minute of the contest as Abbey Lemon combined well with Vine before firing a close-range effort straight at Wellington keeper Rylee Foster.

Head coach Ante Juric was forced into an early change with defender Kirsty Fenton forced from the field in just the 14th minute of the contest after appearing to suffer a serious knee injury.

Despite that injury the Sky Blues capitalised on their early dominance and they did so in style with a move straight off the training ground. A corner from Mackenzie Hawkesby was played straight into the path of an unmarked Vine on the edge of the box who then fired a fizzing half-volley into the far corner to make it 1-0.

Vine was then a whisker away from making it 2-0 in the 29th minute but her flicked header towards the far post was tipped away for a corner by Foster.

The away side eventually doubled their lead on the approach to half time as a dangerous delivery across the six-yard box from Caley Tallon-Henniker was turned into her own net by Wellington defender Jaber.

Vine then almost made it 3-0 with the last kick off the first half but the Matildas winger snatched at her shot, firing wide of the target after she was once again left unmarked at a corner.

Seemingly not learning their lesson, Wellington were punished soon after as Vine headed home a Mackenzie Hawkesby free-kick in the 56th minute after she was again left free inside the box.

Wellington did show some fighting spirit and pulled one back in the 63rd minute as Isabel Cox out-jumped Sydney keeper Jada Whyman to head home Macey Fraser’s delivery to make it 3-1.

That goal seemingly sparked the Phoenix into life as in the 71st minute Cox’s deflected cross looped up into the air and wasn’t dealt with by Whyman, with Speckmaier on hand to rifle the ball into an unguarded net to make it 3-2.

An ever present at Porirua Park, the Yellow Fever did their best to try and inspire their team to an unlikely comeback and even taunted Vine with a few chants of “Who are ya?” – but that would prove to be a costly mistake.

After Wellington failed to clear their lines from a set-piece, Vine stole in to nab the ball and tee-up teammate Thompson, who promptly fired a low shot which beat Foster at her near post.

Wellington came close to scoring a third deep into stoppage time by Whyman was equal to Helena Errington’s powerful strike as Sydney FC held on for a vital win which moves them to the top of the Liberty A-League ladder, albeit Western United are yet to play in Round 20.