Veteran keeper stars as penalty save rescues a point for City in goalless draw with Sky Blues

Melbourne City goalkeeper Melissa Barbieri produced a stellar penalty save to deny Sydney FC star Princess Ibini a winning goal in the second half of a 0-0 draw on Saturday afternoon.

Ibini and Barbieri went face-to-face on numerous occasions throughout the battle between first (City) and third on the Liberty A-League table, but the 43-year-old came out on top time and again to keep her clean sheet intact.

Defending champions Sydney needed a win to draw level on points with City at the top of the table but instead crept one point ahead of Western United into second, remaining one win behind the league-leaders after 16 rounds of the Liberty A-League season.

Barbieri’s sensational day out at City Football Academy Field featured eight saves – including the denial of Ibini from the spot, and after former No.1 Lysianne Proulx’s record-breaking transfer to National Women’s Soccer League (NWSL) expansion side Bay FC this week, City will need Barbieri to continue producing at a high level as they continue to push for the Premiers Plate.

The veteran’s masterclass helped City take a point from a contest utterly dominated by Sydney FC. Ante Juric’s side had 19 shots to two, putting eight on target to City’s zero.

Paramount+ co-commentator Alicia Ferguson assessed the Sky Blues’ inefficiency in the final third as a major problem area for the reigning Champions.

“Far too many opportunities,” Ferguson said. “You can’t be having 19 shots, eight on target and not converting any.”

Hearts were in mouths when Sydney winger Cortnee Vine stayed down after an awkward tangle of bodies with Karly Roestbakken as she attempted to put a shot on goal from a tight angle in the box.

But the incident in the 19th minute didn’t lead to a serious injury concern for the Matildas star who carried on despite moving gingerly after the hefty collision.

Ibini had a great opportunity to open the scoring quelled by Melissa Barbieri, and soon after the City keeper was at it again to deny Vine in a one-on-one which should have made its way into the back of the net.

Ibini went centimetres away from a Goal of the Season contender just after the hour mark, rolling a number of City defenders controlling on the spin before crashing the ball off the woodwork.

Maddie Caspers was picked out by a well-placed Vine cross and her volley was on target but Barbieri once again came up with the stop in a busy start to her afternoon.

Emina Ekic had a glorious chance to open the scoring soon after the break, when Leticia McKenna served up an inviting cross into the six-yard box that Ekic skied over the bar with the goal at her mercy.

Ibini was involved in everything for the Sky Blues in the first half and continued to have an impact after the break; her header in the 52nd minute had Barbieri beaten but drifted wide of the mark.

Sydney were struggling to convert from open play – but then came a gift from City defender Taylor Otto, who handled Ibini’s attempted cross into the box. Otto voiced her objections but referee Casey Reibelt was convinced it was a penalty offence, and Ibini stepped up to the spot.

Ibini tried to find the bottom-left corner, but Barbieri got across to make a superb save and keep the score locked at 0-0.

Barbieri was inspired by her penalty save to continue quelling any threat posed by the Sydney attack; substitute Abbey Lemon should have done better with her 77th-minute chance to win it for the visitors but elected to try and beat Barbieri at her near post.

The City keeper read Lemon’s mind to make a quick-thinking reactive save.