Semi-Final Talking Points: Huge selection gamble pays off, coach reveals quirky socks superstition

The first weekend of Liberty A-League Semi-Finals is in the books, with the return legs of two titanic fixtures still to play.

It’s advantage Melbourne City in the Premiers’ battle with Newcastle Jets after a comprehensive 3-0 win away from home put Dario Vidosic’s side in the box seat to progress to the Grand Final.

On the other side of the draw it’s a far tighter affair, after Sydney FC’s 1-0 win over Central Coast Mariners.

These are the key talking points from the first weekend of the Semi-Finals, as a Young Matildas star started ahead of her team’s top scorer, Sydney suffered a big injury blow and the Jets were left to ponder a big selection call.

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‘They weren’t the better team’: Matildas star confident of Mariners’ bounce back

Matildas and Central Coast Mariners striker Kyah Simon has claimed her side’s slender 1-0 Semi-Final defeat to Sydney FC came as a result of her losing possession prior to Mackenzie Hawkesby’s match-winner.

“I think it was a mistake from myself and I take full responsibility of that,” she told Paramount+ post-game.

“I just gave the ball away, really,” she added. “I gave the ball away to them and they got us on the counter so I just need to be a bit more tidy in that moment. But mistakes happen sometimes in football. I’ll learn from that and won’t do it again next week.”


Hawkesby’s decisive moment was all the more frustrating for Simon and the Mariners after a game in which they created chances at will against the Sky Blues. The hosts had 18 shots, seven on target, with both Simon and Chinese international Wurigumula coming agonisingly close to finding the back of the net on multiple occasions for the hosts.

“They definitely weren’t the better team on the day… we were very much in the game but we just didn’t create enough clear-cut chances for us to get on the scoresheet,” Simon said.

“We had some half chances but I think we need to be a little bit better and I’m sure we’ll look back, review and come out fit and firing, and better for next weekend.”

Simon and the Mariners travel to face Sydney FC at Leichhardt Oval on Saturday, April 27 in the second leg of the Semi-Finals.

Massive selection risk pays off as Young Matildas star benches a top scorer

When Melbourne City released their team sheet ahead of Sunday’s Semi-Final against the Jets, it became instantly apparent head coach Dario Vidosic had sprung a selection surprise.

On the bench? Hannah Wilkinson: experienced New Zealand international, and City’s top-scorer this season with nine goals.

In her place? Daniela Galic: 17-year-old Young Matildas midfielder, selected to lead the line in the biggest game in her career to date.

It was the kind of selection call that gets criticised in defeat, and praised in victory. For City and Vidosic, it was the latter.

Galic took just four minutes to open the scoring and proceeded to dominate in a performance lauded post-game by Matildas legend and Paramount+ co-commentator Alicia Ferguson.

“Newcastle gave away an early goal, five minutes in. Daniela Galic on the spot… just in the poaching role, we saw her playing in more of a central role for Melbourne City in this game and I thought she did really well,” Ferguson said.


Galic celebrates with City teammates after opening the scoring in Maitland.

“She was the player of the match for me across the first and second half.”

Wilkinson came off the bench for City in the 65th minute of Sunday’s 3-0 win over the Jets.

It’s not yet clear whether the 31-year-old will come back into the starting XI for the return leg, but City’s control of the tie gives Vidosic the luxury of being conservative with his selection choices in the return leg at AAMI Park on Sunday, April 28.

But while one coach is rewarded by a big selection call…

Another may be ruing the choice not to bring his first-choice keeper back into the mix after a two-game ban.

Newcastle Jets had flourished on a club-record four-game winning streak leading into the Semi-Finals and goalkeeper Tiahna Robertson, signed on an injury-replacement contract last month, had played a big part in the streak, replacing suspended Jets No.1 Izzy Nino and producing standout performances in both the last round of the regular season and the Elimination Finals.

Nino returned to the selection fold for the first leg of the Semi-Finals but Jets coach Ryan Campbell elected to stick with Robertson in goal.

Robertson made three saves and showed bravery to dive at the feet of Caitlin Karic late in the game to prevent a 4-0 scoreline, but was caught in no man’s land when Shelby McMahon made it 3-0 and potentially put City out of sight in the tie.

The Robertson v Nino selection debate ran all of last week in the build-up to the first leg of the Semi-Finals and that conversation will only grow louder as Sunday’s return leg at AAMI Park draws nearer.

Sydney boss reveals quirky gameday superstition he hopes to carry through to Grand Final

A winning coach never changes his socks.

Ante Juric, like so many of his fellow coaches around the world, has his superstitions and having thrown out the socks he wore through Sydney’s lean stretch of results to end the season, the ones he wore in Sunday’s win over the Mariners are here to stay.

“We lost a few games so they go out in the bin and I get new ones,” he told Paramount+ after Sydney’s 1-0 win in Gosford.

“Now I keep these for next week and they’ll go to the Grand Final if we get there!”


Sydney lost back-to-back games heading into the Finals Series to relinquish the Premiers Plate to Melbourne City but their response against the Mariners was exactly what Juric was looking for.

Both Juric and Sydney FC star Cortnee Vine spoke post-match about the honest conversations that took place between the coaches and playing group – particularly in the aftermath of a 4-0 drubbing at the hands of Melbourne Victory in the last round of the regular season – and what kind of reaction they all demanded of one another heading into the finals.

“The last two games we were disappointed we didn’t work hard enough, for whatever reason. That’s probably my fault not getting the girls up to scratch,” Juric said.

“Today was all about that, promising each other that they’ll (give) 100% on the field and they definitely did that. I’m really proud of them about that.”

Vine added that through video analysis of the Victory loss, the Sydney players came to the conclusion they were not putting in the effort required of a top team pushing for silverware.

“The last week we’ve been stressing about how we played against Victory – and it was just sloppy,” Vine said. “We video analysed ourselves, and no one put in the effort.

“We watched it back, everyone’s walking, no one is going in for the second tackles and we just worked on that this week. We have to bring it next week as well.”

Sydney rocked by serious injury but coach douses fears of a long lay-off

Sydney FC’s stand-in captain Princess Ibini succumbed to the third shoulder dislocation of her career in the first half of her side’s 1-0 win over Central Coast on Sunday – but head coach Juric claims the star winger will “be okay” for the remainder of the Finals Series.

However, if Ibini does face a stint on the sidelines, Juric has backed off-season recruit Shea Connors to thrive in her absence, having joined the club from Brisbane Roar as one of the high-profile recruits of the off-season.

“I think she’ll be okay,” Juric said.

“Prinni’s done that a few times in the last couple of years, so it’s something that always happens. But if not, Shea was exceptional today. I think she changed the game for us in a lot of ways. So we’ve got players who are keen to play – but we’re hoping Prinni is okay.”

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