Vine strikes twice as Sky Blues win Grand Final rematch to blow Premiership race wide open 

Matildas star Cortnee Vine scored a second-half brace to help Sydney FC down league-leaders Western United 3-1 at Leichhardt Oval on Saturday night.

Abbey Lemon’s maiden Liberty A-League strike put Sydney ahead and Vine made it 2-0 before Western substitute Catherine Zimmerman came off the bench to halve the deficit at 2-1.

Vine secured her brace in second-half stoppage time to seal all three points for the hosts and blow the Premiership race wide open.

Western’s five-point lead over Sydney FC at the top of the table shrunk to just two thanks to the Sky Blues’ victory in the Grand Final rematch, putting an end to a six-game winning run for Kat Smith’s side.

The Sky Blues have 33 points on the board and a game in hand on Western (35 points). Central Coast Mariners have 31 points – as do Melbourne City, who also have a game in hand on leaders Western.

Melbourne Victory are six points behind Western but, like City and Sydney FC, have one more game left to play than Western; all five teams still have legitimate Premiership ambitions heading into the pointy end of the season.

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Lemon put Sydney in front just 15 minutes into the Grand Final rematch, and her very first Liberty A-League goal was a clinical one.

Lemon wasted several big chances in last weekend’s Sydney Derby but showed no such inaccuracy after Kathrine Larsen’s save at the feet of Princess Ibini spilled into her path just outside the six-yard box.

Vine crashed the woodwork with a venomous effort just before the half-hour mark as Sydney pressed on for a second at Leichhardt Oval.

Taylor Ray picked out the Matildas winger with a lofted through ball and Vine’s half-volley strike would have been one of her better goals in the Liberty A-League had the ball swerved inside the post.

Ray and Vine combined again early in the second half but for the second time in the game, Vine couldn’t convert off her midfield teammate’s silver service.

Ray floated her delivery over Western’s backline and Vine met the ball with a first-time volley off the outside of her right foot, but sent her attempt over the crossbar.

Two nearly moments went begging for Vine but in the 70th minute, the Matildas star finally broke through to give Sydney breathing room.

Ibini created the chance was a through pass played behind Western left-back Tyla-Jay Vlajnic for Vine to attack; the Sydney winger cut past Vlajnic onto her non-preferred left foot to convert with ease and make it 2-0.

Vine’s strike gave the Sky Blues breathing room but the hosts weren’t comfortable for long as Zimmerman emerged off the bench to cut Western’s deficit in half with a perfectly-executed header.

Grace Maher’s free-kick swung into the box invited the former Melbourne Victory striker to leap and convert Western’s first of the night – and her first of the season for her new club.

Western threatened through Alana Cerne soon after but the defender couldn’t put her header on target.

After surviving a mini-push from the visitors Sydney put the clamps on Western and ultimately found a sealer in stoppage time as Vine lobbed Fenton’s long ball over the keeper and in to secure her brace and seal three points.