Captain Polias leads by example as Sydney FC are crowned Premiers

Sydney FC captain Teresa Polias set the Sky Blues on their way to a 2-1 win against Melbourne Victory before lifting the Premiers Plate on the final game of the Westfield W-League regular season at Cromer Park.

The competition’s most capped player hit a rare strike, only her fourth goal in 145 competition matches, with a 20-yard free-kick to break the deadlock, before Princess Ibini’s second-half penalty all but clinched the club’s third Premiership and their first in a decade. 

Ante Juric’s side had led the Westfield W-League ladder for the duration of the 2020/21 campaign but saw a seven-point lead reduced to nothing over the final five matches, as third-placed Victory threatened an upset for the ages – needing three points to overhaul their title rivals and snatch the trophy away.

The Harbour City outfit may have only needed a draw to claim their first Premiership in 10 years but the hosts still attacked from the off with Clare Wheeler and Mackenzie Hawkesby going close early on, before a period of Victory pressure was punctured by Polias’ sweetly struck dead-ball effort in the 29th minute.

Sydney had not got their hands on the trophy since Polias’ first campaign for the club in 2010/11 but, after missing the chance to secure the silverware during their 0-0 draw against Canberra United, the Sky Blues clearly had no intention of allowing their Big Blue rivals to spoil the party on the Northern Beaches.

Victory keeper Gabby Garton produced heroics to keep her side in contention, while Lisa De Vanna and substitute Catherine Zimmerman created some dangerous moments in the second half. But Sydney held firm and Ibini extended the lead in the 73rd minute after Remy Siemsen was bundled over the box, and Cooney-Cross’ superb late strike proved to be in vain.

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Key moments

Brisbane Roar opened the day at the top of the ladder but the Queenslanders were guaranteed second place with Sydney taking the trophy with a point or more, or  Victory staging an unlikely heist with an away win. The Sky Blues started confidently with Victory goalkeeper Garton called into action to block from Wheeler before Hawkesbury shot over from Ibini’s rampaging run.

It took 10 minutes for the Navy Blue to settle into this Big Blue rivalry clash, as the exciting Kyra Cooney-Cross drilled over from 35 yards and Angela Beard working Jada Whyman from long range. A nervy encounter had lost its rhythm until Cooney-Croos tried her luck a couple of times from distance and Claudia Bunge sliced over after some pinball in the Sydney box.

But, with the clock ticking past the half hour, Melissa Ayres was penalised by referee Kate Jacewicz for a high boot and Polias seized her moment with a stunning 20-yard strike. The hosts were almost out of sight at the interval as Garton again reacted well to make a double save to deny Hawkesby’s volley and Ibini’s close-range follow-up.

Sydney picked up where they left off after half-time with Wheeler’s long-rang strike forcing Garton to parry and then recover to block Siemsen’s attempt on the rebound, before the Westfield Matildas all-time leading scorer, De Vanna, started to lead the fightback with a shot that marginally missed the target in the 58th minute.

Zimmerman replaced MelindaJ Barbieri on the hour mark and the New Zealand striker drilled a shot straight at Whyman from a tight angle before De Vanna again forced another stop out of the Sky Blues custodian. Victory could not find a way through the competition’s best defence an, when Siemsen edged her way into the Navy Blue penalty box and caught a stray leg, it was up to Ibini to finish the job in the 73rd minute.

The six-cap international made no mistake from 12 yards to all but secure the Premiers Plate, although Cooney-Cross gave the Premiers-elect a scare with a thunderous drive to grab a goal back in the 95th minute. However, the result was safe as Sydney set up home Semi-Final clash against Canberra, while Victory will go on the road in the Finals Series to face the second-placed Brisbane Roar.

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