Special scenes as teenager’s first league goal nets Sydney late victory over Phoenix

Sydney FC v Wellington Phoenix - Highlights | Liberty A-League 2023-24 | Round 10

Sydney FC teenager Jynaya Dos Santos has announced her long-awaited return to Liberty action in style, coming off the bench to score the match-winner in a 1-0 triumph over Wellington Phoenix on Saturday afternoon.

Dos Santos, 18, had made just one league appearance for Sydney FC prior to Saturday’s clash with the ‘Nix – and more than one year on from her Liberty A-League debut, took full advantage of her second taste of league action with a 78th-minute header that sealed all three points for the Sky Blues.

A late chance to Wellington’s Mariana Speckmaier should have earned Wellington a share of the spoils but the Phoenix forward’s header from close range was off target as the Sky Blues clung on to all three points at Allianz Stadium to jump into the top six.


Annalie Longo had an early chance for Wellington, but her shot on the turn was blocked by the Sky Blues; off the hosts went on the counter attack, with Cortnee Vine speeding through midfield and picking out Aideen Keane in the box. Phoenix defender Mackenzie Barry got the btter of Keane, quelling the danger and winning a free-kick.

After signing for Sydney at midday, Mackenzie Hawkesby was straight into the starting lineup and instantly set about making her mark against the ‘Nix, with a pair of quick-fire chances just before the quarter-hour mark.

Paramount+ co-commentator Teresa Polias watched on as Hawkesby got to work, and marvelled at the attacking midfielder’s threat on return to the Liberty A-League Champions, stating: “It’s as if she never left.” 

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The best chance of the first half belonged to Keane, with Michaela Foster producing a goal-line clearance to deprive the young Sydney forward the opening goal.

Princess Ibini attempted an audacious chip to catch out Phoenix keeper Brianna Edwards, but couldn’t hit the target as the visitors kept their clean sheet intact until half-time.

Isabel Cox was injected into the contest at half-time and made an instant impact from the kick-off, getting down the left wing and playing a cross toward the middle of the box, deflected off Shay Hollman and into the grasp of Sydney keeper Jada Whyman.

Cox continued to prove a threat to Sydney’s clean sheet, catching Zara Kruger napping deep in defence and shaping up with Whyman from a tight angle. Cox elected to cut the ball back instead of shoot, but couldn’t find a teammate.

A head collision between Keane and Hailey Davidson resulted in a nasty facial injury to the latter and a significant delay in play as Davidson received treatment; Zoe McMeeken replaced Davidson in the 68th minute as play resumed at 0-0.

Vine almost broke the deadlock when picked out by a superb lofted through ball by Taylor Ray, who sent the Matildas star tearing down the right wing on goal. Vine skipped past the outrushing Edwards and as Phoenix defenders raced back to cover the goal line, Vine could only find the side netting.

Not long before Vine’s big chance, Sydney coach Ante Juric brought 18-year-old Jynaya Dos Santos off his bench for just her second-ever Liberty A-League appearance.

The 18-year-old’s first league appearance came in Round 1 of the 2022-23 season against Adelaide last November, and having ended her long wait for minutes in Sky Blue, rewarded her head coach with a magnificent header that broke the deadlock.

Ray’s expert distribution was once again the catalyst for a Sydney chance – and Dos Santos responded with an assertive header into the top-left corner to put Sydney ahead and spark a special all-in team celebration.

Speckmaier had a glorious chance to earn the ‘Nix a point late in the piece when a cross floated off the header of Sydney defenders; the Venezuela international was all alone in the six-yard box but with an unguarded net in front of her, couldn’t keep her header down as the ball ballooned over the bar.

More to come…

The moment

Whether it was a “vibe” or a sign from the football gods, Sydney FC head coach Ante Juric just knew Jynaya Dos Santos would prove the difference at Allianz Stadium on Saturday afternoon.

Juric had watched on for 72 minutes as his Sky Blues toiled to find an opener against Wellington, and as he turned to his bench, he saw the answer to his team’s attacking inefficiency in the 18-year-old.

Six minutes after Dos Santos’ introduction to the contest, the teenager had her very first Liberty A-League goal; a player with just one prior league appearance to her name earned in November of 2022 stood tall to produce the moment of quality to seal a hard-earned victory.

It was a moment Juric saw coming.

“Funnily enough, when I spoke to the bench I was like: ‘I think Jynaya’s going to score today, let’s get her in early’ – and it worked out that way,” Juric said post-game.

“I don’t know. Sometimes I just get these vibes,” he added. “I thought she hasn’t played a lot, I didn’t play her last week, she’s got family there, it’s in front of this crowd, you get a little vibe.

“She’s a youngster, we couldn’t score, our older players didn’t. And the young player comes in… and something special happens. It was the football gods – but it worked out that way, it’s good.

“A superb header, positioning – and she did well (in) only her second game… to get an important goal for us at this stage in the season.”

Juric was glowing in praise for Dos Santos post-game, lauding her ability to seize the opportunity thrust upon her in a heroic substitute’s outing at Allianz Stadium.

“A lot of players can play, she’s shown she can, they just need to bide their time a little bit and show what they can do,” Juric said. “Today, she’s definitely put her foot forward.

“She’s actually been really good the last couple of weeks at training, she was in the squad last week, things are improving and she’s getting better. It’s what you want from your young players, to keep getting better and pushing for a spot.”