Sydney has secured fourth spot and a berth in the inaugural Westfield W-League finals series with a 3-2 win over Adelaide United at Parramatta Stadium.
The home side went into the match buoyed by Melbourne Victory’s failure to beat the Central Coast Mariners in the early match; a result that kept alive the Blues’ finals hopes.
Sydney opened up a two-goal lead within the opening six minutes through Leena Khamis and Kylie Ledbrook, with Joanne Burgess extending the advantage to three within the opening half hour.
Adelaide showed impressive tenacity to pull back two second half goals in an exciting contest that featured countless goalmouth incidents.
Sydney started with intent and it was no surprise when Khamis took advantage of a Leah Blayney pass to confidently finish after a lean spell in front of goal for the league’s leading scorer.
Two minutes later the advantage was doubled with Ledbrook’s impressive freekick curled inside the near post with United goalkeeper Emma Wirkus unable to prevent the goal despite getting a palm on the ball.
Wirkus made amends soon after with a fine stop from Blayney who got on the end of a great move, which had culminated in Kelly Golebiowski unlocking the defence with a flicked pass.
Golebiowski played provider for the third goal releasing Burgess with a neat pass who finished at the second attempt after Wirkus stopped the first effort.
It was all one-way traffic with Donna Cockayne having United’s first shot in anger drilling a fierce shot wide from 25 metres but wide of Nikola Dieter’s goal who wasn’t required to make a save in the opening half.
Defender Jess Seaman’s looping shot hit the crossbar in the shadows of half time as the Sydneysiders threatened to run riot.
Adelaide to its credit refused to lie down and started the second half much as Sydney did the first.
Firstly Danielle Small was forced into a goal-line clearance before United’s pacy striker Victoria Balomenos scored with a stunning free-kick awarded by the assistant referee after the ball bounced over the line from the underside of the crossbar.
Incredibly, given Sydney’s first half dominance, United got a second within 15 minutes of the second half restart.
This time Kristyn Swaffer towering header directly from a corner saw the deficit further reduced.
Eventually though Sydney was able to regain some momentum resulting in both goalkeepers being kept busy, in particular Wirkus who was working overtime.
United skipper Di Alagich saw her shot impressively saved by Dieter as the Reds continued to press for a late equalizer.
There was still time for substitute Renee Harrison to be issued with a second caution for apparent dissent, before the home side was able to celebrate the final whistle that signified its finals qualification.
Sydney will play premiers Queensland Roar, however they will be reinvigorated by the expected return of skipper Heather Garriock plus striker Sarah Walsh who made her first appearance of the season in the final 15 minutes.
Sydney FC 3 (Leena KHAMIS 4-, Kylie LEDBROOK 6-, Jo BURGESS 28-)
Adelaide United 2 (Victoria BALOMENOS 52-, Kristyn SWAFFER 59-)
Saturday 27 December
Parramatta Stadium, O-Connell Street, Parramatta
Local kick off 6.00pm AEDT
Referee: Casey Reibelt
Assistant Referees: Leanne Smith, Peta McCallum
Fourth Official: Kirralee Gardener
Sydney FC line up: 20.Nikola DEITER (gk), 3.Danielle BROGAN, 4.Alesha CLIFFORD, 6.Servet UZUNLAR (18.Nicola BOLGER 90-), 8.Jo BURGESS (14.Maggie ELHUSSEINI 72-), 10.Kylie LEDBROOK, 15.Jessica SEAMAN, 17.Danielle SMALL, 19.Leena KHAMIS, 22.Kelly GOLEBIOWSKI (9.Sarah WALSH 75-), 23.Leah BLAYNEY.
Substitutes not used: 1.Rachel COOPER (gk).
Yellow cards: Kelly GOLEBIOWSKI 19-.
Red Cards: Nil.
Adelaide United line up: 1.Emma WIRKUS (gk), 3.Sarah AMORIM, 4.Dianne ALAGICH (c), 5.Angela FINMANO (2.Renee HARRISON 60-), 6.Kristyn SWAFFER, 8.Sandra SCALZI, 10.Victoria BALOMENOS (17.April MANN 73-), 12.Tanya HARRISON, 14.Donna COCKAYNE(9.Stephanie TOKICH 66-), 15.Lauren CHILVERS, 16.Leanne SLATER.
Substitutes not used: 20.Sian McLAREN (gk).
Yellow cards: Lauren CHILVERS 5-, Renee HARRISON 70-/86-.
Red Cards: Renee HARRISON 86-.