Melbourne Victory have locked in a preliminary final and local derby against Melbourne City with a 2-1 win against Adelaide United in the semi final.
Adelaide welcomed back Emily Condon into the team, but were still missing Paige Hayward. Melbourne Victory was missing Kyra Cooney-Cross due to suspension but included Melina Ayres for only the second time this season.
An early mix up in the Victory defence led to the first chance of the game. Dylan Holmes snuck between Casey Dumont and Courtney Nevin. Her shot was well saved by Dumont and up the other end Lia Privitelli’s header flashed over.
Ayres forced the best out of Annalee Grove. Her half volley was perfectly struck but the Adelaide goalkeeper got down quickly to prevent Victory taking the lead.
Victory took the lead in the 29th minute. Catherine Zimmerman curled a perfectly weighted pass over the defence. Lia Privitelli controlled, composed and shot to score her fourth of the season.
Nanako Sasaki brought the Hindmarsh crowd to its feet with a 33rd minute free kick. She shaped to cross the ball but curled it beyond a surprised Dumont to level the scores.
Melbourne retained control of the match after taking the lead. Adelaide United struggled to find ways to goal. As they game wore on, Melbourne’s experience in knockout games started to tell as they raced home to a 2-1 victory.
HIGHLIGHTS CONTINUE IN THE DUB
Adelaide United and Melbourne Victory entered this game with vastly different levels of experience. However, both showed the quality that they have in the opening half.
Each side had good chances to score early, and Victory’s opening goal was of the highest class.
Catherine Zimmerman shifted back to her usual wide position in this game after the return of Melina Ayres. Her pass to set up Lia Privitelli was pure perfection.
Sasaki’s almost instant equaliser stands as one of the best goals this season. It takes vision, skill and confidence to score that sort of free kick, particularly on such a big occasion.
Incidentally, Courtney Nevin had tried something similar for the visitors’ minutes prior. The opening half was everything a neutral could want from the third meeting of these sides.
BATTLE OF THE BACK FOURS
It was always going to be an attacking game. Neither Adrian Stenta or Jeff Hopkins are coaches who like to park the bus and play defensively. Adelaide’s Kayla Sharples was outstanding against Sydney FC a week ago. Brooke Hendrix for Victory has settled instantly and reinvigorated the team since her arrival.
Despite the attacking talent on display, this game would be decided by which defence could hold out better.
It was somewhat of a warning to Adelaide United that both of their goals came from open play. It took a miracle free kick for them to score in the first half.
Faced with the rampant strike force of Dawber and Fiona Worts, Victory’s back four had their work cut out for them and they performed admirably.
Adelaide’s strikers both like to start wide and rotate moving inward. It requires concentration and communication to track their runs and prevent them sneaking free.
Melina Ayres’ goal for the visitors was an example of what can happen if a backline switches off for even a moment.
WHAT HAPPENS NEXT?
It’s another Melbourne Derby! Victory and City have played twice this season with vastly different results. Victory won the first inspired by Lynn Williams and City reponded with a Holly Mcnamara crafted 5-1 thrashing.
Both of these players will be missing in the preliminary final. Victory will likely go into the game the stronger of the sides. They will welcome back Kyra Cooney-Cross and Ayres will be fitter and more confident from this win.
City will be without Tyla-Jay Vlajnic and Melissa Barbieri. The left back and goalkeeper have both been among the most consistent players for City this season. Vlajnic set up her side’s first goal against Sydney FC and will be missed in defence and attack.
Rado Vidosic has the experience in finals, but his team are bruised, battered and far from full strength. Jeff Hopkins has achieved something amazing this season. His side has been in survival mode for much of the season. Whatever happens in the next game, it has been a remarkable run.
Adelaide United: 1 (Nanako Sasaki 33m)
Melbourne Victory: 2 (Lia Privitelli 29m,Melina Ayres 57m)