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A-League Women: How do the five contenders enter the home stretch?

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Expert
24th February, 2022
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Round 12’s results ensured the finals race wasn’t a forgone conclusion.

With five teams in realistic contention for the final four spots, here’s how each team fared last week and what is coming up for these sides in the final few rounds of the A-League Women.

Sydney FC

The quirks of the draw in these COVID times meant Sydney had not travelled further than Newcastle until last week. Their away days included a trip up to the Jets, the arduous trek across town to the Wanderers, and a visit all the way to Wollongong.

In the space of a week, the Sky Blues would take on both Melbourne sides. Prior to this trip, Sydney had conceded one goal and dropped a lone point all season. By the end of it, they’d conceded four and come away with a solitary point from a possible six.

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A two-goal lead midweek against Victory had the team looking like they were cruising. But a spirited Victory comeback ensured the points were shared.

Backing up on the weekend against City, Sydney conceded another two goals and despite attacking ferociously in the second half, they could not score beyond Princess Ibini’s converted penalty.

Sydney’s double aspirations are by no means deflated but they have certainly taken a dent. The team now appears fallible, which it didn’t before and it might well be a timely reality check for the team.

Perth in Tasmania and a visit to Adelaide await Ante Juric’s side. And with both opponents wanting to cement their own finals destiny, these clashes are set to be as important as ever.

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Bryleeh Henry of Western Sydney

(Photo by Brendon Thorne/Getty Images)

Melbourne City

City ran the full gamut of emotions on Sunday afternoon. No doubt stinging from their last meeting with Sydney – where they lost 3-0 – they came into this game looking determined and ready.

Despite being without Hannah Wilkinson and Rebekah Stott, City nabbed two goals with Kaitlyn Torpey heavily involved with a goal and an assist.

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But halfway through the second stanza, Holly McNamara, who once again was ever-present for City, went down with what has now been confirmed as another ACL.

The injury created a funeral atmosphere at AAMI Park with those on the pitch and in attendance well aware that injuries had cruelled McNamara’s young career.

City was able to hold on with the likes of Melissa Barbieri, Tori Tumeth, and Wini Heatley putting in impressive shifts.

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The win means City has slashed the margin between them and Sydney to only two points. And with a game in hand over the Sky Blues, the premiership race is wide open. However, City will now need to learn how to attack without McNamara.

Adelaide United

Mathematically, the Reds could still well Adelaide it and finish, once again, in fifth spot. However, their 4-1 win over Wellington Phoenix keeps them comfortably in the middle of the finals race.

This season has been headlined by the exploits of Fiona Worts and Chelsie Dawber. The pair have been irrepressible of late, scoring at will and supported by an impressive array of teammates.

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Never before had an Adelaide women’s player reached a double-figure goals tally in a season. Against the Nix they had two in five minutes.

There is a momentum behind the Reds that feels as though this is their time to play finals. The reassuring thing for Adelaide is that their destiny is well within their own hands.

That begins with the pride game against Melbourne Victory on Saturday before a visit from the Sky Blues. A win against Victory should confirm their place in the four and give Adelaide the finals berth they’ve always wanted.

Adelaide United women celebrate

(Photo by Sarah Reed/Getty Images)

Melbourne Victory

You could say Victory looks like a side that’s played almost half a season in three weeks. And that’s precisely because they have. While this season has been cruel to plenty of teams in plenty of ways, Melbourne Victory’s schedule in February is right up there.

For three straight weeks, the team has had a midweek fixture followed by a game on the weekend. Their comeback against the league-leading Sydney FC was enjoyable to watch but against Perth Glory the team looked fatigued.

To Perth’s credit, they still played an excellent game and earned a crucial three points in the context of their season. While Victory seems unwilling to blame their schedule, it is undoubtedly playing a role.

Claudia Bunge’s absence with the New Zealand national team and Amy Jackson’s calf tear were further expounded by Alana Murphy’s rolled ankle.

Another draw midweek, this time against Canberra United, saw some players rested but with no more games in hand, Victory will need a win in one of their last two games to cement their finals place.

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Perth Glory

Last season Perth Glory lost their coach a month before the season started and the closed WA border they spent the whole season on the road as they finished the campaign winless.

In just a season, the team has gone from cellar dwellers to a potential spot in the finals. The turnaround is remarkable and a credit to Alex Epakis and his charges.

Their win over Victory on the weekend means their season is still very much alive and has kept the race interesting. Sitting only two points behind Victory in fourth, good results from the Glory will need to be coupled with some Victory stumbles.

Games against Sydney and Wellington will present stern tests for the team and irrespective of the results, their season will be a resounding success.

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