W-League: Sydney and Brisbane settle for draw

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Jasmyne Spencer rescued a point for Sydney FC with a stunning late goal after Tameka Butt opened the scoring for Brisbane Roar as both sides settled for a 1-1 draw in a wet, then dry, then wet, then dry match at Lambert Park on Saturday afternoon.

Sydney, with only five rounds left until the final, returned to more familiar ground after their home game to Western Sydney in Western Sydney last week, and a 1-0 defeat in Perth the week prior. A win here would consolidate their place in second behind Perth, and reinforce the kind of form needed as they work towards the finals.

Brisbane, meanwhile, arrived in Sydney on the back of a 4-1 loss to Newcastle, well and truly set in a season-long funk. Finals football is still somehow achievable in spite of a thoroughly lacklustre first half of the season; their only win so far coming against Newcastle in the third round, which is perhaps interesting, or perhaps not.

Having first delayed kickoff by half an hour, reduced by ten minutes to a start twenty minutes later than originally planned, the rain decided to hold off – for the first five minutes, anyway. Nicola Bolger skimmed a volley over the roof of the net after Sydney won a corner through some early pressure, and the sky, otherwise unbearably sunny, gave up on trying to keep things dry.

Where the rain would have normally made grass greasy, the synthetic field was left with all the surface resistance of an air hockey table, and the game suffered as a result. Both sides were frustrated in their respective final thirds: where Sydney had dominated the opening exchanges, Brisbane soon assumed responsibility for being the team that threatened to threaten without really threatening as the ball struggled to move beyond either midfield.

Tameka Butt was slipped clear through on the edge of the penalty area after 15 minutes, but was foiled by the onrushing Alyssa Harris in the Sydney goal. At the other end, Sydney used Jasmyne Spencer as a focal point in moving forward but were rarely able to work the ball into dangerous positions, as Brisbane calmly smothered attempts down the right side through Renee Rollason and Teigan Allen. Lightning cracked as dark clouds rolled overhead, but half time came and went without further interruption.

There was seemingly less structure in the second half as players slowed in humid, heavy conditions, opening the game up to loose attack and counter-attack with midfields stretched and everyone doubtlessly bored by the lack of a goal.

Finally, someone took the initiative and opened the scoring; Tameka Butt dinking a finish over Harris after being fed in from the left to reward Brisbane for their part in the previous 20 minutes of chaos. It had looked likely enough that the home side would score first – a frantic goalmouth scramble aside, Sydney had closed down the majority of Brisbane attacks before they became too much of a problem – but they struggled to find a way back into the match.

Spencer worked hard but dropped deeper and deeper to help her midfield as time went on, with little movement ahead of her restricting Sydney’s attempts to impress themselves on the final 25 minutes.  Brisbane, meanwhile, were happy to push for a second, recognising that their opposition, heads dropping, seemed to have accepted the result early.

Closing in on the final whistle, Sydney stirred and drove forward with a purpose that had been largely absent all afternoon. A typically desperate tussle for possession saw the ball fall to Spencer on the edge of the penalty area, and she struck a looping volley over Kate Stewart to pull her side level with her sixth goal of the season. Ultimately, a draw seemed both the fairest and most likely result.

Next week Sydney head south to take on Canberra United, who are fresh from their draw against the Western Sydney Wanderers earlier this afternoon. Brisbane will look to build on an improved performance back in Queensland, and will be hopeful of making up ground towards the finals against sixth-placed Adelaide United.

Sydney FC starting XI: 20. Alyssa Harris (gk), 2. Teresa Polias, 3. Liz Ralston, 4. Alesha Clifford, 5. Jasmyne Spencer, 6. Servet Uzunlar, 7. Nicola Bolger, 10. Renee Rollason, 12. Chloe Logarzo, 15. Teigen Allen, 16. Samantha Johnson

Sydney FC substitutes: 18. Heidi Makrillos, 21. Sian McLaren (gk), 23. Melissa Caceres, 24. Georgia Plessas

Brisbane Roar starting XI: 20. Kate Stewart (gk), 2. Laura Alleway, 3. Amy Chapman, 4. Clare Polkinghorne (C), 5. Brooke Spence, 6. Hayley Raso, 7. Kim Carroll, 8. Elise Kellond-Knight, 10. Katrina Gorry, 13. Tameka Butt, 17. Emily Gielnik

Brisbane Roar substitutes: 11. Vedrana Popovic, 14. Natasha Wheeler, 19. Ayesha Norrie, 21. Teagan Micah (gk)

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