W-League Grand Final 2015/16 Preview: Sydney FC

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Despite a rocky start to the season, Head Coach Dan Barrett has taken Sydney FC to yet another Grand Final as the Sky Blues go in search of a third Westfield W-League title this Sunday.

 

The story so far…

A 6-0 first round loss to fellow finalists Melbourne City and a second round 3-0 loss to Semi Finalists Canberra United had many writing the Sky Blues off. As critics condemned them to a mid-table finish, frustrations came to the forefront. However as quickly as Sydney FC’s first losses rocked the squad, some steadfast defending and a coordinated midfield began to take shape, leading the Bling to only lose a further two games for the remainder of the competitive season.

A crucial 2-1 win over crosstown rivals Western Sydney Wanderers at Pirtek Stadium was the first win of the Sky Blues’ season. The breakthrough began a series of small unbeatable pockets. A 1-0 grind was the next step in the right direction, as Barrett’s squad demonstrated their ability to close out tight matches.

From then on a formula emerged. Sydney found their game plan for the season, anchored on a solid centre of park. Alanna Kennedy, Teresa Polias, Leena Khamis and Jasmyne Spencer formed this central column from which most play was orchestrated, as the Sky Blues went on to best Adelaide 1-0, hold the Wanderers to a 2-2 draw and trounce Glory 4-2.

After a minor hiccup in Round 10, falling to Brisbane 3-0, Sydney played out an impressive tail end of the season. Downing the Victory 2-1 away in the Big Blue, and a joyous 2-0 domination of Newcastle at ANZ Stadium seemed to be Sydney’s final stage of growth. If their early season critics had cast them aside, these two wins had surely thrown them back in the mix as serious title contenders, as the Sky Blue’s sealed their place in the W-league Semi Finals with a third place finish. A last round dead rubber had Sydney send shocks through City with a tightly contested 2-1 loss.

Last weekend was make or break. Having lost twice previously to Canberra United, Sydney’s Semi Final matchup didn’t look good on the cards. However having not played them in over two months, on the field things had changed. Spencer’s poached goal allowed the Sky Blues to hold out as a well-developed midfield and resolute defending kept a shocked United at bay. 1-0 it ended in favour of the Sky Blues, the squad riding the wave of confidence surging around them leading into Sunday’s Grand Final.

 

They’ll beat Melbourne City because…

Sydney are full of self-belief at the moment. As their season progressed so too did their form. A solid backline and an efficient midfield has led to a wonderful tail end of the season for the Sky Blues. A vivacious Spencer has been troubling defenses up front. And while you could argue that Sydney are the underdogs against an undefeated Melbourne City, both teams’ form over the last few weeks had been largely equal. City were hugely troubled against the Sky Blues in the final game of the season. And their 0-0 Semi Final performance was unconvincing following their early season form.

Conversely, Sydney has had a dream run to the end of the season, managed to cleanly win their Semi Final and now, with a air of self-assurance around them, enter into the final with nothing to lose.

 

They’ll lose to Melbourne because…

The fire-power. There’s a reason why Melbourne City remain undefeated, If not for their solid defensive line through the likes of Steph Catley, then through their unstoppable attack. A stellar season from striker Larissa Crummer, who netted 11 goals this season to take the golden boot, and the experience of Matildas’ captain Lisa De Vanna make for the largest threat in the W-League. It may well prove too much for the Sky Blues to handle.

Additionally, while the Sydney offensive line is a force to be reckoned with as Spencer, Simon and Khamis have demonstrated, too often have they failed to find the net. One of the lower for-and-against’s this season pays testament to this as chances have often gone left begging. They cannot afford to misfire.

 

Best moment of their season..

The 4-2 drumming of Perth Glory was a highlight, as Sydney’s women made it clear to the competition that they were serious contenders for the title.

Additionally, their complete domination over Newcastle at ANZ Stadium was a demonstration of how far the squad had come. A mature, clinical and calculated performance from a team that was keen to show how much they had developed as a squad.

Key player/s…

The speedy American striker, Jasmyne Spencer, has been a godsend for Sydney FC’s season. Her tenacity to run at defenders, willingness to win the ball and lightning pace will make her a handful this Sunday.

At the other end of the pitch the lofty centre back, Alanna Kennedy had another impressive season commanding an impervious backline, as she attempts to nullify Crummer this weekend and lead her team from defence.

Leena Khamis on the flank for Sydney FC provides creativity and ball control which is always an x-factor for the Sky Blues who could easily find the back of the net through her.

Prediction…

It will be a tight one. Sydney with all the confidence in the world and nothing to lose up against the powerhouse of Melbourne City. 0-0 at full time. Then it’s anyone’s game.

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George Vlotis
UTS Journalism graduate and football fanatic. Ex-NSW premier league player and now fortunate enough to be reporting on the A-League. Sydney is Sky Blue. Follow me @VlotisGeorge

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