Perfect season ends in Championship success

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Once again, Melbourne City are champions of the W-League.

On Saturday afternoon, the powerhouse of the competition capped off an undefeated season to claim their fourth W-League crown, defeating reigning champions Sydney FC in an epic 1-0 struggle at AAMI Park.

After securing the three-peat between 2015 and 2017 their run came to an end last season when they missed the finals for the first time in club history.

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However, on Saturday the revenge tour was complete as City outlasted Sydney FC to win their fourth title in five years, in a match loaded with brutal contests, stout defence and sparse scoring opportunities.

The win was secured in the first half when City captain Steph Catley unleashed a strike from the left side of the box that bounced off the hands of Sydney keeper Aubrey Bledsoe for the game’s only goal.

In the second half, City withstood an onslaught of attacks to secure victory.

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On the final whistle, scenes of jubilation broke out across the field as City players, coaches and officials basked in the glory of their victory.

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Catley and head coach Rado Vidosic were presented with the champions trophy, capping off a tremendous day for everyone associated with Melbourne City.

Catley was also declared the player of the match after an excellent display of gut running, skilful passing and for scoring the match-winning goal.

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The Grand Final victory came off the back of a semi final where they devastated the league’s second highest-scoring team Western Sydney Wanderers in a 5-1 drubbing.

The explosive speed of winger Ellie Carptener was on show that afternoon, as she surged forward with authority in an offensive onslaught that overwhelmed the Wanderers.

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However the season did not get off to the best start. The only blemish on City’s record came way back in round one when they drew with, somewhat ironically, eventual wooden spooners Newcastle Jets.

It signalled what would become a slow start to the season for City, underlined by a string of close escapes and tough scrappy matches over the coming weeks.

In round two they stole the points from Canberra United, rallying from a goal behind to win the match in stoppage time, with Emily Van Egmond banging home the match-winning penalty in the fourth additional minute.

Clutch play would become a hallmark of her season, which will go down as one of the best in W-League history.

She was the centrepiece of the City midfield, patrolling the field with purpose, orchestrating attacks, while being lethal up front with six goals.

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Van Egmond, Aivi Luik and Yukari Kinga would form the most formidable midfield combination in the league, controlling tempo and slicing through opposition defences.

In round four City would escape again. This time Serbian import Milica Mijatovic scored in the 76th minute to hand City a 2-1 win over their eventual Grand Final opponent Sydney.

Mijatovic was an imposing presence in the front third all season with her brutal attack on the ball creating time and space for her the forwards to attack the goals.

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In round five City waited until the 89th minute of play to break the deadlock against Melbourne Victory, with Kinga thumping home the goal after a sizzling assist from Catley, who whipped the ball in from out wide, allowing Kinga to convert from directly in front.

The Japanese maestro who created so many goals with her pinpoint passing and deft decision-making was this time on the other end of the play, and in doing so delivered City a derby win.

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In the second half of the season the goals came more frequently as City began to flex their muscles.

Overseas import Claire Emslie began to hit the scoreboard with regularity, living up to her preseason hype, while fellow forward Kyah Simon became a sharpshooter, pouncing on her opportunities. That duo would rack up eleven goals between them.

The late season addition of Ally Watt would provide another goal-scoring dimension for City, as they bolstered their squad before the finals.

Between round eight and the Semi Final, City strung together seven consecutive multiple goal victories as all of the goal-scoring weapons in Vidosic’s arsenal came to the fore.

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This was matched by a defensive masterclass with the likes of Rebekah Stott, Emma Checker and Lauren Barnes smothering opposition forwards by pressing up the field and controlling possession.

That trio of tough, combative defenders proved the perfect protection for goalkeeper, Lydia Williams who racked up nine clean sheets, including a seven-match stretch. All up, City only conceded five goals in fourteen games.

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City’s overall superiority was evident yet again in their Grand Final victory as they secured the club’s fourth W-League title, the most of any team in the history of the competition.

It also marked the first title as a head coach for Vidosic, who was under considerable pressure coming into the season after failing to make the finals for the first time in club history last year.

Under his tutelage, the squad steadily improved over the weeks, and come the business end of season they were firing on all cylinders.

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Their Grand Final victory completed the perfect season for City: 13 wins, one draw and no losses.

Once again they are champions of the W-League and the undisputed gold standard of women’s football in Australia.

Feature Image Credit: Melbourne City

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Michael Patane
Student at Monash University and lover of all things football covering Melbourne City in 2019/20.