The W-League weekend in 280 characters or less
Perth notch their first win after a wild 4-2 win over Newcastle, Adelaide climb off the bottom of the ladder with a stunning 3-2 defeat of Western Sydney, and Victory jump into finals thanks to a 3-0 win over Canberra.
It may have taken them seven games more than last season to do it, but Perth Glory finally got their first win after putting four past Newcastle in a game that seemed to stuff all the craziness we usually see towards the end of W-League seasons into a single 90-minute goal fest. Two of the six goals of the night were scored by W-League newbies -- Perth's Hana Lowry and Newcastle's Laura Allen -- while Jets full-back Tessa Tamplin went viral after scoring maybe the most bizarre goal this competition has ever seen (scroll down to "Is there a gif of that?" and decide for yourself!). Perth's other three goals came through their two international imports, Spain's Celia Jimenez and the much-improved American Morgan Andrews, while WA youngster Caitlin Doeglas impressed off the bench and notched the other.
Glory head coach Bobby Despotovski admitted at half-time that finals were well out of their reach weeks ago, which is true, but it's also a shame because Perth -- like so many teams in the W-League who take time to click -- are finally starting to hit some form. Their performance against Western Sydney last weekend was arguably their best to date considering the quality of their opposition but their win over Newcastle was even more impressive, with the team looking confident in possession and both determined and well drilled in attack. They could still cause an upset when they host Brisbane Roar next week and Sydney FC the week after. If only the W-League season was longer, huh? Which brings us to our next winner ...
The final rounds of the W-League only ever promise one thing: chaos. And Adelaide's game against the high-flying Wanderers on Saturday night delivered us the first taste of what is my tipping competition's worst nightmare as the season draws to a close. Like Perth, Adelaide have started to hit their straps and, most importantly, are finding the back of the net. Their game plan against the possession-heavy Wanderers was executed to perfection: a high, intense midfield press combined with the counter-attacking weapons of Mallory Weber and local youngster Chelsie Dawber.
Indeed, all three of Adelaide's goals came in transition: Dawber picking the pocket of Wanderers centre-back Alex Huynh before charging into acres of space in the box and drilling low and hard past substitute goalkeeper Courtney Newbon; Adelaide left-back Laura Johns intercepting a poor pass and finding Emily Condon down the right wing, who then squared for Weber in the six-yard box while Western Sydney's defenders were all out at sea; and a route-one long ball over the top of the entire field to Weber, who calmly passed the ball into the net. The Wanderers mounted a spirited comeback in the final 10 minutes through a Sam Staab header and an own goal by Lais Araujo (who had been brilliant up until that point), and probably should have gone home with a point were it not for Kristen Hamilton's missed penalty in the 80th minute. All in all, an excellent start to The Chaos Rounds, and a much-deserved win for an Adelaide side who deserve to be further up the table.
Melbourne Victory continue to do the thing, and their win over the luckless Canberra United on Sunday afternoon was the latest in their charge back into the top four. Melina Ayres, who has a knack for scoring worldies against Melbourne City for some reason, hasn't made as many appearances for Jeff Hopkins' side as she did last season, but she'll be well back in starting spot contention after scoring two of Victory's three goals against United -- her first goal and her first brace of the campaign. And with the Melbourne Derby coming up next week, Ayres has found her shooting boots at precisely the right time to potentially derail City's perfect season.
Western Sydney Wanderers
We all thought the Wanderers had weathered the storm after their 4-0 thumping at the hands (feet?) of Brisbane Roar, but the same problems that delivered that first stumble have tripped them up once again. The continued absence of Lynn Williams, who's away with the U.S. Women's National Team; the completion of Denise O'Sullivan's guest stint; and knee injuries to goalkeeper Abby Smith and right-back Erica Halloway (in whose place Amy Harrison has deputised) have effectively taken the spine out of Western Sydney. And as we saw against Brisbane, it was the collapse of the team's spine -- particularly in midfield -- that was their undoing. Now, injuries and absences have forced the Wanderers to try to blood new players just as other teams are coming into season-best form.
Their loss to Adelaide on Saturday saw them start four players who have played fewer than five games each so far this season, including two backup midfielders in Caitlin Cooper and Susan Phonsongkham. O'Sullivan has been particularly difficult to replace, with the North Carolina Courage MVP's work rate and intelligent passing sorely missed against the Reds on Saturday. Funnily enough, Adelaide may feel that this win is well-deserved karma: at almost exactly the same round last season, Western Sydney notched their first win of the campaign by defeating Adelaide. The Reds would go on to miss what would have been their first-ever finals appearance by a single point. The Wanderers could also still miss out on a finals appearance if they lose their remaining games against Sydney, City and Perth (depending on other results, of course). We all know what they say about revenge ...
Even though they had a bye this week, Sydney FC still arguably lost after two of their most valuable players, Caitlin Foord and Chloe Logarzo, signed contracts in England's Women's Super League with Arsenal and Bristol City respectively. Their European adventures begin just after the Matildas finish their Olympic qualification in February, meaning the two Sky Blues veterans will miss the rest of Sydney's season -- including both the Sydney and Big Blue derbies. Last week's column shed light on just how important Foord has been to Sydney this season, and even though Logarzo may not match her teammate stats wise, her midfield work rate and experience has undoubtedly helped them stay in the title race this season. Rumour has it that Canadian international Lindsay Agnew is in Sydney and may be joining her (former) Houston Dash teammates Veronica Latsko and Sofia Huerta at the Sky Blues, but that still leaves a big Matildas-shaped spot to be filled before finals roll around.
Canberra United's last win, a hard-fought 2-1 thanks to goals from veteran striker Leena Khamis and youngster Hayley Taylor-Young, came little more than a month ago against Adelaide in round 6. The three 4-0 losses that followed were, in the grand scheme of things, understandable: they played consecutive games against the top three sides of Western Sydney, Melbourne City and Sydney FC, and two of those were played within four days of each other. But on Sunday afternoon, after a much-needed bye last round, Canberra lost their fourth game in a row, this time a 3-0 loss to Melbourne Victory, and are now unlikely to make finals once again. That win over Adelaide also happened to be the last time Canberra scored a goal. They've conceded 15 since they last saw the back of their opponent's net bulge, almost six entire rounds ago. So while it's all well and good to criticise Canberra's leaky defence, one might be inclined to ask why their strikers aren't doing their jobs either. And that's all I'll say about that.
Young player to watch
Hana Lowry (Perth Glory)
You wouldn't know it from the handful of appearances she's made off the bench this season, but Lowry is a future star of the Matildas. With a knack for unpicking teams with a single pass and a sledgehammer of a left foot, the attacking midfielder finally announced herself on the W-League stage after scoring a bullet header during her first start for Perth against Newcastle this week. The 16-year-old Junior Matilda has been the talk of youth development circles in Australia for a few years now, demonstrating a maturity and a poise on the field that rivals (or even exceeds) that of some of her more experienced teammates. Her four shots against the Jets was the equal-most of anyone on the park despite playing half an hour less than the other two players who registered the same, and her inspired goal -- a 22nd-minute top-bins header from a fizzed-in Crystal Thomas corner -- opened the floodgates for Perth, who finally found their goal-scoring boots and heaved themselves out of the bottom two.
Is there a gif of that?
Tessa Tamplin v Perth
When I watched Tamplin's goal live, I was a huge fan of the "Cool Guys Don't Look At Explosions" celebration. But then I watched the replay ... and realised she didn't mean it. It was, as Bob Ross would say, a happy little accident; the result of a shanked cross that happened to fall at the perfect angle into the top bin. This camera angle that captured Tamplin's reaction to her own error made me think that perhaps it was better she didn't mean it!