Roar reclaim W-League championship
Story and photos by Ann Odong
Led by the player of the match Tameka Butt, the Brisbane Roar have reclaimed the Westfield W-League title courtesy of a hard-fought 2-1 win over Sydney FC at Campbelltown Stadium. For the Roar, it was sweet revenge for last season’s grand final loss to the same team, and it makes them the first team to win two W-League championships.
Despite last week’s grueling semifinal win, it was Brisbane who came out fired up from the whistle. Five minutes in they had their first chance with Butt’s cross spotting up fellow striker Lana Harch. However, under pressure from the defense, Harch was unable to get her header on target.
Brisbane didn’t have too long to dwell on the chance before they found themselves in behind the Sydney line again. This time it was Harch with the pinpoint cross, and this time Butt dispatched her header clinically to give her side the lead after nine minutes. For Butt, the goal underlined her big game credentials with her third goal in as many grand finals.
Going behind was the scare that Sydney required, and with captain Kylie Ledbrook and Teresa Polias leading from the front, the premiers slowly worked their way into the contest. In the 34th minute, Ledbrook brought her team level with a brilliant individual effort as she lofted the ball over keeper Casey Dumont’s head into the far post net.
Back on level terms, Brisbane suffered a further blow when five minutes before the break vibrant forward Harch was stretchered off the pitch with a suspected broken ankle. With the rain starting to pour down, the referee brought an entertaining first half to a close with the scores locked at 1-1.
After the restart, golden boot winner Kyah Simon got Sydney FC off to a good start when she produced a powerful long-range effort forcing Dumont to athletically tip it over. Leena Khamis was next in the action when she looked to head home a Simon cross but the ensuing collision with the Roar’s Kim Carroll and Dumont saw Khamis pulled up, to her displeasure, for a foul.
Substituted into the game for Harch, Lisa De Vanna made her presence felt for the first time in the game when her curling strike gave Dimi Poulos some work. Seconds later, the counter ended with the increasingly important Dumont making another fine save after Simon played in Ledbrook.
After all the parry and thrust, the decisive moment came in the 66th minute when De Vanna found a patch of space, skipped past central defender Danielle Brogan, and calmly side footed past the stranded Poulos. Overjoyed, the striker went on to celebrate the goal with her sister from Melbourne, who was 20 rows back in the bleachers!
On top, the visitors had several chances to put the game beyond Sydney’s reach. First, with 13 minutes left in the game, Kennya Cordner pushed her shot wide with just Poulos to beat. Then, Lauren Colthorpe blazed narrowly high and wide. The dominant and highest scoring team all season, Sydney made one final push to find the equaliser but, when they needed them the most, the goals deserted them.
It was a satisfied Jeff Hopkins at the final whistle.
“Credit to the girls, they stuck with it and put their bodies on the line getting their reward in the end,” said dual championship coach. “The game at the beginning of the season (a 4-2 home defeat) gave us a real wake-up call. We have worked on a number of things since and I thought our performance today defensively and also going forward was one of our best of the season.”
“My first grand final, my first win. To be a part of that I am really happy about it all,” said ecstatic goal scorer Lisa De Vanna. “The majority of the players in Brisbane are quality players with the Matildas. They just helped me mentally and physically to go out there and perform.”
Meanwhile a subdued Alen Stajcic was unable to hide his regret in the result. “The season was really good, but today is obviously disappointing,” he said. “Definitely far from our best performance which was the disappointing part I guess. But Brisbane were the better team and they definitely deserved it.”
After hanging up her gloves on a football career that only reached the heights she could jump, Ann Odong has turned her attention to reporting and supporting the game she loves. Ann will be looking at the game down under as well as examining those behind the game.
(All photos copyright Ann Odong and may not be replicated, reproduced, distributed or downloaded.)