Melbourne Victory won through to their second successive W-League grand final with an action-packed 3-2 win to end the reign of champions Sydney FC.
A second-half penalty from Melbourne Victory’s American midfielder Lauren Barnes midway through the second half proved to be the pivotal moment of a rain-sodden contest at WIN Jubilee Oval in Sydney.
Melbourne’s win, combined with Brisbane Roar’s 2-1 victory over premiers Canberra United on Saturday, saw the top-two teams eliminated at the semi-final stage.
Melbourne will now host the Roar next Sunday seeking their maiden W-League crown after crashing to a 3-1 defeat against Sydney in last season’s decider.
“We really worked hard the entire game and we deserved this result,” said Victory skipper Steph Catley.
“We created a lot of chances and converted our chances this week, which we haven’t been doing recently.
“Maybe we were overwhelmed at home last year, but that won’t be the case this year.”
Both coaches made some intriguing line-up selections with dual cricket and football international Ellyse Perry starting on the bench, despite missing the opportunity to play for NSW Breakers in the domestic limited-overs final.
For Melbourne inspirational midfielder Jess Fishlock was used as a striker, and she duly delivered netting the opening goal following an interchange of passes from Lisa De Vanna, with the pair a constant menace for the Sky Blues’ defence.
Defender Jessica Humble extended the margin with a brilliant header for a perfectly timed maiden W-League goal.
However, the Sky Blues, having set a new benchmark for goal-scoring this season, constantly threatened in an end-to-end contest and Sam Kerr pulled a goal back in first-half injury time.
Leena Khamis then drew Sydney level early in the second half with a perfectly executed volley.
It seemed Sydney would likely use the momentum to edge the win but Victory goalkeeper Brianna Davey was in imperious form in a tense second half.