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A-League Women’s Wrap: Plan Bs kick in, a scholarship player earns promotion, and a historic club loses its way

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A-League Women players

Each week, ABC Sport will bring you a spin-off of the women’s league competition, including the winners, losers, and the good thing that happened on or off the field.

Seventh round at a glance

Melbourne City retained second place with a 1-0 win over Adelaide, Sydney F.C. showed no mercy after thrashing Canberra United 6-0, leaving Brisbane Roar behind again with a 3-2 win over Wellington, and Melbourne Victory squeaking over Western Sydney 1-0. , Newcastle Jets remain equal with Perth after the 1-1 draw.

Winners

contingency plans

If there was any doubt that some teams were better prepared to lose key players than others, Round 7 definitely proved who had the strongest Plan B.

Through a combination of Matildas call-ups, loan spells expiring, and Covid-19, ALW clubs have now had to reach deep into their teams to find ways to manage during the current moment.

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Sydney FC leaders Sydney barely missed a step in their game against Canberra on Saturday, bringing in veteran international Maria Cote Rojas and Kiwi Paige Sachel to the starting line-up to replace departing striker Remy Simpson and winger Courtney Fine.

They were almost perfect, as are the substitutions, with Satchell’s electric velocity mirroring Vine down the right wing, while Rojas’ relentless play and hook-up emulate the dynamic that Siemens developed with the players around her, especially Princess Ebenny-Essie, Mackenzie Huxby and Rachel Lowe.

Indeed, Simpson could have faced more competition than she expected upon her return to Australia after the Rojas hat-trick that saw the Sky Blues hand United the biggest defeat in their history.

Melbourne’s Plan B may not have been as effective as Sydney’s, but the 1-0 win over more competitive Adelaide United showed they had the depth to get through this difficult period.

After losing striker Holly McNamara and defender Winona Heatley, head coach Radu Vidocic made his first start to youngsters Darcy Malone and Naomi Thomas-Chinama, who helped bolster City’s defense against the recent free-goal Reds.

And while Adelaide was unlucky to score in a dominant first half, City rose to the challenge in the second, thanks in large part to quarterback Rihanna Polisina.

Polisina stepped in to fill in a creative attacking threat posed by McNamara, scoring the only goal of the match after a superb slalom through the bewildered Adelaide defenders to secure City’s fourth win in a row.

Rihanna Polisina, left, relied on her futsal background to get past two Adelaide defenders and score the winning goal in Melbourne City.(Getty Images: Albert Perez)

And while McNamara will be out for a while longer after the dynamic striker made it to the last 23 players in Matildas’ squad, they will soon see the return of superstar defender Heatley, who missed out on the selection.

Returning to the right alongside superb defenders Emma Tchker and Tori Tomyth – all of whom have conceded just four goals this season – Heatley’s return will add more certainty to City’s finals, as long as they can continue to score the other goals. End.

Alyssa Wenham

There are countless ALW players this season whose stories sum up what the league is all about now: creating more opportunities for young, undiscovered local talent to break into the arena and prepare themselves for bigger and better things in football.

But there are a few players throughout the competition who exemplify this as vividly – and most recently – as Wellington Phoenix forward Alyssa Wenham.

Women's First Division players
Wellington Phoenix’s Alyssa Wenham embodies everything the Women’s First Division is all about.(Getty Images: Mark Evans)

Phoenix head coach Gemma Lewis told the New Zealand Under-17 international that she was not included in the club’s inaugural ALW squad.

Instead, Lewis said, “Just focus on your international youth duties and play for New Zealand-based club Canterbury United and you might get a call next year.”

But with the start of the regular season approaching, Wenham received a phone call.

I was awarded a scholarship contract thanks to an international loophole that allowed Wellington to offer two additional sites to New Zealand players under the age of 18.

Wenham was linked with the team prior to their move to New South Wales, and has since told the media that she used her original non-selection as an incentive for a break season.

and I did. On Sunday afternoon against Brisbane, Wenham scored their first ALW goal – Wellington’s second so far this season – capping what was a truly brilliant start to her professional football career.

Her reaction after scoring, and turning to her teammates with a look of shock and disbelief on her face, seemed to epitomize the emotions that spanned the past two months and the work that had led her to this point.

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The word “SHOOT” written in black marker on the strap around her wrist also spoke of how the young Kiwi soccer player took advantage of her slim chance with both hands: to punch her in, if you will.

“I was so surprised,” Wenham said afterwards. “I couldn’t believe I scored. I never expected that.”

“I can’t really describe the feeling and explain how much it means, but I couldn’t even believe what happened.

“Right after the match, everyone was saying, ‘Alyssa, you’re spreading fast’ and I was like, ‘Sure for the goal? ‘, but they said, ‘No, to celebrate! “

“If you’ve watched the matches, you know I’m not someone who can shoot when I probably should, so everyone was yelling at me at that moment: ‘Shoot! Release! Release! Release! “

“And then I shot, and I got in. That’s what happens when you shoot, I think.”

actually.

losers

Canberra United

There was a moment against the Sydney side on Saturday afternoon that seemed to epitomize the first half of the 2021-22 season at the odd Canberra United.

Just an hour later, Sydney FC won a corner kick in the shadows of Jubilee Stadium.

Within seconds of Hoxby’s floating of the ball toward the six-yard box, three Canberra players were strewn across each other and were in a tangled heap on the floor, while target music blared from the stadium speakers.

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It was the third of six goals United will conceded this round – the worst result ever in the competition’s history.

As the moment above suggests, it appears that Canberra’s problems are largely of its own making.

Inconsistent team selections and deployment of players in unusual positions have been the hallmarks of United’s season so far, with the match against Sydney being the clearest example of the damage they can cause.

The loss of primary midfielder Grace Maher and defender Emma Iligoski to COVID-19 – as well as short-term loan Karlie Rostbakken to Matildas – saw coach Vicki Linton onto the bench and rotate fully.

Quick winger Hayley Taylor Young was switched to a left-back, young defender Michaela Widmar was handed his first center back, while a brand-new midfield with Laura Hughes and Margot Robben at the start having mostly left the bench previously. games.

The lack of harmony and understanding between the players was evident almost immediately as the Sydney Rojas forward sailed through Canberra’s very high defense line to score his first shot of the match in the first 40 seconds.

Women's League
Sydney FC’s win over Canberra showed two teams on opposite sides of the identity spectrum.(Getty Images: Matt King)

There were problems in the midfield as well, which was regularly breaking down under pressure and finding players regularly staying out of their positions due to a lack of communication between the renewed trio.

Perhaps it is fitting that Canberra have suffered such a historic result against Sydney, a team that has been distinguished by long-term planning and consistency in the multi-season team.

They are also a team with a very clear style and playing system, created to maximize the natural abilities of the players at their disposal, while also allowing them to come in and out of the common structure.

But the same cannot be said for Canberra this season.

Their first six matches were a marked departure from the identity and spirit that made the club one of the most successful in Australia, a club that for so long was the envy of all others.

Now, the vision appears blurred. You’re not quite sure what Canberra is or what you want it to be.

Of all the lessons they can learn from Saturday’s loss, this is perhaps the most important.

Melbourne Victory

Perhaps Jeff Hopkins did not expect his season to become an unwelcome strike game as a result of his need to fill in the gaps left by injury and leave several key players quickly and effectively.

The first big hit was trying to find a suitable replacement for defensive line and injured captain Kayla Morrison.

Last Sunday against Western Sydney, the Victory seemed to have settled on the duo of Claudia Bong and Amy Jackson, who scored the team’s first clean sheet and look to be the ones to solidify their defense in the future.

Women's League
Is young striker Maja Markowski the answer to another gap that Melbourne Victory has to fill?(Getty Images: Scott Gardiner)

However, just as they discovered defensive safety, Victory is now having problems up front.

Losing American forward Lynne Williams on her short-term loan weakened Victory’s attacking arms, which was further affected by forcing winger Lea Privetelli to fill in the left-back position for India-bound Courtney Nevin, while less-experienced Alana Murphy took charge from Kyra Cooney -Cross in midfield.

Young striker Maja Markowski’s debut did some way to address the attacking deficiencies, with the tall striker scoring the match-winning penalty in the second half but then – and a man-of-the-match performance from attacking midfielder Alex. Chidiac – Victory struggled to smash West Sydney’s solid defense, scoring only two shots on target throughout the match.

And while they canceled out the win to retain third place in the ladder, the next few weeks will ultimately decide the fate of the club who are expected to sweep both trophies this season.

This is a good thing

Other Australians go to India

Matilda won’t be the only woman to represent Australia when the 2022 Women’s AFC Asian Cup kicks off later this week.

They will also be joined by some of the country’s top women referees, including 2019 Women’s World Cup referees Kate Jakwicks and Casey Ripplet, along with ALW expert Lara Lee and assistant referee Joanna Charactis.

Four women dressed in black referee uniforms step onto the field before the match
Kate Jakevich, left, and Joanna Charactis, far right, are two of four Australian referees who will officiate at the Women’s Asian Cup starting this week.(Supplied: Football Victoria)

The four Australian teams will be part of the largest group of women’s referees to oversee the continental competition ever, while the introduction of VAR technology from the quarter-finals onwards will give more women additional opportunities to manage at the highest levels and biggest matches in the sport.

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