Western United fell to its fourth defeat of the Liberty A-League Women season on Sunday afternoon, going down 3-0 to Sydney FC in a fiery contest.
An engrossing first-half saw both sides head into the break goalless, but the hosts took control after the interval to find the net three times before the final whistle.
United remains top of the table with three matches left in the regular season and will look to bounce back against Brisbane Roar next week.
There was one change to the starting XI as Danielle Steer came in on the right-wing in place of Kahli Johnson who missed due to international duty.
New signing Tiana Jaber was on the bench for the first time after joining the Club during the week, while Mark Torcaso resumed his place on the touchline having missed last week’s trip to Newcastle.
Both sides brought the tempo immediately with challenges flying in both ways within seconds of the kick-off as each team sought to assert there dominance from the outset.
Steer had the first shot on target with a shot straight at Jada Whyman and the Canadian had an even bigger chance moments later when Hannah Keane picked her out at the back post, but she just couldn’t keep her lunging effort under the crossbar.
It was a game very much played in transition in the opening 20 minutes with both sides looking to catch the opposition on the break, and Sydney very nearly did so when Mackenzie Hawkesby was played through but Hillary Beall was able to push the ball onto the crossbar.
Once the teams settled into proceedings, Sydney FC began to get on top with a sustained period of forward territory keeping United under pressure.
But the visitors’ defence was resolute as Alana Cerne, Sydney Cummings and co. ensured the only further work Beall had to do was claim a couple of crosses into the box.
Each team had chances cleared off the goal line in the final moments of the half but there was nothing to separate the two sides after an enthralling opening 45 minutes.
Sydney brought early pressure after the interval with Princess Ibini seeing plenty of the ball early on and beating Julia Sardo on a couple of occasions, but United again ensured that Beall was not called upon.
That pressure turned into an early goal as Rachel Lowe stole a march in behind United’s defence and finished into the roof of the net one-on-one against Beall.
Challenges continue to fly in and United’s medical team had a busy period just before the hour, attending to knocks to Adriana Taranto, Alana Cerne and Hannah Keane.
Western United continued to push to try wrestle some momentum back but Sydney delivered another blow in the 64th minute via the same combination as Cortnee Vine set up Lowe for her second.
That rather took the sting out of the game for United who had made a double change right before that second goal went in, an intended impact that was essentially immediately nullified.
Sydney continued to threaten for a third and found it with 10 minutes remaining as Princess Ibini ran through on goal and finished off the underside of the crossbar.
That goal all but sealed the result as United fell to its fourth defeat of the campaign, but the Green and Black remains on top of the table with three matches left in the regular season.