Western United moved to the top of the Liberty A-League Women on Wednesday, claiming an outstanding 2-0 victory over Sydney FC at City Vista Pavilion and Sports Field.
After a tight opening to the game, Hannah Keane unlocked the door with a smart finish in the 19th minute before scoring a second goal just past the half hour mark.
Those strikes proved to be the match-winning ones as United defended superbly to keep the competition’s second-best attack at bay.
The win takes United three points clear of Sydney at the top of the league ahead of another big match against Western Sydney Wanderers at the weekend.
There was one change to Mark Torcaso’s starting XI after a quick turnaround from Saturday’s win over Wellington Phoenix.
Tyla Jay Vlajnic, who scored the winner in that game, came in for Kahli Johnson on the left-hand side while would-be debutant Danielle Steer took a place on the bench for the first time.
Western United made a positive start to the contest, but Sydney made it difficult to create any meaningful chances and began to find possession through midfield.
United’s defensive structure was rigid to limit Sydney’s openings, with the Green and Black midfield in particular working overtime to put pressure on the visitors in possession and spring the other way when the ball was won.
The threat from Torcaso’s side was mostly down the right wing as Jessica McDonald and Stacey Papadopoulos repeatedly linked up to great effect, with one such occasion seeing a cross from the former flash past Adriana Taranto and Keane in the box.
But not long after, that trio combined to open the scoring. Some superb interplay brought McDonald through on goal in the box and when her shot was parried, Taranto was onto the rebound and squared the ball to Keane who buried a low shot with her left foot.
Sydney responded well after going behind and penned United back for a period either side of the drinks break as they went in search of the game’s second goal.
That did come in the 35th minute, but unfortunately for Sydney it came at the other end as Keane doubled her tally, going to joint-top of the golden boot standings in the process.
It was quite similar in its construction as more great work down the right wing resulted in an Emma Robers cross into the box, but this time Vlajnic was onto the loose ball, shovelling it through to Keane who did the rest with a deadly finish.
Sydney continued to pose a threat going the other way with Madison Haley particularly dangerous, but a few sights at goal failed to hit the mark as United went into the break with an important lead.
Just as in the first half, United brought intensity from the opening whistle with a superb run from Aimee Medwin just after the restart helping to draw a free-kick and a yellow card from Sydney’s Sarah Hunter.
Medwin was fantastic in the face of Matilda Cortnee Vine all afternoon and ensured Sydney’s No.11 had no joy out wide.
Torcaso and his staff adjusted the defensive approach slightly and brought Sydney Cummings onto Haley in a number of one-versus-one situations, and the Guyana international was impenetrable, forcing Sydney into an early substitution which saw Vine withdrawn for new signing Rola Badawiya.
The No.25 brought great impact off the bench with her first touch of the ball causing United problems – a mazy run that drew a foul from Robers and a wide free-kick just outside the box.
But again, United adjusted and matched the threat with intelligence and tenacity in every position on the pitch.
The home side was ultimately unlucky not to add to the pitch as McDonald had a header from a corner that was somehow cleared off the line before substitute Kahli Johnson brought an acrobatic save Katie Offer in Sydney’s goal with a powerful half-volley.
Western United saw out the remainder of the game and held onto a second consecutive clean sheet and ensuring no opposition had scored a goal at City Vista in the side’s three home games so far.