As promised, this certainly was a match of two top clubs battling it out, as if it was a mid-season Grand Final. Despite City’s rich run of form at late, our legs were unfortunately cut out from under us as the match finished in a 3-0 result unappreciative of the contest at hand.
There were key moments within the game that ensured our City girls suffered their largest loss since March of 2021, most of which either involved an unresponsive defence or a lack of finishing finesse. Either way, despite the beauty of our general play, it was just not to be.
You could argue the Asian Cup has impacted our form, but we do have Winonah Heatley back. Holly McNamara is a key player, but relying on one player is never going to work. Look how Barcelona turned out…
So, what came from this devastating result? Here are three things we learnt:
‘Bubs’ proves age is just a number
Melissa Barbieri has surely gone from strength to strength this season, filling in fantastically and almost certainly putting doubt in Rado Vidošić’s mind regarding first team selection now that Sally James is back from her injury.
When it comes down to it, Bubs has been incredible, with a save percentage of 72% from 25 shots (according to FBRef.com), which comfortably places the City goalkeeper in 5th in the league. Keeping the team in the game early with a one-on-one save - an athletic leap to her left and steady hands - Barbieri was only to be beaten by three separate one-on-ones throughout the game due to a variety of defensive errors in front of her.
In the final eight minutes, James provided Barbieri with a well-deserved chop-out as she came on to have a couple of touches in the late stages. Will her spot be in jeopardy? This may have been the plan all along, but if Barbieri is playing like this, Vidošić surely has a decision to make.
Alarm bells are not ringing… yet
Right, so let me be clear, no one likes being beaten 3-0. But hear me out…
Sydney may have some sort of false security resulting from last night's game. Their ability to counter, make sure to finish off chances and relative pace across the park ensured a lovely result on paper; but let’s look at the stats. We were the first team to break Sydney’s general dominance of the ball with 57% possession throughout the game, proving our ability to hold onto possession. We even got on the scoresheet early in the first half but the goal was unfortunately chalked out due to a foul in the box.
This possession is incredibly important, as it proves that we forced Sydney to play into our hands, which unfortunately lead them to finding an exposed part of our game-plan. If we had snuffed this out early on, we may have seen a different scoreline.
We simply need to get back to our defensive basics
I’ve been alluding to this point, now we get down to it. Our defence is lacking something, and that is a combination of reaction to/awareness of runners and pace overall. Let’s break it down:
The first goal is a direct counter from Leah Davidson attempting to slide past two Sydney players, where Sydney face a 2v4. A quick pass forward, and an albeit poor dink forward by Princess Ibini has Barbieri exposed in a one-on-one. Reactions.
The second goal is from an arguably lovely ball forward to Rachel Lowe, which is not the problem. The issue is the speed of the defence to get back, as the City defence permits Lowe to cut in on a 50-degree angle with no defender in sight, and expertly places the ball in at the near post. Speed.
The final goal is a combination of both. A quick ball over the top, and somehow Lowe is there again with no City player within arms reach to even attempt a challenge.
If we are to push for the top spots this season, these key issues must be overcome.
Be it a veteran journeyman in Maria Rojas, or a TikTok icon Charlize Rule, Sydney FC proved that they have a squad that can go the distance. Despite this, our girls will be looking to bounce back hard and fast against Brisbane come next Saturday (fixtures pending… like always these days).