Melbourne City FC missed an opportunity to lock down a Westfield W-League finals berth after falling to a 2-0 defeat in the Melbourne Derby at Epping Stadium on Sunday afternoon.
Goals to Natasha Dowie and Christine Nairn secured all three points for the hosts, as City failed to capitalise on the chance to consolidate its position inside the top four with two regular season matches to play.
It was a frustrating afternoon for Jess Fishlock’s side, who dominated possession, hit the post and had countless opportunities to score in a valiant attempt to overturn the deficit, but couldn’t find a way past a spirited Victory outfit.
The result sees City remain a point clear in fourth position, setting up a tantalising home clash against the fifth-placed Brisbane Roar at CB Smith Reserve next week.
With a spot in the top four of the Westfield W-League on the line, the motivation was stronger than ever for City to return to the winners list, but it was a nightmare start for the reigning champions as the hosts took the lead inside the opening minute.
Dowie, who is currently the league's top goal scorer, demonstrated her finishing prowess after just 27 seconds, cutting inside and slotting home a low finish past Lydia Williams to put Victory ahead.
The goal sparked City into instant action as Fishlock’s side asserted its dominance in possession and chances created.
Beverly Yanez came close to finding the equaliser in the 14th minute, nodding Lauren Barnes’ whipped cross only inches over the cross bar, while Fishlock was denied a shot on goal inside the six yard box by some desperate defending only minutes later.
By now, City were well on top as the pressure mounted on the Victory defence, who were content on defending deep and attacking on the counter.
Amy Jackson tried her luck with two long range efforts – one which sailed over the bar and the other rolling into the arms of Bianca Henninger – but, in the 30th minute, the hosts would double their advantage against the run of play.
A short corner provided Nairn with space to whip in a teasing ball towards the back post. The ball had a bit of extra power on it, however, looping over the head of Williams and into the back of the net.
It was a sucker punch for City, but their heads didn’t drop in search of a ticket back into the contest. Yanez saw a powerful header cleared off the line brilliantly by Samantha Johnson, while Fishlock came closest to pulling one back with a curling effort that rattled the post.
Much like the first half, City enjoyed most of the attacking play in the second period. Yanez again headed wide with Henninger stranded, while Larissa Crummer was denied by some desperate Victory defending inside the six yard area.
Jacynta Galabadaarachchi, on as a substitute to inject some pace and freshness in the final third, tested Henninger with a trademark run and shot, until City were given a lifeline from the penalty spot five minutes from time.
Fishlock stepped up to take the penalty after Aivi Luik was bundled over in the area. The Welsh midfielder fired an effort that beat Henninger, but also beat the post, with Victory successfully withstanding a mountain of second half pressure to claim a memorable win.
Westfield W-League Round 12
Sunday, 15 January 2017
Melbourne Victory 2 (Natasha DOWIE 1’, Christine NAIRN 30’)
Melbourne City FC
Venue: Epping Stadium
Melbourne City FC: 1. Lydia WILLIAMS (GK), 2. Teigen ALLEN (18. Jacynta GALABADAARACHCHI 57’), 3. Lauren BARNES, 5. Laura ALLEWAY, 6. Aivi LUIK, 7. Steph CATLEY (C), 9. Larissa CRUMMER (11. Erika TYMRAK 78’), 10. Jess FISHLOCK, 13. Rebekah STOTT, 15. Amy JACKSON (17. Marianna TABAIN 46’), 16. Beverly YANEZ
Substitutes not used: 20. Emily SHIELDS (GK),
Interim Head Coach: Jess FISHLOCK
Melbourne Victory: 1. Bianca HENNINGER (GK), 2. Alexandra NATOLI, 5. Alexandra GUMMER, 6. Annabel MARTIN, 9. Natasha DOWIE, 10. Christine NAIRN, 11. Melindaj Barbieri (7. Lia PRIVITELLI 74’), 13. Laura SPIRANOVIC (8. Ayesha NORRIE 79’), 16. Samantha JOHNSON, 17. Gulcan KOCA, 25. Kariah WHITE
Substitutes not used: 20. Bethany MASON-JONES (GK), 15. Adriana TARANTO
Head Coach: Jeff HOPKINS