Captain Steph Catley leads by example as Melbourne City claim W-League glory
A year after missing finals football for the first time in club history, Melbourne City beat Sydney FC 1-0 on Steph Catley's 15th-minute goal to climb back to the summit of Australian women's football and, in doing so, stand alone as four-time W-League champions.
Ahead of the game, captain Catley sang the praises of her side's form under Rado Vidosic's coaching and, while they might not have been at their best at AAMI Park on Saturday, City prevailed.
- Sydney FC Player Ratings: Latsko, Polias 8/10 as FC edged out
In doing so, the long-term plan put in place after Jess Fishlock left the club in 2018 has paid dividends with one of the greatest seasons in Australian footballing history.
It is hard to pinpoint anything bad for a side that just won its fourth title in five years, but one does have to question the sustainability of City's model of dominance. Success has largely been built off an ability to recruit Australian internationals and high-quality overseas talent to Bundoora. Will such players continue to join as the siren's song of major European leagues becomes ever stronger?
Manager rating (out of 10)
7 -- Vidosic has not had too much in-game coaching throughout the season, given City's dominance, but his side's mental strength showed in the second half of this final. The win sealed an undefeated campaign in his second year at the helm.
Player ratings (1-10; 10 = best, players introduced after 70 minutes get no rating)
GK Lydia Williams, 8 -- With Sydney's press forcing City's defence back, Williams was frequently called into action. She hesitated to come out of her area, which allowed a chance for Veronica Latsko early in the second half, but was able to get enough on the effort to enable Ellie Carpenter to clear. Williams also made a strong save to deny Princess Ibini late.
DF Steph Catley, 9 -- Netted the only goal after she played a one-two with Emily van Egmond and hammered a shot that Aubrey Bledsoe bundled into her own net. Catley proved a constant nuisance on the left flank but was lucky not to give away a penalty for a handball.
DF Lauren Barnes, 6 -- Played a few nice balls forward, but she also made a number of sloppy passes that were turned over and resulted in Sydney attacks.
DF Rebekah Stott, 8 -- Like her centre-back partners, she did not start strongly but was more solid as the 90 minutes progressed and ended up as one of the game's best players. Made several key interceptions and even forward a few times.
DF Emma Checker, 6 -- Did not do anything to catch the eye but, as a central defender, that's not really her job. Solid, unspectacular and, most importantly, a W-League champion.
DF Ellie Carpenter, 7 -- The Matildas' prodigy had an unusually quiet first half, but grew into the contest and finished strongly. Carpenter cleared Latsko's shot off the line after Williams took the sting out of it.
MF Yukari Kinga, 7 -- Did not do a lot of flashy stuff, but worked hard in her holding midfield role and bailed out her teammates on a number of occasions after uncharacteristic turnovers.
MF Aivi Luik, 7 -- Served as a vital release valve and safety blanket when City's attacks broke down in front of her.
MF Emily van Egmond, 7 -- Playing in her first Grand Final, Van Egmond was clearly up for the contest and put in work offensively and defensively. Was part of the one-two that set up Catley's goal, though faded in the second half.
FW Kyah Simon, 6 -- Dropped deeper than we have seen in recent weeks as Van Egmond was given licence to roam and was quieter as a result. Simon hit the crossbar after getting into space on the right in the 34th minute and failed to hit the target when played through in the 57th.
FW Claire Emslie, 7 -- Normally so clinical, she failed to convert a golden chance when she intercepted Alanna Kennedy's sloppy backpass and failed to beat Bledsoe. Known around the City Football Academy for her work ethic, she got better in the second as her fitness levels showed.
FW Milica Mijatovic, 6 -- Set up Van Egmond for an effort on goal and almost charged down an attempted Bledsoe clearance into the net. In her debut W-League season, she is the first Serbian to win a championship.
FW Ally Watt, NR -- Came on as an 85th-minute substitute for Simon and showed her speed.