Sydney FC beat City to claim record fifth ALW title

Anna Harrington |

Shea Connors’ (9) first ALW goal has won Sydney FC the grand final against Melbourne City.
Shea Connors’ (9) first ALW goal has won Sydney FC the grand final against Melbourne City.

For Sydney FC coach Ante Juric, the Sky Blues’ record-setting third championship of his tenure is the most special.

The irrepressible Sky Blues beat Melbourne City 1-0 in Saturday’s grand final to claim a record fifth A-League Women championship, and their second in a row.

Premiers City dominated possession but super-sub Shea Connors struck in the 69th minute, brilliantly assisted by teen sensation Indiana Dos Santos, to send Sydney FC into ecstasy.

Sydney FC
Sydney FC teammates celebrate their victory with the trophy. (Daniel Pockett/AAP PHOTOS)

Sky Blues midfielder Mackenzie Hawkesby was named player of the match.  

The Sky Blues lost the likes of Rachel Lowe, Madison Haley, Sarah Hunter and Charlie Rule to transfers, while captain Natalie Tobin and defender Kirsty Fenton tore ACLs during the season.

Hawkesby also left for English club Brighton and Hove Albion but returned in December.

“It’s nice. It’s probably – it sounds bad – but most special because of that, we lost so many grand finalists from last year,” said Juric. 

“Macca (Hawkesby) sabotaged me – but then she’s come back. Felt bad for me. But she changed a lot. 

“She changed the off-field dynamics because we were struggling with leadership and bit of energy – so she could change the season. 

“Super proud because the age of the kids, players coming in late, young kids playing, losing six or seven to national teams, having national team players away then coming back, some came back injured. 

“We had long-term injuries which were nothing to do with training – just bad luck, broken knees and things like that from tackles, Tobin. 

“So it all just happened but I’m pretty positive and really happy with people who come in and I don’t care who comes in, we just do the job. 

“That’s the way I coach and want my players to believe they’re good enough to play regardless of who comes in. 

“So yes, super proud. And it was very hard to do what we did.”

Both teams were on four titles heading into Saturday’s clash at AAMI Park in Melbourne, which took place in front of 7671 fans.

City youngsters Daniela Galic and Bryleeh Henry were superb while Sydney FC defenders Charlotte Mclean and Jordan Thompson kept Hannah Wilkinson quiet.

City suffered a blow before the game, with goalkeeper Barbara ruled out with a quad strain and replaced by Melissa Barbieri.

Sydney skipper Princess Ibini set a record by playing in her eighth decider, but made way for Connors in the 67th minute – and it proved a master stroke from Juric.

Shea Connors celebrates.
Shea Connors celebrates her winning goal to clinch Sydney’s record fifth championship. (Daniel Pockett/AAP PHOTOS)

“I’m super proud of the grit – and we’ve used that word for about two or three months – of just grinding,” Juric said.

“And when we got ahead 1-0 I knew we weren’t losing.”

Dario Vidosic’s City spurned multiple good chances to equalise and were left to rue what might have been.

Leticia McKenna appeared destined to score late only to be denied by a Shay Hollman clearance over the bar.

Rhianna Pollicina should have levelled the tie in the 84th minute after a Jada Whyman clearance fell to her, but with the goal beckoning she blasted over the bar.

“For 99 minutes we were perfect,” said Vidosic. 

“And then for that one second, we gave the ball away.”

AAP