Victory Nail A Screamer

“That game was very condensed, like condensed milk,” said a friend who I had brought along to her first W-League game. “Not that condensed milk is bad – sometimes I eat it after I make rum balls.”

Melbourne Victory 2 – Newcastle Jets 1

On an uncomfortably warm night to welcome us to November we made our way down to one of the most scenic grounds in Melbourne to watch the second Thursday night game of the year between Victory and the Jets.

After a quick dash to the toilets we took our seats and were greeted with the reflection of a stunning sunset. If only we could see the actual sunset behind us. People watching the stream of the match said it was nice, anyway, so I guess that’s something.

The game began with wave after wave of attack from the Jets. Given their first week bye they would have been keen to make a good first impression. They looked impressive early on, and with the ball at her feet (a chance she would seldom get in the second half) Emily van Egmond was a class above.

Suddenly, completely against the run of play… what a goal! Melina Ayres steps up and slots home what could well be the goal of the season, or is at the very least a lock in for top 3. From 30 yards back, she fired into top bins, leaving the keeper with no chance at all. The defence perhaps could have done more to press her and Jets keeper Eckerstrom may have been slightly out of position but at the end of the day the goal was just class. Worth the rare trip south of the river just for that.

“The game will settle down after that,” said condensed milk friend. She was wrong. The game just started heating up.

Less than 5 minutes later, Victory doubled their lead after an exquisite through ball from Grace Maher (who had a blinder, it should be said) found Natasha Dowie who was never going to miss. 2-0, 11 minutes gone. This was not how I thought the game would go and I began to worry for the poor old Jets.

But wait… in what seemed like a blink of an eye, the Jets pulled one back. It looked quite similar to Dowie’s goal a minute earlier. Stengel slipped it through for Courtnee Vine to score what (I think) is her first W-League goal. 2-1 after 13 minutes. Game on.

It looked as if there would be more goals in the game but they just didn’t seem to be forthcoming. Full disclosure, I spent much of the remaining first half in the line at the kiosk attempting to get nuggets, chips and a cider. The nuggets and chips were fine but does it really need to take 5 minutes to pour cider from a bottle into a plastic cup? The lady behind me was making her opinions very loudly known. It does not need to take that long, apparently. 1/10 for service, 8/10 for nug life at the Lakeside Stadium tonight.

The second half began much less frantically than the first half did. Both teams had their chances, Victory more so than the Jets. Dowie in particular missed two that you’d expect her to get and there was also a few near-misses off corners. Newcastle could have scored once or twice as well but Melbourne always looked more likely.

Newcastle kept pressing towards the back end of the second half but weren’t quite able to get the breakthrough. They looked a little bit lacking in ideas in attack. Taylor Smith made a few encouraging runs down the WINGS – she’s an absolute gun and lightning fast. Van Egmond was marked out of the game in the second half but if they can get her more touches in the future she will be able to control games. Victory were the better team on the night but I wouldn’t be too disheartened to be Newcastle – there’s enough there to be excited about.

I’m not entirely convinced by Crummer at centre-back, although there’s still a lot of the season to play. Her work rate was great and her talent unquestionable. For me, she just looked like she lacked a little bit of positional awareness. Still, it’s the first game of the season for the Jets and the whole team will improve in terms of positioning and communication going forward, so it’s nothing to be overly worried about.

Melbourne really impressed me tonight. The attack was fluid and Gielnik ran the show, particularly in the first half. I thought Annabel Martin had a good game until being subbed off around the 55-minute mark. I particularly enjoyed her complete lack of flinch after being absolutely hammered by what looked like a high boot (although admittedly I haven’t seen it on replays) in the early second half. MelindaJ Barbieri had a high-energy cameo off the bench as well – her work rate was exemplary.

The only downside for Melbourne was their lack of clinical finishing at times, particularly during the second half. If Ayres keeps banging in rockets from 30 yards it won’t matter, of course, but it might cost them throughout the season.

One of the off-field highlights of the night was watching literally everyone around me fangirl as Lisa de Vanna walked past a couple of minutes into the game. What a living legend. I wonder who she was backing?

Overall, a lovely stadium, a lovely night, and a thoroughly enjoyable game of football. Onto the next!

By Taryn Heddo