Melbourne City grounds Newcastle Jets, Sydney edges Central Coast in ALW semi-finals

Teammates flock to Daniela Galic after her early goal for Melbourne City against Newcastle Jets on Sunday afternoon.

Teammates flock to Daniela Galic after her early goal for Melbourne City against Newcastle Jets on Sunday afternoon. Photo: Getty

Melbourne City has taken a huge step towards qualifying for the A-League Women grand final after destroying Newcastle 3-0 on enemy territory in the semi-final first leg.

A fifth-minute strike from Daniela Galic and a tap-in by midfielder Emina Ekic just after the hour mark set up the win for City at Maitland Sports Ground on Sunday.

Junior Matildas captain Shelby McMahon added the icing to the cake with a 77th-minute strike after the Jets defence inexplicably dropped off the 15-year-old.

The Jets almost scored a consolation goal in the final minute, but City scrapped hard on the goal line to ensure the clean sheet.

City will have home ground advantage for next Sunday’s second leg at AAMI Park, putting the premiers in an excellent position to secure its spot in the decider.

The Jets entered the first leg still not knowing whether the ownerless club would still be around next season.

Newcastle bucked the odds just to reach the finals.

Coach Gary van Egmond left in mid-January to take up a role with the Chinese Football Association, but the Jets won their final three games of the home-and-away season to scrape into sixth spot.

Newcastle’s 4-2 elimination final win over Western United last week marked the women’s team’s maiden finals victory – but the Jets couldn’t repeat those heroics in the first leg against Melbourne City.

City needed less than five minutes to open the scoring.

Rhianna Pollicina’s shot cannoned off the woodwork, and Galic was on hand to score from the rebound and silence the 6836 crowd.

City lost defender Karly Roestbakken in the 20th minute to an ankle injury.

Despite dominating the early part of the match, the visitors endured some nervous moments in the lead-up to halftime as the Jets pushed hard for an equaliser.

None of their efforts produced a goal, with interim Newcastle coach Ryan Campbell expressing his frustration to the officials as the players came off at the break.

The scoreline was 2-0 in the second half when Ekic bundled in a dangerous low cross from Laura Hughes.

The Jets’ slack defence was squarely to blame for the third goal, with Newcastle players dropping off McMahon to allow her time to trap the ball, turn and shoot.

Sky Blues gain edge over Central Coast Mariners

Sydney FC’s Mackenzie Hawkesby chases Central Coast’s Isabel Gomez. Photo: Getty

In Gosford, Sydney FC moved a step closer to its seventh consecutive grand final after a 1-0 win over Central Coast Mariners in the first leg of the A-League Women semi-final.

A cool second-half strike from Mackenzie Hawkesby was all that separated the two sides as Sydney sealed victory in front of 4014 fans at Industree Group Stadium on Sunday.

But Ante Juric’s side could be forced to play the second leg without talismanic captain Princess Ibini, who failed to return in the second half with a suspected shoulder injury.

The potential absence of the fringe Matildas forward at Leichhardt Oval next Saturday could have major ramifications for the Sky Blues’ hopes of reaching the decider.

Still, the pressure will be on the Mariners, who barring one-slip up from Kyah Simon were more than Sydney’s match, but must now wrestle back control of the tie.

Sydney threatened from the off when Ibini played Cortnee Vine in one on one with Casey Dumont.

The Mariners goalkeeper was able to parry the shot away and soon it was her opposite number who was coming under scrutiny.

Chinese striker Wurigumula forced Jada Whyman into a fingertips save and Sydney’s Margaux Chauvet was on hand to clear a Jazmin Wardlow effort off the line.

The Sky Blues weathered the storm until half-time when Ibini eventually succumbed to her injury.

Her replacement, Shea Connors, had an instant impact, slipping the Mariners’ defence and finding space with ease.

After weathering a sustained five-minute onslaught the Mariners breathed a sigh of relief, only for Simon to lose the ball in transition.

Indiana Dos Santos drove forward and fed an on-rushing Hawkesby, who tucked past Dumont to give the Sky Blues a 1-0 lead after 54 minutes.

The Mariners refused to die wondering and went agonisingly close to adding an equaliser in the final half an hour.

Simon blasted one shot over the bar, Bianca Galic did similar and Wurigumula thrashed one well-taken effort onto Whyman’s left post.


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