To the winners go the spoils ... Sydney FC celebrate their grand final win. Photo: Getty Images
AFTER scraping into the finals on the last day of the season, Sydney FC have completed a fairytale end to their season with a 3-1 win over Melbourne Victory in the W-League grand final at AAMI Park.
In front of a boisterous and parochial crowd of 4181, the Sky Blues were driven by the starring performances of Kyah Simon in attack and Shamiran Khamis in goals, with Sam Kerr, Renae Rollason and Caitlin Foord offering key contributions in a high-quality match.
Simon in particular was a constant thorn in the Victory's side, despite spending much of the game as a lone striker. She worked tirelessly to create opportunities for teammates and was duly rewarded with the player of the match award - not to mention the final goal, a clinical finish from the penalty spot.
''Both teams had their chances but there's no better feeling when you come out on top,'' Simon said after the match. ''I personally love a challenge and being in a situation where you have to pull out something big, it's hard, but it's rewarding. To hold up the trophy, it shows how much our hard work and dedication has paid off.''
Simon later half-seriously said she was disappointed not to meet her personal ambition for the match. ''I set a goal to score a hat-trick today. I didn't do that but you can't always get what you want,'' she said. ''But I'd rather lift the trophy than score a hat-trick, anyway.''
Coach Alen Stajcic was most pleased at winning the league with a group of players who will be around for several years to come.
''For a young team to gel together so well so quickly is a good sign not only for our team but the future of the national teams,'' he said. ''We have an average age of about 19, with 14 new players from last year. For them to be able to produce that performance with such a short training phase, it shows how good the talent is coming through in this country.''
Sydney were fifth going into the final round and needed a win in the Sydney derby and for last year's champions, Canberra United, to lose against Brisbane Roar. Then Sydney defeated Brisbane away in the semi-final to earn a place against Victory in the final.
The home side created plenty of chances but were ultimately undone by their lack of finishing ability and an unusually frail defence - normally the cornerstone of their team.
For Sydney, Foord proved an ongoing nuisance as a marauding right-back while Simon always looked dangerous. She provided two fine crosses, one for Kerr and another for Rollason, both of which were nearly converted.
Rollason might have been playing at centre-half but she was living up to her No.10 jersey and one of her moves left Rebekah Stott lost before firing in an effort that required a fine save from Brianna Davey.
Davey, however, would find herself in trouble shortly after. A seemingly harmless back pass from Stott ended with Davey trying to clear as Nicola Bolger charged in but the ball ricocheted off Bolger's shin and into the net to put Sydney 1-0 up.
Melbourne replied smartly after the elegant Steph Catley was fouled on the edge of the box. Petra Larsson lashed the resulting free-kick into the left post and behind Khamis to level the scores as half-time closed in.
Sydney didn't have to wait long to restore their lead, however, with a brilliant combination between Simon and Kerr.
After stealing the ball from the hapless Stott, Simon fired in an inch-perfect cross for Kerr and the West Australian planted a textbook header past Davey.
''It's probably the best goal I've seen in women's football,'' Stajcic said. ''To pinch the ball, the precise cross, the diving header - it was just a world-class goal.''
Melbourne almost equalised when Enza Barilla nodded in a header from five metres out but Khamis again stood tall to deny the pint-sized midfielder.
Despite dominating the rest of the game, Melbourne could not grab the goal they needed and when substitute Larissa Crummer broke through, Maika Ruyter-Hooley hauled her down in the box, leading to her sending off.
Without flinching, Simon converted the penalty that sealed Sydney's second W-League crown.