Late Dowie strike sends Victory top in spectacular Big Blue
A late equaliser from captain Natasha Dowie has sent the finals-bound Melbourne Victory to the top of the ladder in a scintillating 2-2 draw against Sydney FC at Lakeside Stadium on Sunday Night.
Alanna Kennedy's first half strike was cancelled out by a world-class goal from Emily Gielnik, the Victory winger flicking the ball up before sending one into the net from a difficult angle.
Sydney took the lead yet again seconds later through Chloe Logarzo, but a late strike from the Victory hero secured finals football for her side in 2019.
The match roared to life when referee Casey Reibelt pointed to the spot in the 10th minute.
Logarzo took a tumble in the box after making a scything run into the box following strong passing play with Amy Harrison, leaving it up to Caitlin Foord to send the visitors ahead.
She was unable to net her 10th goal of the season, her attempt too straight and easily saved by Casey Dumont to retain parity.
Minutes later, Logarzo continued to find herself in the thick of Sydney’s attacking forays, putting plenty of venom into a long-range drive that skimmed past the right post.
A Natalie Tobin injury scare saw American International Danny Colaprico enter the pitch shortly after the half-hour mark, and Sydney made the most of the very next play to take a deserved lead.
Savannah McCaskill’s ball in was cleared by Victory’s defence, but straight to the feet of Princess Ibini, her stinging drive from 20 yards rebounding from the palms of Dumont and into the path of Kennedy to volley home from close range.
The lead should have been short-lived, but Laura Alleway was unable to convert a pinpoint Christine Nairn cross. Unmarked with only Sydney keeper Trudy Burke to beat, the Westfield Matildas representative spooned her header wide and high.
A disjointed first half where the best opportunities came from set pieces gave way to an enthralling second 45 minutes of football and heated exchanges.
The hosts resumed looking to keep their Westfield W-League 2018/19 Premiers Plate destiny in their own hands and a marauding run from Sam Johnson ended with the centre-back slashing her shot just wide.
Ella Mastrantonio went into the book following a heavy contest with Colaprico, although the American returning the favour seconds later, arriving late to bowl over the Victory enforcer.
Johnson was then carded for a studs-up challenge that failed to make significant contact with Foord, however she was fortunate to not have received another yellow when Foord was seemingly felled again by the bruising Victory defender inside the box minutes later.
An inspiring piece of play was dearly desired from the hosts to make their way back into this clash, and Gielnik delivered with a thrashing volley of the highest quality to draw her side level on the 68th minute.
The Victory winger superbly controlled a floating Dowie pass across the box, flicking the ball up to herself before smacking the volley through Burke into the top left corner.
Sydney were not having any of this come-from-behind business, scoring from the restart to silence a parochial Victorian crowd.
It was Logarzo who popped up again, the Westfield Matildas star controlling Foord’s lofted pass sublimely before volleying home, the shot cannoning in off the underside of the bar.
With the match on a knife-edge, Victory’s talismanic captain spared their blushes to draw level yet again seven minutes later.
Dowie terrifically controlled a pass whipped in by Mastrantonio before wheeling around and finishing past Burke to set up a grandstand finish to a brilliant match.
Neither side were able to capitalise in the final minutes, the result setting up an enticing final round of the Westfield W-League 2018/19 season.