De Vanna and Ayres drive Victory past Roar to reach first Grand Final in seven years
Lisa De Vanna and Melina Ayres led Melbourne Victory to their first Westfield W-League Grand Final in seven years following a dominant 6-2 triumph against Brisbane Roar at Lions FC Stadium.
De Vanna had only one competition goal this season heading into the Semi Final but the Westfield Matildas' all-time leading scorer stepped up when it mattered to break the deadlock and then put Victory out of sight, making it 4-1 with a thunderous strike into the top corner, before Ayres’ notched a late hat-trick to end the Queenslanders’ comeback hopes.
Newly appointed Roar captain Tameka Yallop felt she had scored an 11th-minute opener but her effort crashed off the crossbar, bounced down near the goal line and spun away, before experienced forward De Vanna made Victory’s superiority count when she lashed in from Ayres’ cushioned pass in the 23rd minute.
With half-time fast approaching, the competition's second-placed side hit back through a sensational Olivia Chance strike from 30 yards, but that parity was short lived as Catherine Zimmerman’s left-footed drive in first-half stoppage time restored the Navy Blue's deserved advantage.
Missing departed Westfield Matildas stars Clare Polkinghorne and Emily Gielnik, Brisbane had been absorbing considerable pressure and Jeff Hopkins’ outfit turned up the heat further when Ayres tapped into an empty net in the 47th minute after De Vanna’s attempt was parried into her path by Roar goalkeeper Georgina Worth.
Despite playing their third game in a week, Victory tightened their grip when De Vanna crashed in her second in the 61st-minute, although Yallop gave Roar a glimmer of hope by pouncing to score in the 74th minute. Ayres missed a retaken penalty but made amends by grabbing a late double as the third-placed finishers earned themselves a shot at lifting a second Championship in club history.
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Victory stated their intentions as Kayla Ann Morrison’s close-range effort was deflected over and Claudia Bunge’s looping header was pushed away by Worth. Yallop thought she had scored with the hosts' first attack when her 11th-minute strike from Mariel Hecher’s cutback cannoned off the bar and bounced near the goal line, before De Vanna made the breakthrough with a lethal finish.
Jake Goodship’s team had been pinned back for long periods of the opening half hour but they made a positive response with Chance firing off target under pressure and Isobel Dalton drilling a shot wide, before New Zealand midfielder Chance pulled one out of the top drawer to lift the home side’s hopes.
But no sooner had the Roar forced their way back into the tie, Zimmerman repaid Hopkins for handing her a start ahead of MelindaJ Barbieri when she collected the dangerous Kyra Cooney-Cross’ pass and rifled her shot past Worth to deliver a hammer blow to the Roar ahead of the half-time interval.
Brisbane had lost only one match all season but their hopes of recovering this deficit began to slip further away when De Vanna broke free on the left moments after the restart and Worth could only palm her strike back into the six yard box, leaving Ayres to follow up at the far post and add a simple finish to double the away side’s lead.
Roar’s 6-0 hammering of the Navy Blue in Round 5 was becoming a distant memory as De Vanna showed her big-game mentality by slamming a left-footed shot into the top scorer of the Queenslanders’ net just after the hour mark as Victory began closing on a first Grand Final since their 2014 triumph.
Yallop used her poacher’s instincts to pounce on a rebound to maintain a shred of hope for Brisbane but, when Roar keeper Worth was penalised for a mistimed punch in her six-yard box in the 80th minute, Ayres scored from the spot but was ordered to go again and blazed her re-spotted effort over the crossbar.
There was a nervous moment for the away side when Hecher’s goal was ruled offside but Ayres was determined to not let her match finish on a down note. The 21-year-old striker made it 5-2 with three minutes remaining before completing her treble six minutes into added time, netting her eighth goal of the campaign, and firing Victory into their second ever Grand Final.
Westfield W-League Finals Series 2020/21
Semi Final 1 – Sydney FC (1) v Canberra United (4)
Monday, 5 April 2021
Venue: Netstrata Jubilee Stadium
Kick-off: 3pm AEST
Grand Final – Winner Semi Final 1 v Melbourne Victory
Sunday, 11 April 2021
Kick-off: 4pm AEST