Match Report: Dowie hat-trick decides Big Blue classic
Melbourne Victory held on for a dramatic 3-2 win over Sydney FC as Natasha Dowie's hat-trick extended their early lead at the top of the Westfield W-League.
The visitors claimed the bragging rights in part one of the Big Blue in rebel Female Football Round despite absorbing pressure through much of the encounter and having Angela Beard sent off late on.
Dowie bagged a first-half brace and added another shortly after the break, with Chloe Logarzo briefly pulling the hosts level while Alanna Kennedy set up a dramatic finish with her superb free-kick.
Sydney FC were able to hand a first start to Westfield Matilda star Kennedy, while Victory made the solitary change from their 2-0 Melbourne Derby win, with Grace Maher replacing Mindy Barbieri.
The visitors made the perfect start when Christine Nairn's lofted through ball found Dowie, who controlled perfectly and unleashed a sublime strike into the far bottom corner in the fifth minute.
Sydney's responded by dominating the ball but struggled to carve out clear cut opportunities, while their visitors threatened on the break with Dowie and Melina Ayres coming close.
It took until the 39th minute for the Sky Blues to finally penetrate Victory's tightly-packed backline, when Lisa De Vanna cross was cut back by Danielle Colaprico for Logarzo to tap home.
Jeff Hopkins responded by bringing Barbieri on to replace Ayres, who had struggled to get into the game, but thought his side were behind Sofia Huerta applied a cunning flick to Caitlin Foord’s cross, only to be flagged offside.
But it was the visitors who went into the break ahead, with Princess Ibini deemed to have brought down Teigen Allen in the box and Dowie's penalty had too much power for Aubrey Bledsoe on the stroke of half-time.
Victory must have expected to weather more pressure in the second half, but established a two-goal lead in the 50th minute when Dowie completed her hat-trick after latching on to a deft through ball from Emily Gielnik.
Beard saw red after collecting a second yellow for a foul on substitute Savannah McCaskill, allowing Kennedy to reduce the deficit with a sublime free-kick with just seven minutes remaining.
However, the Sky Blues again failed to convert their domination into clear cut chances as Victory held on to move three points clear at the top of the Westfield W-League table after four rounds.