Victory annihilate Perth to book ticket to Finals Series
Melbourne Victory secured a place in the Finals Series and set up an unlikely assault on the Premiers Plate with a 6-0 win over Perth Glory at Epping Stadium on Sunday afternoon.
Victory began the day in fifth place but ended it within two points of Sydney FC at the top of the Westfield W-League table, with a contest against the Sky Blues rounding out their season on Wednesday, March 31.
Melina Ayres scored twice in the first half to put Victory in the drivers seat before Kyra Cooney-Cross played a starring role in the second 45.
The Victory midfielder assisted a Claudia Bunge goal, fired a shot off the crossbar for Catherine Zimmerman to finish before scoring two of her own to put Victory 6-0 up with little under 15 minutes to play.
The hosts cruised to the final whistle with the six-goal lead intact, setting up an enormous Big Blue against the Sky Blues on Wednesday night.
The result ensures Perth finish the season without a win and just one point on the board, while putting an end to Adelaide United's gallant push to secure a spot in the Finals Series.
Hana Lowry put the ball in the back of the net early for Perth, but the goal was ruled out for the Glory midfielder's foul on Victory goalkeeper Gabriela Garton in the build-up.
The hosts went on to dominate the opening 30 minutes of play, sparking a number of chances before taking the lead through a simple Ayres finish.
MelindaJ Barbieri tested Lily Alfeld's reaction's in goal with a sharp turn and shot on 13 minutes, firing low to Alfeld's near post and calling the Perth 'keeper into a smart save with her feet.
The hosts then took the lead through Ayres' first of two goals in the opening 45, after Angela Beard fired a cross off the left flank toward Barbieri at the front post. The Victory forward failed to connect but the loose ball fell to Ayres strolling in at the back post to score into an open net and give Victory a 1-0 lead.
Ayres secured her brace in the 35th minute when Alfeld spilled a routine save from Lisa De Vanna's long-range strike.
The shot kept low and bounced ahead of Alfeld, who fumbled the ball to allow Ayres to steam in to collect the loose ball. The two players collided heavily in the goal-mouth but Ayres came out on top, forcing the ball over the line in a display of power and pace.
Jeff Hopkins brought Zimmerman off the bench in search of more goals in the second half but it was Bunge who netted Victory's third, venturing forward from defence to head home from a corner just minutes after the break.
Cooney-Cross sent the corner into the box in search of Bunge's head and the defender obliged with a thunderous header, rising highest amongst a sea of bodies to send the ball crashing into the back of the net.
Cooney-Cross notched an early assist in the second half, before playing a key part in dismantling Perth as Victory went five goals up before the hour mark.
A vicious shot from the Victory midfielder in the 53rd minute cannoned off the crossbar, dropping back into the danger area where Zimmerman was lurking. The substitute made no mistake with the close-range finish, sliding the ball past Alfeld to make it four.
On 60 minutes, Cooney-Cross finally got a goal of her own.
The 19-year-old set up the chance with a neat touch and turn past Malia Steinmetz in the box. Three Perth defenders quickly closed in on Cooney-Cross in the box but the teenage star slid in to dispatch a shot, sliding the ball past Alfeld to get scoreboard reward for a magnificent individual display.
But Cooney-Cross wasn't done with just yet - another piece of brilliance was still to come from the Victory gun.
An incredible solo run set up Cooney-Cross' second goal of the afternoon, a move which began near the halfway line on the left flank and ended with a thunderous shot from inside the box which hit the crossbar on its way past Alfeld.
Elizabeth Anton desperately gave chase, but had no match for the speed put on show by Cooney-Cross as she closed in on goal.
Sydney FC v Melbourne Victory
Wednesday, March 31 2021
Kick-off 7.35pm AEDT