As defending Premiers, Melbourne Victory headed into the Westfield W-League 2019/20 Season with a target on their back.
Despite not being able to repeat their heroics from last campaign, Jeff Hopkins’ side have enjoyed another excellent regular season to against reach the Finals Series.
Victory finished in second spot after Round 14 and will host defending champions Sydney FC for a spot in this year’s decider next Saturday, March 14 at Epping Stadium (kick-off 2pm AEDT).
Form is certainly on Victory’s side and they will be confident of going – at least – one step further than 2018/19 and reaching the Grand Final.
Here’s a look back at some of Victory’s best moments on the way to the Finals Series.
Story of the season
It was a tough start to the campaign for Victory, which began with a 3-0 defeat to Sydney FC on the opening day.
While they bounced back to defeat Brisbane Roar 3-2 the following week, that was the only win they managed in their opening five matches.
But Santa Claus must have delivered a change in fortunes for the Navy Blues as they hit their straps post-Christmas.
It started with a hard-fought 2-1 win over Perth Glory on December 28, before further wins against Newcastle Jets (2-1), Adelaide United (3-0) and Canberra United (3-0).
While their momentum was halted by a loss to Melbourne City in the derby, they regrouped to win the final two games – scoring 10 goals – to head into the finals on the back of six wins in seven matches.
Best game – Newcastle Jets 0-7 Melbourne Victory
Needing a win to keep their hopes of a top-two finish in their own hands heading into the final round, Victory flexed their muscle in devastating fashion.
They surged out of the blocks against a shell-shocked Jets outfit, with New Zealand international Annalie Longo scoring twice inside the first eight minutes.
Captain Natasha Dowie and American Darian Jenkins added two goals before half-time to cap off a dominant first 45 minutes, before Jenkins added another prior to the hour to secure her brace.
An own goal from Cassidy Davis and another goal to Melina Ayres late on capped a memorable afternoon in the Hunter for the Big V.
Best goal – Natasha Dowie v Brisbane Roar
After an opening round defeat, Victory were desperate to bounce back in Round 2 and it was their skipper that took it upon herself to ensure they did.
Dowie scored from the spot in the first half as Victory held a slender 2-1 lead over a fast-finishing Roar heading into the last 15 minutes.
And that’s when the England international produced a spectacular volley on 76 minutes which caught out keeper Mackenzie Arnold and ultimately proved to be the winner.
Victory’s success over the last couple of seasons has been built on a strong team focus but there have been a couple of key contributors along the way in 2019 20.
Goalkeeper Casey Dumont may have played in the Westfield W-League for more than a decade but it’s hard to remember her having a better campaign than this one.
Dumont was excellent throughout the regular season and saved three penalties along they way. Victory conceded 14 goals in 12 games but when you consider seven of those were in two matches, the shot-stopper was very hard to beat for the rest of the regular season.
Dowie also deserves a mention for another strong season in front of goal, netting seven times to finish equal first in the Golden Boot standings.
American impost Jenkins got stronger the longer the season went on and scored four goals in the last two matches to help Victory book a home Semi Final, while Victory built their defence around Westfield Matildas defender Jenna McCormick.
Melbourne Victory (2) v Sydney FC (3)
Date: Saturday, 14 March 2020
Venue: Epping Stadium, Epping
Kick-off: 2:00pm (AEDT)