Road to the Westfield W-League Grand Final: Melbourne City
Melbourne City are just one win away in their quest for an undefeated Westfield W-League season and it has been a brilliant ride for their supporters along the way.
Thirty-two goals scored, five conceded, 12 wins, one draw, zero losses: these are the standout stats behind Melbourne City's invincible Westfield W-League 2019/20 season to date.
City wrapped up the Premiers' Plate with one round to spare with a 4-0 win over Western Sydney Wanderers before downing them again in 5-1 in their Semi Final showdown.
It sounds impressive and it most certainly is, and that has been the way City have operated for the majority of the 2019/20 campaign.
But it wasn't always the smoothest of sailing for Rado Vidosic's side. In fact a procession of close encounters to start the campaign made an unbeaten season look like an unlikely feat before they clicked into gear to romp to the finish line.
Here's a look back at all the important moments of City's campaign ahead of the Westfield W-League Grand Final.
ANNOUNCED: Melbourne City FC to host Sydney FC in the Westfield W-League 2020 Grand Final
GRAND FINAL PREVIEW: Melbourne City v Sydney FC
Story of the season
It's an oddity of the 2019/20 campaign that the only blemish on City's near-perfect record came in Round 1 against Newcastle Jets, who would go on to be handed the wooden spoon.
A beautiful half-volleyed strike from Newcastle's Teigan Collister drew the Jets level with Vidosic's side in a contest which ended 1-1 after ex-Jet and Hunter-raised midfielder Emily van Egmond scored the first of her six goals for the campaign on her City debut.
What followed was a five-game run of one-goal wins for City. They ground out results with a mixture of determination, focus and in some cases a little bit of luck to head into the Round 7 bye with their unbeaten record intact.
But City were to emerge from their bye a different side. In their remaining six games, they scored 19 goals and conceded just one as they powered to the Premiership, wiping away their competition with a relentless appetite for goals, clean sheets, wins and ultimately silverware.
As unlikely as it may seem, they then found another gear in their Semi Final with their marauding 5-1 win over the Wanderers to underscore their relentless drive to not only win, but to win well.
Best game - Melbourne Victory 0-4 Melbourne City
City travelled to face local rivals Melbourne Victory in Round 12. Their hosts were on a four-game win streak and a charge up the Westfield W-League table, but an utterly dominant display from the league-leaders handed Jeff Hopkins’ side a brutal reality check.
City captain Steph Catley and fellow wing-back Ellie Carpenter ran rampant down either flank as the away side piled on all four goals before the hour mark.
Van Egmond scored the opener with a deft curling attempt which nestled into the top right corner before City striker Claire Emslie scored two goals, either side of half-time, to push the margin out to three.
Kyah Simon scored one of the easier goals of her career to make it four when Catley's cross found its way through Victory goalkeeper Casey Dumont's legs and rolled across the goal mouth, where the Westfield Matildas attacker was waiting to tap the ball home.
City coasted from that point on to notch another clean sheet, then proceeded to motor to the end of the season, grabbing a second-consecutive 4-0 win in Round 13 over Western Sydney Wanderers before finishing the campaign with a 3-1 win over Brisbane Roar.
SEMI FINAL REPORT: Five-star City blow Wanderers away and book Grand Final ticket
SEMI FINAL REACTION: Simon shoots her teammates a warning with City on the brink of history
Best goal – van Egmond's ridiculous chip vs Canberra
Out of van Egmond's six goals through the season, four of them could arguably have gotten the nod for City's goal of the season.
But none of her strikes come close to the ingenuity, technical nous and freakish skill encapsulated entirely within this chipped volley from outside the box against Canberra in Round 9.
In her first season in City colours, van Egmond was often the star of the show as the Westfield Matildas star had a season to remember.
Her six goals for the campaign almost landed her a share of the Golden Boot – she needed just one more to equal the top-four scorers' tally of seven - but van Egmond missed two golden opportunities to do so in the final round of the season against the Roar.
City conceded just four goals in the regular season – an equal-record in the Westfield W-League with their own efforts in 2015/16 – but goalkeeper Lydia Williams came in ninth place for total saves from goalkeepers league-wide, saying a lot about the comprehensive performance of her defence.
Catley and Carpenter deserve special credit for their efforts on both ends of the pitch, contributing to the solid defensive line while providing constant headaches for opposing defenders with their bombarding runs.
But the rock at the back, Rebekah Stott, was arguably the most important cog in City's defence.
The Kiwi international scored one goal, made 23 tackles, 20 clearances, six blocks and 23 interceptions. She made nearly 650 passes at 84.8% accuracy and won 19 fouls for her side, conceding just two in the regular season.
The 26-year-old backed it up with another stellar showing in the Semi Final – netting the side's third goal with a drilled finish just before half-time.
Westfield W-League 2020 Grand Final
Date: Saturday 21 March 2020
Fixture: Melbourne City FC vs Sydney FC
Venue: AAMI Park, Melbourne
Kick-off Time: 3:30pm (AEDT)
TV Broadcast: FOX SPORTS 505 from 3:00pm (AEDT), ABC TV from 3:00pm (AEDT), Kayo and the My Football Live App.