PHOTO: GETTY IMAGES
Melbourne City began its Westfield W-League title defence with a hard-fought 1-0 over Newcastle Jets at CB Smith Reserve on Sunday, courtesy of Marianna Tabain’s early header.
The City striker began the new season as she started the last with a goal in the opening round, popping up to head home a superb cross from Lauren Barnes to break the deadlock inside the opening 10 minutes.
Joe Montemurro’s side looked in control for large periods of the contest but needed to stand firm in defence to hold off a spirited Jets outfit in the second half, with Westfield Matildas goalkeeper Lydia Williams demonstrating her quality with two key saves to deny Arin Gilliland and Emma Stanbury.
Hold firm they did, however, with the result maintaining City’s perfect start to W-League football and extending its record unbeaten streak to 15 matches.
City demonstrated its attacking intent right from the get go with some promising build-up play from Steph Catley, Jess Fishlock and Barnes on the left-hand side.
Fishlock’s neat cutback found Amy Jackson in a terrific position to open the scoring, but could only manage to spoon her effort over the crossbar from close range.
But there was no stopping City from opening the scoring after eight minutes with a well-crafted move that broke the Jets’ early resistance.
Welsh star Fishlock instigated the move with a brilliant crossfield pass which found the marauding Barnes down the left-hand side. The American’s cross found its way to Tabain, who headed past Jets keeper Kelsey Wys to open the scoring.
Catley, who began the match in a more advanced position on the left wing, and Barnes continued to link up effectively down the left, but the Jets responded from the early setback, with Stanbury and Gilliland causing some problems in attack.
Ashlee Brodigan had a golden chance to level the scores for the Jets when the ball spilt to her in the penalty area, but she could only drive her effort high and wide of the target.
Brodigan came close again only moments later after linking up with Gilliland following a loose clearance from City, but Williams reacted brilliantly to prevent the deflected shot from creeping in at the near post.
The Jets started the second half brightly and continued to push forward in search of the equalising goal.
American import Jen Hoy struck the side netting with a powerful drive from a tight angle, while Erika Tymrak nipped in front of Wys to head a chance just wide at the other end.
Gilliland had Williams scrambling with a header which beat the keeper but flew just wide before the Matildas goalkeeper displayed her immense quality with a superb diving save to deny a powerful effort from Stanbury.
It proved to be the Jets final clear-cut chance of the afternoon, as City began its title defence with an important three points.
Newcastle Jets head coach Craig Deans was very pleased with the girls’ performance yesterday and believes that if they continue to play that brand of football they will ‘win more games than they lose’.
“In the first half we sat a bit too deep, which is partly my fault, but once we realised that wasn’t working at half time we went and played how we normally do and had most of the second half of the game in their half.”
“We weren’t quite as ruthless as what we needed to be in front of goal, however we had three or four really good chances to score – Lydia Williams made some really good saves.”
“I am pleased with how all of the girls stood up and especially some of the girls from the Emerging Jets program as well as from the Premier Competitions showing that they are capable at playing at this level; having players up against current Matildas players and controlling the game the way we did in the second half was fantastic to see,” Deans said.
With only having one training session whole as a group before their clash against defending champions Melbourne City, Deans can take a lot of positives away from their performance on the weekend.
Melbourne City FC 1 (Marianna TABAIN 8’)
Newcastle Jets 0
Venue: CB Smith Reserve, Faulkner
Referee: Kate Jacewicz