W-League review: Goalkeepers shine, Wanderers reach #PeakDub
The W-League weekend in 280 characters or less
Wanderers cement top spot on goal difference with 4-0 win over Canberra, Victory keep their finals hopes alive with 2-1 win over Perth, Sydney stay in touch with the top two after a jammy 2-0 win over Adelaide, and Brisbane climb into the top four with 2-1 defeat of Newcastle.
We've talked a lot in this column about how brilliant some of the competition's attacking talents are -- particularly Australian youngsters and stellar internationals -- but one position that rarely gets the amount of love or attention it deserves is the goalkeeper. Round 7 delivered a string of goalkeeping highlights across all four matches, starting with the Wanderers' 4-0 defeat of Canberra on Thursday where United's Sham Khamis made a cracking diving save on the half-hour mark to deny the red-hot Kristen Hamilton.
Saturday night's game between Victory and Perth saw Melbourne's Player of the Season contender Casey Dumont save her third penalty of the campaign and make several rushing stops to ensure her team left the west with a desperately-needed three points. On Sunday afternoon, both Adelaide's Sarah Willacy and Sydney's Aubrey Bledsoe were crucial in keeping their respective teams in an incredibly jammy match; the former pulled off a handful of her now-famous acrobatic saves to keep the hosts goalless until the final 15 minutes, while the latter proved once again why she won this year's NWSL's Goalkeeper of the Year award and earned Sydney their fourth clean sheet of the season.
Finally, Brisbane's game against Newcastle to close out the round saw a Player of the Match performance from Jets goalkeeper Claire Coelho, whose two top reaction saves in the first five minutes allowed her team to get a goal in front of their hosts. Although the Roar came back to win 2-1, Coelho made them work much harder for it than they were perhaps expecting, making 15 saves -- the most of the entire round (and possibly the season so far). It's not the most glamorous job on a football pitch, but it sure as hell is a brave one, and when you do it well, it can make all the difference.
Melbourne Victory midfielder Amy Jackson has sort of faded from view over the past few seasons. She burst onto the scene in 2014, netting a sensational hat trick for Victory in a 4-0 buffeting of Adelaide United-the same game, coincidentally, where reigning Julie Dolan medallist Christine Nairn scored her first ever W-League goal. After a stint at crosstown rivals Melbourne City and some time in South Korea, Jackson has returned to her first W-League club to help fill the void left by Nairn and her American compatriot Dani Weatherholt.
While Victory haven't hit the same heights as last season, Jackson has grown into her midfield role as their campaign has unfolded, and her performance against grand finalists Perth Glory on Saturday night was an inspiring throwback to the Jackson of old. While the reigning Premiers have struggled for goals this season, Jackson took it upon herself to try and open the floodgates, scoring a brace to drag her team to a much-needed three points. Her first goal in particular was gif-worthy in its own right: A rocket of a strike from outside the box that dipped and pinged into the net from the underside of the crossbar. It was one of those goals which you know will win Goal of the Week before the net finishes rippling (only, it would have won had Sydney FC's Princess Ibini not ripped a hole in the spacetime continuum with a 25-yard screamer against Adelaide), and was good enough to earn a retweet from the official FIFA Women's World Cup account. Welcome back, Amy. We've missed you.
How do you solve a problem like Adelaide United? From one of the league's most exciting outfits in 2018-19 to now rock-bottom of the ladder after six straight losses, the Reds just can't seem to catch a break. They had a big chance to earn their first points against a lacklustre Sydney FC side this week -- a team whose confidence had been almost completely shot after being demolished by Western Sydney in the derby -- but despite being the more organised and disciplined side for majority of the match, Adelaide just couldn't find the back of the net. It didn't help that star striker Mary Fowler, a player that Sydney coach Ante Juric singled out pregame as the Reds' most dangerous threat, was sidelined with an ankle injury in the days leading into the clash; news that may have taken the wind out of Adelaide's sails before a ball had even been kicked.
That's not to say the visitors weren't dangerous, though; Chelsie Dawber did well as a makeshift No. 9 in Fowler's absence while industrious South Australian midfielder Dylan Holmes showed why she deserves to start more games than she has so far this season, bossing the centre of the park for a large chunk of the match and even unleashing a few long-range strikes herself. Utah Royals attacker Mallory Weber was her usual self out wide, towelling young Sydney full-back Angelique Hristodoulou several times and creating opportunities for herself and others. But when Sydney's first goal was turned into the net by Adelaide captain Amber Brooks -- who'd played brilliantly up until that point -- the head of every player in Red dropped. It was one of those moments that makes you wonder what Adelaide did in a past life to upset the universe in this way, and how can life be so cruel. Now sitting on zero points after six games, there's almost definitely no way Adelaide can claw their way back into the season. But for a very young side, they've shown a lot of promise that bodes well for future campaigns.
A quick note on Canberra: Although the first half of their season has been a bit of a rollercoaster, they haven't been playing too badly at all. They've recruited well and in the right areas and are giving promising young local talent opportunities to grow around more seasoned footballers. The problem for United with such a topsy-turvy season, though, is that the results of other games are going to seriously affect them. Coming into Round 7, they were fairly comfortably in the top four. But now, after losing 4-0 to Western Sydney, and after Brisbane beat Newcastle, Canberra have been bumped down to fifth on goal difference. What's worse is that they could fall even further down the ladder without doing anything at all: Melbourne Victory sit just behind them with 8 points to Canberra's 10, but Victory have a game in hand. If they're able to take those extra three points, Canberra will be out of finals football once more.
Young player to watch
I know what you're thinking: How can a standout player be selected from a team that got absolutely walloped by the team likely to take out the W-League Premiership? Well if you've been paying attention to Canberra United left-back Karly Roestbakken lately, you'll understand why she's here. Having risen through the ranks at United's Academy and then cracking into the senior team in 2015 when she was just 15 years old, Roestbakken has come along in leaps and bounds over the past three years, putting herself on the international radar when she debuted for the Matildas at the Women's World Cup this past July.
Largely overshadowed by former Canberra full-back Ellie Carpenter, Roestbakken has nonetheless remained a consistently excellent defender, with an understanding of space and a use of her own body that's beyond her years. Not only is she a bright young talent on the field, but she's also a leader off it, being named co-captain of Canberra for the 2019-20 season alongside fellow defender Nikola Orgill. Her performance against Wanderers star Hamilton in the first half of United's game this past weekend was one of the best defensive displays against one of the best strikers in the league that has been seen so far this season. Although they ultimately lost, Roestbakken's efforts won't be forgotten; certainly not by this writer.
Is there a gif of that?
Is it really #PeakDub if we don't have a choreographed goal celebration?
This one from the Wanderers will take something special to beat. An extra two competition points for the team who comes up with something bigger and better, I say.