A thrilling Westfield W-League semi-final ended in victory for Emily Sonnett, Caitlin Foord and Sydney FC Saturday afternoon, as a 98th-minute extra-time goal sealed a 3-2 win over Britt Eckerstrom's Newcastle Jets, punching the Sky Blues' ticket to the 2018 Grand Final. All three Thorns FC players earned the start in the match.
Sydney got off to a hot start as Foord paced her side with a goal inside the nine-minute mark. After receiving a through ball down the left line, Foord cut in and out of a pair of Newcastle defenders before letting off a right-footed strike that rocketed past an outstretched Eckerstrom for the 1-0 lead.
Following the opening goal, Eckerstrom tightened up to make a number of impressive saves in front of the net, and would go on to make a total of six on the day.
Sydney found goal again in the 35th minute and seemed to be cruising to the break with a 2-0 lead before the Jets' Hannah Brewer was shown a straight red in first-half stoppage time for a hard tackle on Lisa De Vanna. The red card seemed to diminish Newcastle's hopes as they game closed in on half time and a two-goal margin to overcome with 10 players in the final 45 minutes.
Foord, who suffered an injury earlier in the match was taken out of the game during the break. Despite playing down a player, the Jets found their way back into the game with a headed-in set-piece in the 53rd before equalizing in second-half stoppage and nearly extra time in the knockout match.
Sydney, however, denied Newcastle a miraculous comeback and notched the game winner off an astounding run by Sonnett.
Just minutes after earning a gutsy dispossession, the 24-year-old defender took off on a near-box-to-box counter attack before sliding a smooth ball to De Vanna across her body. With a couple touches, De Vanna went one-v-one with Eckerstrom and slotted the ball home, converting the exciting breakaway.
The Sky Blues held on through the final minutes of the game locking up a slot in the W-League Grand Final and extending their undefeated streak to 10-straight games. The result eliminates Eckerstrom and her Jets, who finish the season with a record of 6-2-5.
.@CaitlinFoord with a goal and @emilysonnett with an assist to help @SydneyWFC on to the @WLeague Grand Final in a 3-2 win in extra time. 👏👏 #BAONPDX #SYDvNEW #WLeagueFinals pic.twitter.com/MVHd4gfxRv— Portland Thorns FC (@ThornsFC) February 10, 2018
"First half we were great," said Sonnett after the game. "Second half they went down a man and we were a bit lax but hats off to our girls. We were lucky to come out on the winning side but hats off to Lisa [De Vanna] who finished it off with her lucky left foot."
On Sunday, Celeste Boureille and Hayley Raso laced up for Brisbane Roar as the shield-winning Premiers sought to earn their way to the Grand Final with a win over Melbourne City. Despite strong efforts by the pair and multiple opportunities for the Roar, Melbourne stifled the regular-season champs with a 2-0 shutout at Perry Park. Raso and Boureille each earned the start and put in strong 90 minute performances in the loss.
After a scoreless first half, Boureille nearly netted the opening goal with a header, two minutes into the second half. With a set-piece chip into the box, Boureille timed a low floater and nodded the ball far-post. However, the ball bounced just wide of the upright, and a sliding Tameka Butt proved unable to push the ball to the preferable side of the netting.
Raso contributed seven crosses in her performance and also was given a back-post opportunity nine minutes after her fellow Thorn. However, Raso proved unable to head in Brisbane's first, sending the ball over the crossbar.
The reigning back-to-back W-League champions eventually scored twice in the final 24 minutes of the game, defeating and eliminating Brisbane Roar from playoff contention.
After a long 2017-18 season, Sydney FC will look to flip the script on Melbourne City as they'll play a rematch of the 2015-16 season W-League Grand Final. Emily Sonnett–seeking her second professional title of the year following her NWSL Championship with Portland–will look to complete the Sky Blues' 11-game winning streak, knock off the back-to-back champs and bring home Sydney's third title in club history. The Grand Final is set for Allianz Stadium Saturday, February 17 at 10pm PST.