May 11, 2021

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Next Level Game Over

W-League Grand Final 2021, Melbourne Victory beat Sydney FC, Kyra Conney-Cross goal, Jada Whyman, result, scores, news, football, Matildas

It took Melbourne Victory a whopping 30 shots and a full 120 minutes to break...


It took Melbourne Victory a whopping 30 shots and a full 120 minutes to break a resolute Sydney FC defence, but teen sensation Kyra Cooney-Cross scored a sensational strike direct from a corner in the final seconds of extra time to seal the club’s second-ever W-League Premiership.

Cooney-Cross, at 19 already heralded as a future Matildas star, has enjoyed a breakout season in the W-League. And with the match seemingly destined for a penalty shootout, the young gun curled a corner into a crowd of bodies on the goal line – and straight into the goal.

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It spelled heartbreak for Premiers and hosts Sydney and especially keeper Jada Whyman, who was the standout performer of the match and made a number of outstanding saves throughout the clash, only to finally be beaten in the dying seconds. Whyman was left in tears after the final whistle, but deservedly was handed the player of the final award.

WILD SCENES! Victory win GF late! | 01:15

Cooney-Cross said: “I was just thinking I didn’t want it to go to penalties, I was stressing about that probably as soon as it went into extra time.”

She added: “We had so many chances tonight, we hit the crossbar a couple of times … I think we deserved to win tonight.”

It was the first-ever grand final to go into extra time in the 13 seasons of the W-League, as a gripping clash went down to the wire.

Victory were the more settled team in the early running, and were denied twice by the crossbar in the first half.

Cooney-Cross uncorked from range and saw her shot crash into the crossbar in the 12th minute, missing by mere millimetres. Then in first-half stoppage time Matildas all-time top scorer Lisa De Vanna directed a header toward the top corner, but was again denied by the woodwork.

Insane close-range reflexes saves Sydney | 00:31

As the match opened up in the second half, both sides launched a barrage of shots in a scintillating display of end-to-end attacking football.

But stalwart defending from the Sky Blues – led by Whyman’s stunning display with the gloves – blocked shot after shot and pushed the match into extra time.

One save in particular was staggering, making a double-block from Cooney-Cross on the line despite being caught in the goal netting.

The rampaging Whyman took no prisoners in her own box, even cleaning up teammate Charlotte McLean in the additional time period as she claimed an aerial ball, with McLean subsequently forced from the field following the head knock.

It seemed that Victory’s all-star attacking line-up would prove unable to break the deadlock despite growing dominance. That was never more clear than with five minutes remaining when Melina Ayres poked just wide from close range, having been gifted a dream opportunity by a defensive miscue.

But Cooney-Cross split the difference with her sensational curler into a packed six-yard box, which Whyman failed to clear.

The result caps five years of development for Victory. From bottom of the ladder in 15-16 and 16-17, they have climbed up the ranks under the tutelage of Jeff Hopkins. In 2018-19, they claimed their first Premiership. And now, they own a second Championship trophy, and their first since 2013/14.

“I love working with this team, it’s been amazing this year, hopefully we’ll keep most of the squad,” Hopkins told Fox Sports.

“I don’t know what Lisa (De Vanna’s) thinking now, I might go have a word with her tonight while she’s on a high and get her to sign a contract.

“They’ve been fantastic to work with, great work ethic, they turn up, they get on well with each other and it makes my job and the job of this staff very easy.”

For a youthful Sydney team, there were plenty of positives to take away from the defeat in front of a roaring crowd at Jubilee Stadium – in what was their fourth grand final in four seasons.

Princess Ibini was superb down the flanks, as was Clare Wheeler, the former Newcastle Jets star. Whyman was a brick wall between the sticks. And a very, very inexperienced defensive line – with veteran star turned makeshift centre-back Natalie Tobin at its core – was extremely impressive in denying Victory more goals.

Captain Teresa Polias, usually so deadly from set pieces but who struggled to find her range, was extremely gracious despite the result.

After thanking the crowd and Victory, she said: “To our group, hold your heads high ladies. What a season we’ve had. What an amazing group you are. Ante, thank you. Four grand finals in a row, that’s something special, so well done to you.

“But girls, we keep going. You keep your heads very high. You deserve to. Today didn’t go our way unfortunately but you’ll take lessons from today and I know you’ll continue to be successful, so well done and I can’t wait to see us go again next season.”

Re-watch the 2020/21 Westfield W-League Final on Kayo. New to Kayo? Try 14-Days Free Now >



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