Pollicina sparks City to A-League Women win over Glory

It took around 45 minutes for them to find their groove, but Melbourne City has continued their strong start to the A-League Women season by downing Perth Glory 1-0 at AAMI Park on Tuesday evening. 

Kept largely at bay by a combination of their indecisiveness and some dogged Glory defending across the opening 45 minutes, the introduction of Rhianna Pollicina at halftime served to help City find their edge in the second half; taking a deserved lead on the hour mark when Emina Ekic converted from the penalty spot. 

Securing their fifth win of the season and bringing their goal difference up to +13 – five better than next-best Sydney – City now sits three points clear atop the ALW table, while Perth, who entered Tuesday evening looking to back up their first win of the campaign, remain seven points adrift of the top four in eighth place.  

Despite seeing 76.3% of the ball, City was only able to muster four shots to Glory’s two across the first half and only able to put one of those efforts actually on target, the same number as the visitors. 

Further, for all the time they spent chasing around sky blue shirts, it was coach Alex Epakis’ side that had the best chance of the opening stanza when a turnover and quick move in transition in the 40th saw Cyera Hintzen round keeper Melissa Barberi and only be denied the opening goal by a last-gasp tackle from Naomi Chinnama. 

“I’m proud,” Epakis said post-game. “It was a really resilient effort. We can’t hide the fact that they’ve got some good quality in attack. A big focus for us today was in our defensive structure and the scramble defence and transition; being really energetic in those moments. 

“The team put everything out there. There were moments where I believe we had more clear-cut chances than they may have had, other than the penalty. I thought we could have got something out of it.”

City’s best chance had arrived just under half an hour prior when Leticia McKenna drove a shot in towards the near post only to be denied by a strong save from Sarah Langman. 

Interim boss Dario Vidosic had emphasised his desire for his side to dominate possession during the lead into the contest but this was unlikely to be what he had in mind, a message that was seemingly communicated to his players at the main break.

“I think we controlled the game well, and it was just that final ball that was missing and maybe sometimes we were forcing it,” he said post-game. “We weren’t staying wide in areas to force them back and to take away their transition. 

“But I think it was just the minor details that were lacking in that first half and then in the second half we got what we deserved. I think we were the much better side tonight.”

Just three minutes after play resumed, a series of passes around the Glory’s penalty area eventually led to Pollicina sliding a ball across to McKenna for an effort that should have made it 1-0 to City but instead sailed wide. 

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Two minutes later Pollicina again provided a spark as she danced around a challenge from Ella Mastrantonio and laid a pass off to Daniela Galic, who in turn set McKenna up for a driven effort that was cleared off the goal line by a recovering Mastrantonio.

Introduced by Vidosic at the main break, it was difficult to overstate just how much of a spark that Pollicina provided for her side upon her introduction. 

“She’s one of the best players in this league,” Vidosic said.

“So she’s showing it now every week and last week was excellent, player of the match, scored two. 

“We want to look after her. Normally you don’t want to (substitute) someone that’s the player of the match and hitting form and take them off. 

“We always want, as a substitute, that impact and she was great.”

Just a minute on Mastrantonio’s last-ditch denial, the City attacker was again driving into the box and this time was bundled over by Kim Carrol: winning a penalty for her side that Ekic converted to give them a lead that had been looming for the prio 15 minutes.  

On loan from Racing Louisville until February, the penalty represented Ekic’s fourth goal of the season but her night quickly turned sour when she suffered what appeared to be an ankle injury lunging to recover a ball she had lost turning in the Glory penalty area and taken off on the hour mark. 

Heading back to the dressing room on crutches at the end of the game – at least until she was given a piggyback ride by a teammate – City will sweat on Ekic’s fitness ahead of their visit to face Western Sydney Wanderers in their next matchup, albeit that game won’t take place until Jan. 8; giving her ample time to recover. 

“She’s a little bit hobbled at the moment,” Vidosic said.

“So she said it’s painful. It’s on her ankle.

“Obviously we’re not sure from the bench what happened – I think everyone heard a bit of a scream. She said she went under it.

“So we’ll probably see in the next day or two the extent of the injury. We hope it’s nothing too serious and hopefully, we don’t lose her for too long.”

Vidosic’s side will also be able to take heart from the season debuts of striker Hannah Wilkinson, who got through a full 90 minutes unscathed, and defender Karly Roestbakken, who came on as a 78th-minute substitute and marked a major landmark in her return from a persistent foot injury. 

The Glory, meanwhile, will return to West Australia for their New Year’s Day meeting with Western United unscathed from an injury perspective and eager to bounce back against the undefeated league newcomers. 

“There’s a whole team in there right now that is going to be burning with that result,” said Epakis. “But the silver lining is that we know a performance like that will get a result against other teams. 

“So we’ve won in terms of the performance today. We’ve set a benchmark for ourselves internally and we’re going to have to use that.

“I’m really proud to coach that team and I think these challenges are going to be really exciting.”

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You’re seeing this advert because this is an unpaid, self-published piece.

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Header Image Credit: Melbourne City / Aleksandar Kostadinoski

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