27/05/2024

Rebekah Stott's return to the pitch was a raging success on many counts. Image: @MelbourneCity. Twitter

New Zealanders and returning faces featured heavily in the Team of the Week for Round one of the Liberty A-League

The Inner Sanctum has put together a team of the week comprised of the best performing players that took part in Round 1 of the A-League Women’s season.

Defenders and goalkeepers

Goalkeeper: Casey Dumont (Melbourne Victory)

Casey Dumont missed last season due to an Achilles injury. On her return to Melbourne Victory, she had lost none of the magic.

the 5-1 scoreline that Victory ended the match is slightly deceiving. Adelaide had some vital defensive lapses but attacked dangerously on occasion.

When that happened, Dumont was ready. She made several vital saves throughout the game and was quick to race out and make any clearances.

When she saved with a diving effort to stop Emily Condon, the scoreline was still 1-0. A red equalizer at that point might have changed the game. Victory went right up the other end and scored from a penalty and the floodgates were open.

By the time Fiona Worts finally beat Dumont the game was out of reach for Adelaide. It was a happy return to “the dub” for the Victory shot-stopper.

RB: Zoe McMeeken (Wellington Phoenix)

The 17-year-old fullback was excellent in the Phoenix’s first A-League Women’s game. Against Western Sydney, she was tireless on the right flank. Her work rate meant that she was constantly in the game.

McMeeken involved herself in some of Wellington’s most meaningful attacks and her ability to get up the ground at pace and cross the ball and recover to defend will make her one to watch this season.

Phoenix manager Gemma Lewis rightfully singled the youngster out for praise after the game. In a round blessed with strong performances from fullback, she stood out.

CB: Claudia Bunge (Melbourne Victory)

Bunge did not have the perfect game but she was without Kayla Morrison for almost an hour of the match. The Victory captain went off with a knee injury and suddenly Bunge was the senior player in the backline.

The New Zealand international performed admirably in Morrison’s absence. She impacted the scoreboard with Victory’s third goal coming off Bunge’s boot from a corner.

Bunge almost sealed the game for Melbourne. The fifth goal came after she hit the bar from another set piece and Lia Privitelli headed home the rebound.

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CB: Kate Taylor (Wellington Phoenix)

Phoenix’s 0-0 draw was an encouraging first outing for the club. Much of that was due to the defence. Taylor was confident, composed, and skillful at the back.

Her partnership with Mackenzie Barry denied the Wanderers many real scoring chances and Taylor’s skill on the ball meant helped Wellington bring the ball out from the back.

In difficult conditions, the Phoenix kept a clean sheet against a finals hopeful, who boasted a senior Matilda upfront by the final whistle. It was a great start by the young team.

LB: Emma Illijoski (Canberra United)

Canberra may have narrowly lost the match, but Illijoski was excellent at left-back. United fielded a makeshift back four and at times Illijoski managed to control Hannah Wilkinson, Rhianna Pollicina, and Holly Mcnamara at different stages.

Like all good fullbacks, she was also an option and outlet in the attacking half. Illojoski’s positioning, pace, and decision-making were all top-notch. When the goal game for City, it wasn’t from her side of the pitch.

Midfielders

Rebekah Stott (Melbourne City)

The story of Rebekah Stott is well documented. That she is on the pitch at all is a terrific achievement. But that she played very well in Melbourne City’s midfield made it all the more amazing.

Stott is known more for her defensive abilities but she was tidy and dependable for City against Canberra.

Her skill and imagination almost created a goal for Hannah Wilkinson. The quick turn and prodded through-ball were one of the best moves of the closely contested match.

Stott’s back and brilliant.

Ayesha Norrie (Brisbane Roar)

The Brisbane captain was a constant tormentor of Perth Glory on Saturday night. In a thrilling match that probably should have ended in a draw, Norrie was a stand-out.

With Hollie Palmer sidelined and Katrina Gorry starting on the bench, Norrie dominated the midfield and created multiple chances for her team.

Expect her influence to grow as other players return to full fitness.

Kyra Cooney-Cross (Melbourne Victory)

Expect her to appear in this column pretty regularly. She has been playing in defensive midfield for The Matildas but returned to her free role for Melbourne Victory.

Her ability to run at full pace through the middle of the pitch is almost unrivaled in the A-League Women’s. She used that skill to full effect against Adelaide, creating chances for Catherine Zimmerman (twice) and Harriet Withers.

Her passing range caused disarray for Adelaide on multiple occasions, she did not score but registered two assists.

Fowards

Gemma Craine (Perth Glory)

The difference-maker at Perth Glory. Brisbane took the lead and defended it well despite Perth’s impressive array of weapons.

However, they had no answer for Craine. Her acceleration and movement unlocked the Brisbane defense to create the equalizer. It came late, but she wanted the ball when the game was on the line and took it on herself to chance the result.

Cortnee Vine (Sydney FC)

She was one of the best players in the competition last season and she looks to be continuing that form.
Cortnee Vine was creative and dangerous down the right flank for Sydney FC against Newcastle and sealed the game with a goal minutes after The Jets had pulled one back.

Vine seems to play with the knowledge that she will usually beat her defender. Newcastle was lucky that she only scored once.

Catherine Zimmerman (Melbourne Victory)

With Melina Ayres not included in the squad for Melbourne Victory, American NPLW goal machine Catherine Zimmerman moved to center-forward. She played an almost complete attacking game.

She earned the penalty that put Victory 2-0 up against Adelaide. Following that, her skill along the touchline earned Melbourne a corner, from which they scored their third.

To cap off her afternoon she scored the best goal of the day. After collecting Kyra Cooney-Cross’ pass 30 yards from goal she hit a half volley that dipped beyond Anna-Lee Grove in the Adelaide goal.

The concept of her partnering with Lynn Williams and Ayres is frightening.

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