Melbourne City’s quest to win an unprecedented fourth straight W-League title has been dealt an almost killer blow after Brisbane Roar staged a highway robbery to come away with a 1-0 win in the two sides meeting on Friday night.
With only two games remaining on their 2018/19 W-League regular season campaign, City will need to win out and receive significant help from others to even dream of reaching W-League finals after England international Chioma Ubogagu converted one of the Roar’s five (compared to 22 for City) shots on the counter to make it 1-0 in the games 74th minute.
City had dominated cross-town rivals Melbourne Victory a week prior to the Roar game, getting everything right except the final, killer touch against the W-League ladder leaders before a late wonder-strike directly from a corner from Christine Nairn in the 88th minute stole the game for Victory.
Frustratingly for the side in sky blue, the song remained the same against Brisbane Roar; Dario Vidosic’s side thoroughly dominating the contest without finding the back of the net at AAMI Park.
Employing a high press, City harangued the Roar defence straight from the opening kick-off, keeping the ball hemmed inside the Roar half.
Elise Kellond-Knight launched the first real assault on the Roar goal in the eighth minute, stinging the gloves of Matildas’ goalkeeper Mackenzie Arnold from long range.
Two minutes later Arnold was called back into action again, forced to get down low to keep out an effort from former Roar stalwart Tameka Butt.
A minute later Arnold could only watch on as Butt went close again, the 27-year-old just unable to get an acrobatic overhead kick on target after a Rebekah Stott shot had deflected off a Roar defender and bounced upwards.
In everything early, Butt once again came close to haunting her former side shortly after: Arnold closing her angle and forcing her shot wide after she had been played through on goal by ball threaded through the Roar lines.
In one of the chances they will rue the most, though, City had nobody to blame but themselves in the 23rd minute when they butchered a solid gold chance to take the lead.
Pressing hard, City captain Steph Catley robbed the ball of her Roar counterpart Claire Polkinghorne after the central defender had bundled City attacker Jasmyn Spencer off the ball.
Slicing into the Roar penalty area, the City left-back rounded fringe Matildas’ defender Mackenzie Arnold before cutting the ball back to the top of the six-yard box.
Deflecting off a Roar defender, the ball looped up perfectly for a waiting Rhaili Dobson but, somehow, her resulting side-footed effort smacked off the crossbar and back into play.
Butt, caught unawares by a ball that she would have expected to see buried in the back of the net, was then unable to get her follow up effort on target.
It summed up the half for City, unable to convert the complete domination that saw them win the possession battle 65% to 35% the pass count 328 to 181 and the shot count nine (two on target) to one (with no shots on target) into goals.
Just two minutes into the second half their woes were somehow magnified further when set-piece specialist Kellond-Knight, put a penalty won when Spencer clashed with McCormick competing for a Catley cross wide of the goals.
Another missed chance arrived in the 55th minute, Spencer flashing an effort to the left of the goal after receiving the ball from Kellond-Knight on the counter.
Somewhat of a milestone was then reached as the game approached the hour mark, the Roar having their first effort on target when Japanese superstar Yuki Nagasato broke with a counter-attacking run from her own half, leaving Stott in her wake, before meekly directing a shot straight at Lydia Williams.
It proved a brief respite for the Roar, with City again going close to finding a winner when newly introduced substitute Amy Jackson hits the post with a nice long-range, left-footed effort in the 69th minute.
Then, five minutes later, disaster struck for City.
Looking up with time in defence, McCormick laced a long ball out from her own half forward into the path of Ubogagu, catching City napping.
The Roar attacker had all the time in the world to run onto the ball and steady herself before cutting across a retreating Kinga and firing an effort low, to the right of Williams to make it 1-0 to the visitors.
Though a stunned City would continue to press in the aftermath, the goal failed to rouse them from their slumber; unable to convert as Roar’s rear-guard remained strong.
Speaking after the game, Vidosic was blunt in his assessment of City’s prospects following the defeat.
“I don’t think we can make finals,” the City gaffer
“We’re too far behind.”