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Thorns Down Under: Filling the Cabinet

W-League Rd 14 - Brisbane v Canberra Photo by Jono Searle/Getty Images

The regular W-League season has wrapped up. Ashleigh Sykes and Canberra couldn’t quite make it six out of six Thorns in the playoffs, but five ain’t bad. With Brisbane Roar, Hayley Raso and and Celeste Boureille finished top of the W-League table for the second season in a row—good luck trying to fit that plate into your trophy cabinets.

Brisbane Roar 4, Canberra United 1

Brisbane sealed a top of the table finish and the Premiers Plate with a win at home against a Canberra side with nothing to play for but pride.

Canberra had lost their spot in the playoffs after Melbourne City won their game the day before, and came out of the dressing room looking a little lost. They were completely overrun in midfield: Brisbane had 62% of possession in the first half. Youngster Ellie Carpenter, playing in the playmaker spot that she has been selected in for the past few weeks, didn’t see enough of the ball, and neither did Ashleigh Sykes or the rest of Canberra’s front line. When Carpenter did get the ball and turn, she got off a few good shots on goal, but was for the most part did not have a big influence on proceedings.

A large part of that was down to Brisbane’s quality in the center of the park. Tameka Butt returned to the side alongside Katrina Gorry and Celeste Boureille, a unit which is almost certainly the best in the league. After a difficult outing against Melbourne City two weeks ago, Boureille in particular looked dominant in midfield, breaking up play and distributing quickly against some very young Canberra players.

Brisbane’s goals in the first half both came from corners: the first a Hayley Raso goal in the 11th minute, the second from Emily Gielnik in the 40th. Raso is developing something of a talent for making something happen from loose balls. On corners this season for Brisbane she’s been tasked with marking the goalkeeper, and this is the second time this season she’s gotten the ball at her feet after a corner, shielded it from the keeper, turned and finished.

Canberra showed some fight in the second half, with Sykes and Carpenter both dropping a little deeper to look for the ball and making quick counter attacks. Canberra’s goal came from one of these: Carpenter drove forward into the box and Brisbane’s Summer O’Brian could only clear as far as Norwegian international Elise Thorsnes, who put the ball into the top corner with a clean volley.

Despite Brisbane’s dominance in midfield there are still questions about their ability to finish in open play, and though defense wins championships, someone will have to step up and make an impact in the playoffs.

Sydney FC 4, Western Sydney Wanderers 1 (untelevised)

Sydney did enough on their end to win the plate, but with Brisbane failing to slip up, they had to settle for just looking very impressive instead.

Caitlin Foord scored in the 30th minute, slipping the ball under the goalkeeper after an impressive passing buildup and had a few more chances, as well as creating a few for her teammates.

Emily Sonnett earned plaudits for her attacking performance against an admittedly-poor Wanderers side. With the hype coming in fast—her manager called her the best player in the league just a week ago—Sonnett will be expected to have a strong playoffs.

Newcastle Jets 0, Melbourne City 3 (untelevised)

After Newcastle demolished Canberra last week, Melbourne City returned the favor, scoring two headers off set-pieces to lock in fourth place and a spot in the playoffs. Jodie Taylor, joining the Seattle Reign for the next NWSL season, scored her first goal for City.

Britt Eckerstrom had a busy afternoon, making a few good saves, though she made a poor decision to try to come and punch the ball for the third goal, leaving Yukari Kinga with a free header.

Next Week

It’s the playoff semifinals. Brisbane Roar host a Melbourne City, and Sydney FC host Newcastle Jets. With so many Thorns ending up in the playoffs, Stumptown Footy will post a full preview later this week. Stay tuned.