Sydney FC claim Liberty A-League derby rights

Sydney FC maintained their dominance over Western Sydney Wanderers after the Liberty A-League champions emerged 2-0 winners in the Sydney Derby.

Bragging rights went the way of Sydney, who went into enemy territory and claimed three points at CommBank Stadium, where super-sub Caley Tallon-Henniker turned the match on its head on debut.

The 18-year-old earned the penalty for Mackenzie Hawkesby to convert in the 67th-minute before sealing the result with a stoppage-time strike to cap a memorable A-Leagues bow.

Tallon-Henniker joined Sydney as an injury-replacement contract until the end of the season last month and she was part of the club’s AFC Women’s Club Championship in Uzbekistan, where she made two appearances in the group phase.

She represented the Australian Schoolgirls in rugby league last year but after turning her attention to football, made her Liberty A-League debut on Saturday – becoming just the sixth Sky Blues women’s player to do make their bow in the Sydney Derby.

Tallon-Henniker follows in the footsteps of Ally Green, Remy Siemsen, Cortnee Vine, Clare Wheeler and Jada Whyman.

The Sky Blues are now undefeated in their last nine games against the Wanderers (W8 D1), keeping a clean sheet in all nine of those games. It is a streak that dates back to December 2019, when they lost 5-0 to Western Sydney.

SYDNEY, AUSTRALIA – MARCH 02: Amy Chessari of the Wanderers and Margaux Chauvet of Sydney FC contest the ball during the A-League Women round 18 match between Western Sydney Wanderers and Sydney FC at CommBank Stadium, on March 02, 2024, in Sydney, Australia. (Photo by Cameron Spencer/Getty Images)

Sydney are third in the standings and five points behind leaders Western United, while Western Sydney – who had Vicky Bruce sent off in the 72nd minute, are now seventh.

Sydney FC were without six players away on international duty with the Young Matildas at the AFC Under-20 Women’s Asian Cup in Uzbekistan – Maddie Caspers, Indiana Dos Santos, Jynaya Dos Santos, Tahlia Franco, Shay Hollman and Zara Kruger.

But the Sky Blues completed dominated the opening half, but they somehow failed to make it count on the scoreboard in Western Sydney.

It was one-way traffic from the outset as the Wanderers tried to survive an onslaught, with Princess Ibini going close to breaking the deadlock in the eighth minute after getting in behind but Western Sydney goalkeeper Khamis stood up tall as the ball trickled just wide of the post.

Hawkesby also saw her effort flash past the post seven minutes later, having combined with Ibini and that same combination saw the latter released through on goal on the half-hour mark, only for the same result.

There were three golden opportunities for Abbey Lemon in quick succession. However, all three were spurned.

First, Cortnee Vine served the ball on the platter for Lemon in the 33rd minute but she was unable to steer her effort on target, despite being unmarked in the six-yard box.

After forcing a fine save from Khamis a minute later, Lemon than sprayed her header wide in the 36th minute. “May have been harder to miss than put in,” said Paramount+ commentator and former A-Leagues star Alicia Ferguson.

There was some more last-ditch defending from the Wanderers – who saw Sophie Harding fire a shot over the crossbar following her call-up to the Matildas – to keep the home side on level terms four minutes prior to half-time – Ibini again frustrated in front of goal.

SYDNEY, AUSTRALIA – MARCH 02: Sophie Harding of the Wanderers passes during the A-League Women round 18 match between Western Sydney Wanderers and Sydney FC at CommBank Stadium, on March 02, 2024, in Sydney, Australia. (Photo by Cameron Spencer/Getty Images)

Another chance went begging for the Sky Blues nine minutes into the second half when Vine broke through on goal but in a one-v-one situation with the goalkeeper, the Matildas forward opted to try to play a pass across goal which eluded Ibini.

Sydney did get their goal in the 67th minute via a Hawkesby penalty. Madison McComasky was penalised for a foul on Caley Tallon-Henniker and it paved the way for the Sky Blues to finally break Western Sydney’s resistance.

Things went from from bad to worse for Western Sydney after Vicky Bruce was sent off after bringing down Vine for what appeared to be denying a goalscoring opportunity 18 minutes from the end.

Then Tallon-Henniker got the scoresheet in the 93rd minute, a calm and composed finish secured maximum points.