Westfield W-League 2018/19 report card: Melbourne City
Melbourne City headed into the Westfield W-League 2018/19 Season looking to win an unprecedented fourth straight title.
Despite losing the services of superstar Wales international Jess Fishlock, the reigning Champions still looked set to be one of the teams to beat, assembling a squad the envy of much of the rest of the league.
Rado Vidosic took over the reins from Patrick Kisnorbo as City aimed once again to be the benchmark in the women's game in Australia.
We take a look at how they fared.
Record: 6W, 1D, 5L
Top scorer: Jasmyne Spencer (4 goals)
Most appearances: Rhali Dobson, Lydia Williams, Lauren Barnes, Theresa Nielsen – 12 games
City are used to starting the season slowly and that tradition continued in Round 1 when they travelled to Canberra United and were comfortably beaten 2-0.
They then put in a dominant performance at home to Sydney FC, swatting aside the eventual Grand Final winners 3-1 at AAMI Park with new recruit Jasmyne Spencer netting a hat-trick.
A Melbourne Derby was next on the agenda and, though Victory would go on to have an outstanding campaign, in Round 3 they were still very much an unknown prospect.
An own-goal from Elise Kellond-Knight and a late strike from Emily Gielnik denied City bragging rights before a thumping 5-2 loss away to Perth Glory really sounded the alarms at Bundoora.
A 97th-minute equaliser from Georgia Camagnale broke City hearts in 1-1 draw at home to Adelaide United in Round 5, leaving them well behind the eight ball just under halfway through their Championship defence.
They got back into the swing of things with a 3-1 win away to Newcastle Jets before a dominant 3-0 triumph over Canberra at AAMI Park and a gritty 2-1 victory on the road to Western Sydney Wanderers fired off a warning to the rest of the league that they weren't going away.
A second Derby loss, this time from an 88th-minute goal from Christine Nairn, came as a sucker-punch and hinted at a changing of the guard in Victoria's capital.
That was followed by another close loss, at the hands of Brisbane Roar, and City's season was suddenly reduced to mathematics as they sought to sneak into the top four.
Two excellent wins, 4-0 over the Jets and 2-0 against Sydney FC, kept the flame flickering, but City's dominance of the Westfield W-League came to an official conclusion when left outside the Finals Series places as a result of Perth only losing by a goal to Victory in the final round.
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City certainly had some highlights during the season but their 3-0 win over Canberra in Round 8 has to be the finest they played.
Vidosic's side tore through the visitors at AAMI Park, scoring three goals before half-time as they sought to inject some life back into a stuttering campaign.
Rhali Dobson opened the scoring with a screamer before Kyah Simon headed in City's second with the home side all over Canberra.
Dobson would nab her brace in first-half injury time to leave United shell-shocked and give City some added motivation in the fight for a top-four berth.
City usually have a long cast list of stars but this season saw a slightly refined approach.
American import Spencer quickly lived up her to lofty Westfield W-League reputation with a superb hat-trick in Round 2 against former club Sydney FC and the forward continued to be a thorn in the side of opposition defences.
Japanese veteran Yukari Kinga enjoyed another strong season Down Under, scoring three goals as she picked up City's Player of the Year accolade.
Dobson enjoyed a fine campaign in her second year in City colours, netting two goals and providing three assists. The former Newcastle Jets winger was a constant menace for opposition defences with her pace and vision proving tough to handle.
Sofia Sakalis also showed glimpses of her exciting talent with the 16-year old Young Matilda making three appearances.
Overall a disappointing campaign but enough form in patches to show that City are certainly not a spent force.
The off-season losses of Alanna Kennedy and Fishlock certainly affected the side who were also adjusting to a new head coach in Vidosic.
If City can avoid further big-name departures there's no reason to think they can't once again challenge for the title next term, though a good start is essential.