Record crowd sees Sydney FC win women's A-League grand final
Sydney FC surged past Western United 4-0 to win the women's A-League grand final on Sunday before a record crowd as Australia counts down to co-hosting the World Cup in July and August.
Playing in a sixth straight final, they lifted the trophy for a fourth time on the back of two goals from American forward Madison Haley -- the daughter of five-time NFL (American Football) Super Bowl winner Charles Haley.
Veteran skipper Natalie Tobin and Princess Ibini-Isei also got on the scoresheet.
On a landmark day for the game in Australia, 9,519 thronged through the turnstiles at Sydney's Parramatta Stadium as football rides a wave of momentum leading up to the World Cup in July and August.
The previous record for a women's grand final was a pre-Covid 6,127 in Melbourne in 2019.
"It's overwhelming, it's outstanding, it's amazing," said Tobin, who was playing her 100th game.
"These girls, it's such an incredible group. I can't believe we did it."
Sydney quickly assumed control with a powerful back post header from Haley after a Mackenzie Hawkesby corner on three minutes.
They doubled their lead 15 minutes later through Tobin, again from a Hawkesby corner, and went to the break comfortably in charge.
United's American goalkeeper Hillary Beall pulled off a string of saves as Sydney pressed for a third, but could not do anything to keep out Ibini-Isei's penalty in the 63rd minute before Haley grabbed her second in stoppage time.
Despite defeat, it has been a remarkable season for Western United who were in their first year of existence and given little chance of even making the top-four playoffs.
Australia's then W-League was formed in 2008 with eight clubs, replacing the Women's National Soccer League (WNSL) as Australia's top women's football competition.
It expanded to nine teams in 2015 and has since grown to 11 with the addition of Western United this season. One more club -- Central Coast Mariners -- will be added for the 2023-24 campaign.
That will bring it in line with the world's top leagues, including England's Women's Super League, the United States' National Women's Soccer League and France's Division 1 Feminine.
A-Leagues chief Danny Townsend said ahead of the match the expansion meant "all the ingredients are in place for the women's game to explode as we have seen in leagues overseas".