SYDNEY FC came close to a thrilling comeback but lost 3-2 to Chelsea Ladies FC in the semi-finals of the International Women’s Club Championships in Okayama, Japan.
The Sky Blues went down by three goals to their English opponents, but strikes from Renee Rollason and Jodie Taylor in a six minute spell late in the second half gave them hope of an unlikely comeback.
The game could easily have had a different ending after Sydney FC dominated the early part of the match, with forwards Taylor and Leena Khamis both having chances to open the scoring, while a Sam Kerr header hit the crossbar close to half time.
Head Coach Alen Stajcic kept an unchanged starting line up to the one that won the opening game of the tournament 1-0 against NTV Beleza.
The Sky Blues were the first to go close when dual international Ellyse Perry delivered a cross from the right to the head of Taylor, who put her effort just past the post in the sixth minute.
Keeper Casey Dumont was called into action three minutes later to save from a Chelsea attack before Sydney FC had the best half of the opening period on 20 minutes.
The Blues keeper Hourihan saved a header and the ball fell to Leena Khamis, however the seasoned Matilda could only send her shot over the bar.
A saving tackle from United States international Allie Thorn on the half hour prevented another Sydney FC goalscoring opportunity and the Sky Blues were made to pay moments later when Chelsea took the lead.
A passing move from the English side saw Rosella Ayane work the ball square to Laura Coombs who struck the ball hard and low beyond Dumont on 36 minutes.
Sydney FC were close to levelling four minutes later when Samantha Kerr struck a header off the crossbar and Chelsea were able to clear the danger to go in at the break 1-0 up.
The English FA Super League side took the ascendancy immediately in the second half. A free-kick from Japanese World Cup winner Yuki Ogimi came back off the crossbar, eventually falling to England international Eniola Aluko who smashed the ball home from 18 yards with 52 minutes gone, to make it 2-0.
It was 3-0 five minutes later when a through ball from Rachel Williams split the Sydney FC defence, Ogimi raced on to it, rounded the keeper and slotted home.
The Sky Blues weren’t finished however and set up a grandstand finish. Stajcic’s team won a free kick outside the box and Renee Rollason fired in off the post to pull one back with 15 minutes to go.
The goal buoyed Sydney FC and they won another free-kick, this time an indirect one inside the box, from which striker Jodie Taylor stepped up and sent a delicate chip over the Chelsea keeper Hourihan, and into the net with 81 minutes on the clock.
It was to no avail however and Chelsea were able to hang on and claim a place in the International Women’s Club Championship Final on Sunday against Japanese Champions INAC Kobe Leonessa, who defeated Chile’s Colo Colo 3-0 in the other semi-final.