Alesha Clifford key to Sydney FC’s defeat of Japanese side

Alesha Clifford’s super year in football keeps kicking on to new heights.

After switching from W-League newcomers Western Sydney Wanderers to her old club — reigning premiers Sydney FC — in February, the 22-year-old Winmalee resident built on a disciplined and gruelling off-season training regime by securing a place in the star-studded Sky Blues starting line-up.

The talented 182cm tall defender played a key role in Sydney FC’s dominating start to season 2013/14, impressing coach Alen Stajcic in the team’s 5-0 win over Melbourne Victory and the 4-1 triumph against Newcastle Jets.

Her move to the Sky Blues paid off even more on November 27 when Sydney FC flew to Japan to take its place in the inaugural Mobcast International Women’s Club Championships, featuring the best eight teams from Europe, South America and Asia.

Clifford helped her side keep Japanese club NTV Beleza scoreless in its comfortable 1-0 quarter-final victory in Akayama stadium on November 30, combining well with debutantes Anna Green and Chloe Logarzo.

She earned another start in the semi-final at Kanko stadium on December 4 against Chelsea Ladies FC, a leading English FA Super League team bursting to the seams with internationals including Japan’s super striker Yuki Ogimi, England’s Eniola Aluko and American defender Allie Long.

After a shocking start that saw Chelsea score three unanswered goals after 57 minutes, the Sky Blues replied with two goals but could not add to them in the final 10 minutes against their more fancied rivals.

Sydney FC secured third place in the tournament on December 7 when it beat Chilean team Colo Colo 4-2 on penalties after scores were locked at 3-3 at full-time.

Stajcic made five team selection changes, naming Clifford on the bench for the clash, which was played with a spectacular backdrop of a live volcano spitting out thick smoke.

The head coach said he was “extremely pleased” by the effort and discipline put in by the team for the whole tournament.

“We take a lot of confidence and knowledge that we deserve to be here, that Australian football can match it with the best around the world.”

Clifford and her Sydney FC teammates will hope to keep up their world-class form in the W-League after they return to Sydney today.

The Sky Blues face equal-competition leaders Melbourne Victory in their next W-League game at Allianz Stadium at 2.15pm on Sunday, December 15, which will be shown live on Fox Sports.

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