Canberra United 1–1 Melbourne Victory
By Kieran Yap.
Only two points separated the sides as Canberra United in fifth visited fourth placed Melbourne Victory in hopes of leapfrogging them on the ladder and a win for either team would be a massive boost to their finals hopes.
Victory began the game on the front foot, the attack of De Vanna, Zimmerman and Ayres looking mobile and lively from the kick-off. Canberra had an early shot on goal by Grace Maher but it was Victory who took the lead before 10 minutes.
Angie Beard, who has been consistently dangerous and versatile down the left flank this season, received the ball out wide, one-on-one with young defender Jessika Nash. She dropped her shoulder and lifted the ball, skipping past the challenge and into space. Beard looked up and hit the ball high towards goal, it somehow bounced off the underside of the crossbar and over the line for a spectacular opener by the Victory captain. Whether she intended to score directly or was aiming for a teammate makes very little difference, it was great wing-play and a deadly ball in. The only player more shocked than Beard was Keely Richards in goal who seemed to assume the ball was going over the bar before it somehow dipped under.
Victory continued their dominance, Lisa De Vanna tried hooking a shot on her left foot that Richards was equal to and Amy Jackson in her record breaking sixty-seventh Victory game and wearing the armband for the day hit an effort over the bar.
De Vanna again was a threat when she raced behind the defenders but Kendall Fletcher did very well to block the shot and Kyra Cooney-Cross tried her luck with an optimistic long distance strike that had Richards back peddling frantically but flew wide.
The home side was dominant in general play and Canberra looked unable to enjoy any meaningful possession of the ball, but their defence withstood Victory’s best efforts. Claudia Bunge saw her header flash wide and a Lisa De Vanna goal seemed certain when she shaped to round Keely Richards until the goalkeeper calmly took the ball off her with a perfect tackle 20 yards from goal.
While Victory struggled to convert their chances, Canberra took theirs, seconds before the half time whistle Michelle Heyman played the ball to Bianca Galic who only needed one touch to put Nickoletta Flannery into space behind the defence. The speedster struck it sweetly, low and into the bottom corner without breaking stride, a perfectly taken goal to level the scores.
The second half was a more even contest, both teams went in search of a winner Amy Jackson created an early chance for De Vanna who was denied by Richards again with a strong near post save from close range.
Flannery played with confidence, her pace was a constant menace to the Victory defenders and after running at a back peddling Bunge and Morrison she shot from the edge of the box but Garton was untroubled. Heyman tried from a similar position, her shot was hit with more power but missed the target.
Victory were still enjoying space down the flanks and their best chances were coming from crosses, Polly Doran’s cross from the right looked destined for Annalie Longo at the goal mouth but Kendall Fletcher was able to intercept the ball. Canberra continued to test Garton from long range with a Galic missile just fizzing over the bar and Laura Hughes bouncing a shot just wide.
As the game edged towards the 90th minute Longo had the chance to win it after she twisted into a shooting position close to goal, Richards put out a glove to provide a strong instinctive save and the ball bounced across the face where Lisa De Vanna lurked. She charged at the ball to tap into an empty net but Jessika Nash reacted quickest to clear off the line and ensure a valuable point on the road for Canberra United.
Melbourne Victory have a short wait to get those three points, they host Western Sydney Warriors on Thursday night and they will be hoping Catherine Zimmerman is fit after going off in the first half of this game.
Canberra defended well and although they were undone early by a freak of a goal they fought their way back into the contest against an in form side. Next week they face the fearsome attack of Brisbane Roar, their season is still very much alive but they will need to be at their best for the final few matches.
Teams: MELBOURNE VICTORY: Garton, Doran, Beard, Bunge, Morrison, Jackson, Barbieri, Cooney-Cross, Zimmerman, De Vanna, Ayres. Substitutes: Maizels (GK), Longo, Markovski, Privitelli, Eliadis.
Scorers: Beard 9.
CANBERRA UNITED: Richards, Nash, Ilijoski, Keir, Fletcher, Galic, Flannery, Maher, Hughes, Koulizakis, Heyman. Substitutes: James (GK), Goldstein, Grove, Satchell, Taylor-Young.
Scorers: Flannery 45+2.
Referee: Kelly Jones.
|Western Sydney Wanderers||9||3||1||5||8||17||10||-9|
Top four sides qualify for the finals at the end of the regular season.
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