Green Machine Clinch Finals Spot

Canberra United 0–0 Sydney FC

Match report and EXCLUSIVE photos by Kris Goman at Viking Park.

Above: Michelle Heyman gets a shot away for Canberra United against Sydney FC. Photo: Kris Goman.

Friday night football at Viking Park in Canberra will figure out who’s going to the finals and who’s staying home. This is a key match for both teams. If Sydney win, it will clinch the premiership. If Canberra United win, it guarantees them a place in the final series so there’s plenty at stake for both teams.

Canberra have never lost at Viking Park and it’s pretty certain they don’t want to start now. The combinations and permutations of the possible outcomes of the last round matches means the finals are still well open and impossible to predict.

What unfolds is a war without a victor. There are plenty of battles and minor skirmishes that are fought and won. Ground is gained and lost but the battlements are never conquered and each goal remains unsullied by the passage of the opposition’s ball. It unfolds thus:

Sydney kick off and the game is pretty even and all over the field until Satchell drives down the right towards Ally Green and then passes to Maher on her left at the top of the box. Grace Maher snaps a shot away but Jada Mathyssen-Wyman has it under control despite Michelle Heyman hovering.

Above: Canberra United’s Grace Maher pictured before a free-kick. Photo: Kris Goman.

When Canberra sends a ball back to Keeley Richards to reset, the clearance goes straight to Remy Siemsen. She passes to Wheeler who lobs the ball over Richards and it bounces into goal but Wheeler is offside so it doesn’t count. This was a great attack by Sydney and very unlucky for Wheeler who was just caught offside by the defence stepping up to Siemsen.

The action switched to the other end shortly afterwards. Natasha Prior sends a ball back to Mathyssen-Whyman. The Sydney keeper looked to be ready for it but her first touch sent the ball a few metres in front of her and Heyman came up a bit faster than she expected. The ball went out for a goal kick and Mathyssen-Whyman wasn’t happy with Prior despite really caused the problem herself.

Back at the other end, some smart passing from Princess Ibini to Siemsen to Teresa Polias to Mackenzie Hawkesby around the top of the box sees a lob from Hawkesby bounce to the keeper. Richards is prone on the ground but loses possession briefly and Polias comes in to get the rebound just as she gathers it back but it sends Polias toppling over her to avoid kicking her.

Probably the best attack of the game is created by a great ball through by Paige Satchell out to Nikki Flannery on the left wing who immediate sent it back to Bianca Galic who drives to the box. The ball bouncing out of the tackle is picked up by Hughes who manages to get it out to Heyman who is unmarked on the right in the box. She gets a completely clear shot on goal and pounds it above the head of Mathyssen-Whyman. But the Sydney keeper gets her hand to it and tips it over the goal safely.

Above: Sydney FC’s Jada Mathyssen-Whyman dives and despite what it might look like, the ball didn’t quite go in! Photo: Kris Goman

Canberra continue to show a bit more initiative when Maher picks up a Satchell pass and takes a long range shot from about 10 metres from the top of the box. It just skims the crossbar but looked very dangerous.

Polias intercepts and chips a ball for Siemsen but Siemsen is marginally offside and she wouldn’t have beaten Richards to it anyway.

After a Canberra free kick is cleared, Vine brings the ball up most of the field in an inspired run. She gets it to Siemsen who is mobbed but gets it back to Hawkesby who passes out to Ibini on the left and is in the clear. The defence rush to cover but she’s able to get it onto her right foot and take a decent shot at goal. It’s just over the crossbar and sails clear.

Courtnee Vine goes down in the top right corner after landing heavily on her knee. She gets treatment and is taken off and comes back on to only go down again in a bit of pain by the looks of things. She’s walking OK but something’s obviously not right. She is replaced by Taylor Ray in the 36th minute. A good six minutes after the original injury.

Ray has an immediate impact when she gets a pass away to Siemsen in the clear and facing the right direction. Siemsen takes a good shot but is leaning back just a touch and the ball is over the crossbar. Sydney’s on target shots are severely lacking at the moment and Richards hasn’t really been tested yet.

In the dying minutes of the first half, Keir sends a beautifully weighted long ball to Heyman in the box to head towards goal. Unfortunately, there wasn’t enough on it and Mathyssen-Whyman picked it up easily and the half-time whistle goes.

A reasonably even first half, but Canberra’s chances looked more exciting and dangerous. Most of their shots were on target and Mathyssen-Whyman had to make a couple of difficult saves. Richards at the other end has been rarely tested.

Above: Sydney FC’s Princess Ibini in possession. Photo: Kris Goman.

Straight back into it in the second half and Canberra get an unrealised chance when Heyman receives the ball and passes to Maher on the right. She runs onto it in the clear but instead of shooting, controls the ball, which gives Sydney time to recover and surround her. She ends up passing to Laura Hughes while Heyman stands in the box with her arms outstretched. Hughes shoots to the top left corner to make Mathyssen-Whyman stretch but stretch she does and it’s safely in the gloves.

Fighting straight back again, Fletcher passes to Galic from halfway and then she gets it back to Maher. Maher is not making the same mistake this time and crosses to Heyman on her favoured left foot. Heyman does a diving header and the ball ricochets off the right goal post.

In the clearance, Sydney gets the ball to Charlotte Mclean out on the right. Siemsen is at the top of the box with her back to goal and heads it down and back to Hawkesby whose shot is blocked by Fletcher. Fletcher has been doing a lot of hard work like this throughout the match and nullifying a lot of the Sydney attack before it can start.

A few minutes later, the second best Canberra opportunity presented itself when Lauren Keir lobbed a wonderful ball over the Sydney defence for Heyman to run onto. Heyman is completely in the clear with Mathyssen-Whyman coming out of goal to her. The ball is bouncing and Heyman sensibly tries to chip it over the fast closing Wyman. She succeeds in this but it’s just wide of goal and goes out instead of in the net.

Moments later Sydney are back on the attack. The ball comes out to McLean on the right and she crosses back to the centre of the pitch to Ibini who is running onto the ball at speed. At the same time Kendall Fletcher has anticipated where the ball will land and is waiting for it. Ibini collides with Fletcher, knocks her to the ground then lands on top of her. Fletcher is winded and takes her time to recover and get back up.

Just after 60 minutes, Sydney starts a press and are in and around the box for an extended period. It becomes frustrating when Siemsen is in the box and gets the ball on two occasions but has her back to goal and passes back out of the box instead of turning and shooting. It feels like she’s on defensive duties for Canberra. Taylor Ray is doing all the work here, running around, sending the ball through ingeniously only to have it returned to her. Eventually Wheeler lobs it and Ibini jumps up to try to head it but its a little high to control it properly and it’s out to the left of goal.

Above: Sydney’s Clare Wheeler tries to escape from a tight corner. Photo: Kris Goman.

Just after the hour mark, Satchell runs the ball through the midfield. She’s been making good ground all evening and has been one of the standouts on the field. Natasha Prior’s slide tackle on her is cleared to Maher who strikes. It lands at the feet of Mathyssen-Whyman and she’s able to pick it up with no troubles.

Both Siemsen and Fletcher cramp up at 74 minutes in. Flannery is helping Siemsen stretch out. 

Sydney launch another attack through Ray who passes to Ibini, who gets it out Lowe on the right. She flicks it back to Ibini who brings it up the centre and slides a great pass through to Siemsen but Siemsen is offside and her rather soft shot was well anticipated and controlled by Richards.

A little one-two by Wheeler and Lowe sees Wheeler dribble the ball upfield through the centre. Siemsen is to her left but about ten metres out from the box she takes a long range shot. It’s on target but straight into the waiting arms of Richards.

When Maher takes a run towards goal, she passes out to Flannery on the left who returns it to Maher when she has few options. Maher kicks it towards the box and Tobin heads it down to the feet of the waiting Heyman. She flicks it right, across to Taylor-Young. Her return pass to Heyman is intercepted by Prior, who had been particularly solid in defence all night. The clearance goes to Koulizakis who decides to shoot. There’s a lot of power but all in the wrong direction as the shot goes skyward and well clear of the goal.

Canberra launch another attack that sees substitute Demi Koulizakis trying to shoot and being foiled before Heyman receives a throw in, turns and snaps a shot off low to the near post. There’s some fire in it and it bounces out of Mathyssen-Whyman hands but she recovers and pulls it in.

Above: Paige Satchell in determined mood for Canberra United against Sydney. Photo: Kris Goman.

Canberra get a very late corner but it’s cleared by Prior as three extra minutes of time are announced. The tension is building and the crowd is chanting for Canberra. Canberra seem happy to take the point and Sydney probably won’t complain about it either so both teams are all about their defence at the moment as either team letting a goal in will ruin their party.

Canberra are taking it to the corner at this stage to protect that point. Whilst in the corner, Canberra concede a foul and then Flannery gets a yellow for complaining about it and wasting time. The final whistle goes and Canberra celebrate like they won. And really they did as they only needed a point to make the finals and it’s a fresh start from there. A nil all draw makes it less clear for Sydney as to whether they get the premiership or not. They were always in the finals but they are going to need to step up from the performance of this match if they want to make the Grand Final.

Both teams were very solid in defence but Sydney’s attack was wanting. Siemsen looked disconnected and seemed to be facing the wrong way and sending balls backwards rather than forwards most of the game. Ibini was more involved than she often is but dropped back a bit so had more work in defence in the midfield to do but when she came up she was often threatening. Ray was good in making ground and getting passes though.

For Canberra, Heyman got some very good shots in and made Mathyssen-Whyman earn her keep. Maher also looked dangerous on many occasions and the Canberra shots on goal were seven compared to one for Sydney. And that’s probably the key statistic of the match as most others were pretty even.

Kendall Fletcher got player of the match but it could have just as easily have been Natasha Prior for Sydney as it was the defence of both teams that was most important. Satchell also had a great game and a lot of impact.

So now we wait on the results of the last two games of this final round and the delayed match from the previous round between Sydney and Melbourne Victory to know exactly who will contest the finals and where. 

Teams: CANBERRA UNITED: Richards, Keir, Ilijoski, Nash, Fletcher, Galic, Maher, Hughes, Heyman, Flannery, Satchell. Substitutes: Jones (GK), Grove, Foletta, Koulizakis, Taylor-Young.

SYDNEY FC: Mathyssen-Whyman, Mclean, Green, Tobin, Prior, Polias, Wheeler, Hawkesby, Siemsen, Ibini, Vine. Substitutes: Offer (GK) Hristodoulou, Lowe, Ray, Toby.

Referee: Rebecca Durcau.

Attendance: 1,411.

Impetus’ coverage of Australian Women’s Football is supported by The Chicken Salt Co. They are offering every Impetus reader 5% off all orders of Chicken Salt from their website. Go to https://www.chickensalt.co.uk/?mate=impetus and place your order – 5% will automatically be taken off of the cost. The coupon code is impetus.

Artwork: Graphics by PW.

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