Canberra United 0-1 Melbourne City
Above: Michelle Heyman (left) and Winonah Heatley compete for the ball at Viking Park last night. Photo: @MelbourneCity.
By Kieran Yap (4/2/21)
Canberra United have started off their season with a costly loss to Melbourne City.
The day started off with bright news for Canberra fans. Matildas defender and former captain Karly Røstbakken announced that she was returning to the club. Michelle Heyman lead her team out to face a heavily defensive Melbourne City and the home side also boasted French attacker Margot Robbine in their new lineup.
Canberra made the unusual choice of starting Grace Maher in central defence, with American imports Washington and Haran in midfield, the number 10 was shuffled back to mind the threat of Hannah Wilkinson and Holly McNamara.
Heyman’s touches of class were the main highlights of the first half. In contrast to her hattrick in the opening game last season, she could not find the target.
The Canberra captain attempted to beat Melissa Barbieri with a half volley that flew high and was pressing energetically from the kickoff.
Up the other end, Wilkinson was not being given much space early, Her best chance came after Rebekah Stott turned skillfully and flicked a pass through. The New Zealander was able to get around Keely Richards but could only hit the side netting.
It was a nice moment of class from Stott to set up the chance. The defender was in her first game back from Hodgkin’s Lymphoma and while just being on the field was remarkable enough, her performance would be highly encouraging for Rado Vidosic.
Stott is known for her defensive abilities but demonstrated her skill and experience in midfield. While City are set up more cautiously than they are known for, they still have quality players like Stott who can make an impact.
Ashley Sykes’ probably should have taken the lead for Canberra. It would have been the fairytale return for the striker but her volley from point-blank range missed the target.
Her powers will return as the season continues but this miss proved costly for Canberra in a game where opportunities were scarce.
Wilkinson grew more into the game in the second half and the match momentarily became a duel between her and Keeley Richards in the Canberra goal.
The new City forward hit multiple shots on target but Richards was equal to each of them, it would take something special to beat her.
As the game looked destined for the second draw of the afternoon, Holly McNamara had other ideas.
On debut, the 18-year-old striker took the ball from the left flank and after driving to the edge of the box she curled a shot beyond Richards to win the game.
It was a strike worthy of settling any contest, made all the more impressive that it was in the teenager’s first A-League Women’s appearance.
The confidence and technique to shoot and score from that range in a close game was remarkable. Instantly a new “Dub” star was born.
In the end, it was an unremarkable match won by an amazing moment. For Canberra, they might have lost more than the three points, Michelle Heyman limped off in the second half sending murmurs of concern through the stadium.
But the headlines belong to Melbourne City and their new star forward. It was a moment that won the game for City and one that she will remember forever.
Impetus’ Ben Gilby heard Canberra United’s Karly Røstbakken speak to the media after the game: “Having half hour on the pitch was really nice. It’s good to get the legs ticking over again.
“The first half – the girls did really well. We created chances and should have taken them if I’m being honest. In the second half, all credit to them (City). We gave them too much time and too much space.”
Speaking about her return to Canberra ranks, which was only publicly announced on matchday, Røstbakken said: “I love being back at home, I’m such a homebody. I’ve really missed it. It was a quick and rushed decision, but I’ve been talking to Vicki (Linton, Canberra United head coach) for a while.
“Obviously, it is our off-season in Scandinavia, so it was a perfect time to get some games in and spend time with the girls. I’ve signed as a guest player so I’ll head back in January, it’s six games for me here. Having not played many games, not a full 90 for a year through injury, it’s really important to be back playing.”
Teams: CANBERRA UNITED: Richards, Ilijoski, Haran, Kier, Hughes, Washington, Middleton, Sykes, Heyman, Robinne. Substitutes: Caspers, Karrys-Stahl, Mason-Jones (GK), Røstbakken, Taylor-Young.
MELBOURNE CITY: Barbieri, Heatley, Checker, Thomas-Chinnama, Vlajnic, Stott, Davidson, Torpey, Pollicina, McNamara, Wilkinson. Substitutes: Majstorovic (GK), Malone, McKenna, Tumeth, Westland.
Scorer: McNamara 80′.
Referee: Georgia Ghirardello.
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.