Sasaki’s Skill Sets Up Adelaide’s First Win

Adelaide United 2-1 Canberra United

By Ben Gilby (12/12/21).

Above: Adelaide United’s Emma Stanbury (right) wins a battle for the ball. Photo: @CanberraUnited.

Adelaide United claimed their first victory of the campaign with a stoppage-time winner which sealed a 2-1 over Canberra United side at Marden Sports Complex.

Canberra, who are still looking for their maiden win of 2021/22, were able to field captain Michelle Heyman despite having to leave the field in her team’s opening game against Melbourne City. Vicki Linton’s team started in 30oC conditions with a midfield formation that was noticeably tighter than last weekend.

Paige Hayward was the standout player of the opening 15 minutes as she broke down the left constantly, finding acres of space each time and able to send a succession of crosses into the box, but Fiona Worts and Chelsie Dawber were unable to take advantage.

Despite Adelaide having more of the offensive opportunities, it was Canberra’s master finisher who reminded the South Australians of the painful lesson that you need to finish the chances you create. A centimetre perfect ball through the middle from Chelsee Washington into Heyman’s path allowed the 33 year-old to run through. The home side claimed with some justification that Heyman was offside, but no flag went up and the Shellharbour-born superstar sidefooted home comfortably.

Above: Michelle Heyman celebrates after putting Canberra United ahead. Photo: @CanberraUnited

Tails up after going ahead, the capital city side could have doubled their tally two minutes later when Margot Robinne skipped along the right, and into the box where she held off Matilda McNamara comfortably and hit an effort that Annalee Grove got a hand to which was all-important, as otherwise Laura Hughes would have been presented with an unmissable opportunity.

However, Adelaide levelled in quite some style with 23 minutes on the clock. It all started so innocuously with Canberra in position on the left. Karly Roestbakken played a ball inside to Grace Maher. The latter’s attempt at an onward pass fell straight to Dawber who played in Fiona Worts outside her. The striker, who was in red hot form for Fulham United in the SA NPL hit a side-footed effort which Keeley Richards repelled, but the rebound fell to Nanako Sasaki who hit a first-time screamer into the net from just over 20 yards.

Above: Nanako Sasaki hits her stunning equalizing goal for Adelaide United. Photo: @AdelaideUnited

Canberra had another uneasy moment in defence when Dawber forced a mistake from Lauren Keir after the visiting defender received a pass from her goalkeeper with the Adelaide striker breathing down her neck and won a corner as a consequence which was cleared.

Dawber’s influence on the left was growing as the game neared half-time. The SA NPL’s top scorer for 2021 forced a foul out of Keir, who was cautioned as a consequence. The resulting free-kick from Worts was a beauty as the striker hit a powerful left-footed effort that bounced in front of Richards and picked up even more pace off the turf as it did so, and flashed wide.

Canberra started the second half on the front foot with Ashleigh Sykes on from the bench. Washington went down rather easily under a challenge that saw Maher flash in a freekick from the left which Grove held.

Above: Fiona Worts, who had a strong first half, holds off Grace Maher. Photo: @AdelaideUnited

Emily Condon was talismanic in Adelaide growing into the second half, some eye-catching flicks and dummies were causing Canberra ever-greater headaches. Another impressive performer was 18 year-old Ella Tonkin, who had a great campaign with the Football SA NTC in 2021 as she is being converted from midfield to defence.

Heyman was increasingly isolated for Canberra as the second half entered its final quarter. This plus the limited impact of Washington due to the hard work of Tonkin and her fellow defenders to nullify their threat was impacting the visitors.

On the plus side for the greens, Sykes was putting in some great runs and created a real chance when played through by Washington, but a combination of a great track back by McNamara and save by Grove denied the visitors.

Above: Canberra’s Ash Sykes challenges Annalee Grove for the ball. Photo: @CanberraUnited.

The earlier warm conditions began to take their toll as the pace slowed in the final 20 minutes.

As the game entered its final stages, Canberra earned a freekick when Sykes was brought down. Maher’s effort wouldn’t dip in time to worry Grove.

Sasaki got an effort away in the final nine minutes which went well wide as Stanbury went down with cramp.

Above: Chelsee Washington gets a shot away under the watchful eye of Emma Stanbury. Photo: @CanberraUnited.

Hayward was not as influential in an attacking sense in the second period for Adelaide with little in the way of offensive play coming down her side of the pitch, but she put in a great defensive shift to add to what was an impressive performance for the South Australians.

Canberra had three opportunities in quick succession to seal the win. Sykes worked her way into the box but was denied by Grove who pushed the ball away. It fell to Washington who couldn’t find then net. This time possession was picked up by Heyman on the left who beat McNamara and Izzy Hodgson but her cross eluded everyone.

Just as the game was looking certain to end with honours even, Adelaide struck, 30 seconds into stoppage time at the end of the match.

Worts squared a pass from the left into the path of Sasaki who lofted a glorious chip over Allyson Haran into the path of Condon who guided the ball under Richards and into the net to spark wild scenes at Marden.

Above: Adelaide United celebrate Emily Condon’s late winner. Photo: @AdelaideUnited

Adelaide saw out the remaining five minutes of stoppage time to claim their first three points of the season. Whilst it was harsh on Canberra, who deserved a draw, the Reds defended strongly and crucially were able to take their chance when it came.

Player of the match Emma Stanbury summed up how she felt about the late win for her team: “It’s fantastic, I’m so proud of how we bounced back from a 5-1 loss to put in a performance like that. We deserved that win.

“When the winning goal went in, I was actually on the sideline getting strapped up and I jumped about everywhere and ice was flying all over the place! I’m so happy. It’s so amazing!”

Speaking about her goal, Michelle Heyman was asked if she was offside: “Never! 100% onside. I got myself into the position. We needed to try and sort our midfield out, we were getting split. Emily Condon faced forward and caused us problems. We needed to squeeze up. She’s a very talented player and we needed two players on her as she was able to roll away from us.”

A disappointed Karly Roestbakken summed up Canberra’s performance by saying: “We started the game well, we had it under control. There were a few lapses of concentration that cost us. They got through and got a lucky goal. They came out hard in the second half. There are positives that we can take from this, but we need to tighten up and not let players get through like that.

Teams: ADELAIDE UNITED (4-3-3): Grove, E.Hodgson, Tonkin, McNamara, I.Hodgson, Condon, Sasaki, Stanbury, Hayward, Worts, Dawber. Substitutes: Beaumont, Brough, Murray, Omiya, Templeman (GK).

Scorers: Sasaki 23′

CANBERRA UNITED (4-2-3-1): Richards, Ilijoski, Keir, Haran, Roestbakken, Middleton, Maher, Robinne, Washington, Hughes, Heyman. Substitutes: Caspers, Karrys-Stahl, Mason-Jones (GK), Sykes, Taylor-Young.

Scorer: Heyman 16′

Referee: Rebecca Mackie.

Attendance: 780.

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.

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