Maher Class Brings Back Brisbane Nightmares

Canberra United 3-3 Brisbane Roar

By Ben Gilby (23/12/21).

Above: Spectacular action as Michelle Heyman goes for goal. Photo: Canberra United.

A stunning fight-back at the death led by Grace Maher ensured that Canberra United obtained their first point of the season against a Brisbane Roar side whose worrying habit of conceding late goals cost them dear once more.

This was a vital game played in hot conditions at Viking Park with the two sides going into the encounter having lost all of their matches so far this season.

The team news saw Canberra United give a first start to ex-Brisbane star and Queenslander Allira Toby. With Katrina Gorry in the eleven from the beginning, Garreth McPherson was hoping that his Roar team would finally end their frustrating start to the campaign.

Above: Brisbane Roar’s Katrina Gorry (10) and Canberra United’s Allira Toby contest possession. Photo: Canberra United.

Brisbane, with the advantage of the breeze, had the first opportunity with less than five minutes on the clock. Gorry showed her worth as she drove through the left of centre channel, and let fly from outside the box forcing Keeley Richards to push it away at her near post for a corner.

Michelle Heyman then found Toby on the left only for Jamilla Rankin to get across to put the ball out for a corner but the less than giant-like Gorry headed away the set-piece.

Toby’s influence was emphasized with ten minutes on the clock. Karly Roestbakken’s throw on the left-hand side midway into the Roar half found the Ipswich-born Canberra debutant. She combined with the set-piece taker before receiving the ball back to play a delightful outside-of-the-foot low pass across to Michelle Heyman who hooked the ball home.

Above: Michelle Heyman goes to thank Allira Toby who set up her opener. Chelsee Washington (7) also shows her glee. Photo: Canberra United.

Roar, who had more than their fair share of chances prior to The Greens’ goal, were then pressed back as United looked to build on their lead. Whenever the visitors were in possession, Canberra pushed up fast in order to keep the pressure on and win back possession. In a bid to by-pass the press, Brisbane looked to play long more often, a move which did not prove particularly fruitful for them.

Just past the 20-minute mark, Mariel Hecher grabbed possession for the Queenslanders on the right of the box and hit a low shot with the outside of her foot which Richards pushed out for a corner. The flag-kick came in, Jessie Rasschaert got up at the far post, but the Canberra goalkeeper gathered for the home side.

Seconds later, Roar levelled after being gifted with an early Christmas present from Canberra. There was no imminent danger as Roestbakken played a pass back towards Richards. The Canberra keeper’s attempted clearance was an air shot with the ball trundling under her foot and into the net to loud gasps of disbelief from the home fans.

Above: Brisbane Roar’s Jamilla Rankin (5) challenges Michelle Heyman. Photo: Brisbane Roar.

Within three minutes, the Heyman-Toby partnership showed more positive signs as the latter was played in after a pacy run-through. The shot across the goal bounced off the far post. As the shot came in, Roar defender Rankin made contact with Toby’s ankle and there were claims for a penalty, but referee Rachel Mitchenson was unmoved.

With half an hour gone, Brisbane produced their best piece of build-up play to date. Along the right, Cannon Clough found Anna Margraf who in turn played a low crossfield pass to Shea Connors on the far side. Connors advanced and fired in a low shot which was well wide of her far post.

Above: Shea Connors (far left – 12) pictured after putting Brisbane ahead. Photo: A-League Women.

Brisbane were having the better of the midfield battle, and with seven minutes to play before the break, Hecher had acres of space to drive into before playing a pass to Margraf outside her who had room to advance into, ahead of finding Larissa Crummer on the right-hand side of the box before receiving the ball back. Margraf’s effort was heading wide as Richards got a hand to it, but the ball rolled on towards the far post where Connors was unmarked to slot home.

Canberra failed to learn their lesson, and from the resulting kick-off, Connors was found on her own once more on the right before the home side managed to gobble her up as the shot was got away.

The New Haven-born star, who hit 39 goals in 16 games in the Queensland Women’s NPL this season for Lions FC was on fire, and with the United defence caught square, she found Crummer on the left-hand side of the box. The Nambour-born Roar forward wasn’t picked up, but advantage couldn’t be taken.

Above: Chelsee Washington gets a shot away for Canberra United despite the close attention of Brisbane Roar captain Ayesha Norrie. Photo: Canberra United.

Brisbane started the second stanza on the front foot, and within two minutes, Hecher won a free kick from Grace Maher on the far left-hand side, parallel with the box. Rankin’s ball across found Ayesha Norrie. Once more Canberra allowed the opposition far too much time, and Norrie was able to get a shot away from a central position on edge of the box which Richards needed to leap to hold.

Canberra’s inability to create chances came back to haunt them with 65 minutes on the clock as the Roar extended their lead. Gorry’s corner of the right found Margraf who was standing unmarked centrally on the edge of the area. Her low shot took a deflection and flew in.

Above: Anna Margraf looks up at Katrina Gorry after putting Brisbane Roar 3-1 up. Photo: A-League Women.

Vicki Linton responded by bringing on Holly Caspers, but it was Brisbane who had two glorious opportunities in quick succession to hit their fourth. First, Connors received the ball centrally in the box and seemingly had the freedom of Viking Park, but she couldn’t take advantage. Shortly afterward Crummer got ahead of Ally Haran in a foot race but the shot went agonizingly wide.

The heat was taking its toll as the pace dropped off in the final fifteen minutes. Caspers was showing some promising pace along the right and there was a slight momentum shift. Crucially, Canberra took advantage of this with three minutes remaining. From almost 25 yards, Maher sent a typically sensational, if admittedly wind-assisted free-kick straight into the top corner between Worth’s hands. The home side had given themselves a chance.

Above: The view behind the goal as Grace Maher’s free-kick flies in. Photo: A-League Women.

Things got even worse for the Roar with two minutes of stoppage time played. Maher’s corner came in from the right and Brisbane initially cleared. Maher took up possession once more on the right and her ball in was directed home by Caspers to equalize – an incredible time to score her first-ever A-League Women’s goal.

This was the sixth goal that Roar has conceded this season after the 85th minute mark. It’s happened in all four of their matches this season. Today’s game was a microcosm of Brisbane’s season – tons of chances created and late goals conceded to lose a lead once more.

Speaking after the game, Canberra United’s Grace Maher said: “I would have liked to have kept the lead we originally had. We were doing well, but the Canberra spirit fight back was there. My goal was helped by the wind, but if you get it on target that’s the main thing, and anything can happen.”

Above: Scenes of joy for the home side as Holly Caspers hits Canberra’s late equalizer. Photo: A-League Women

Teams: CANBERRA UNITED (3-5-2): Richards, Haran, Keir, Ilijoski, Roestbakken, Maher, Washington, Middleton, Toby, Heyman, Taylor-Young. Substitutes: Vidmar, Hughes, Caspers, Kerrys-Stahl, Lincoln. No sub goalkeeper.

Scorer: Heyman 10′, Maher 88′, Caspers 90+2′

BRISBANE ROAR (3-4-3): Worth, Clough, Rasschaert, Rankin, Foletta, Hecher, Norrie, Gorry, Connors, Crummer, Margraf. Substitutes: Stamatopoulos, Kitano, Haffenden, Bailey (GK), McElligott.

Scorer: Roestbakken (OG) 24′, Connors 38′, Margraf 65′

Referee: Rachel Mitchenson.

Attendance: 957.

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 and place your order – 5% will automatically be taken off of the cost. The coupon code is impetus.

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