Perth Glory 0-0 Canberra United
At Wanderers Park, Blacktown, NSW
Report by Kieran Yap, Photos by Kris Goman (5/1/22)
Above: Perth Glory’s Gemma Craine in possession with Ashlee Washington keeping a close eye on the English-born striker. Photo: Kris Goman.
Perth Glory welcomed Canberra United to their home away from home at Blacktown Football Park.
The Glory are on the road to keep their season and the league going, and in the first half, they played like they were back in Western Australia. Possession was evenly shared but Perth had six shots on goal to Canberra’s three.
The visitors’ best chances came early. Michelle Heyman skipped into the box but was forced too wide and the ball was cleared. Grace Maher swung in the corner that was well cleared by Tash Rigby when it looked dangerous.
Emma Illojoski was missing for Canberra United while awaiting a COVID test result. Perth’s fluid attack looked to take advantage of the makeshift defence.
Susan Phonsongkham was the busiest of the front three in the opening half. She was able to create some space on the right side after retrieving a ball that looked likely to go out. She found Cyera Hintzen after shuffling past her opponent and the American teed up Alana Jancevski on her preferred left foot.
The combination of the three new Perth signings looks promising. All have different playing styles that so far seem to compliment each other well but on this occasion, Jancevski’s low, hard show curled wide of the far post.
Phonsongkham continued to test the Canberra defence and after some good build-up work from Hintzen again, her close-range shot was deflected inches wide.
Keeley Richards was the reason that the game stayed level at halftime. The Canberra goalkeeper made a brilliant close-range save to once again deny Phonsongkham.
Gemma Craine had cut inside and raced along the by-line before hitting a low pass across the face of goal. Phonsongkham attacked the ball and met it at full pace but Richards sprawled to stop what looked like a certain goal.
Richards was called into action again as Hintzen took the direct approach. Perth’s centre forward raced down the middle of the pitch and held off the attentions of Lauren Kier. Her shot was on target and well hit but Richards was alert to the danger and blocked emphatically.
Canberra United almost took the lead early in the second half. Allira Toby turned well in the final third and slipped a clever pass to Michelle Heyman. The captain was in space and facing goal and she looked more shocked than anybody when her strike whizzed wide on the right of goal.
Perth continued to create opportunities by pressuring the Canberra defence but had yet to turn any into clear chances.
Hayley Taylor-Young, who had been playing out of position as a left wing-back found some space in attack. She was clearly more comfortable in that area of the ground but her shot was straight at Courtney Newbon, making her Perth Glory debut, and the keeper saved comfortably.
Grace Maher and Michelle Heyman schemed up a chance with a combination of passes and a clever turn by Heyman. Her long-through pass dissected the Perth defence but Newbon was alert to the danger and collected the ball at the feet of Laura Hughes.
Up to this point, it was a game of changing momentum and free-flowing play but both sides looked capable of either an error or something spectacular.
Heyman very nearly provided it on the hour mark. A curling cross from Chloe Middleton found the league’s all-time leading scorer but her flicked header bounced off the roof of the net.
Both managers made changes with 30 minutes to play. Lisa de Vanna entered to the field in place of Hintzen, Sofia Sakalis and Deborah De la Harpe replaced Craine and Poppie Hooks.
Canberra brought on Ashley Sykes and the previous round’s hero Holly Caspers to add some firepower in the closing stages.
Chloe Middleton dropped a dangerous cross onto the edge of the six-yard box that momentarily looked like it might be a goal and Sakalis responded with a long pass that was only slightly too long for De Vanna.
As the team began to tire nobody told Tash Rigby, a lung-busting run along the right flank ended with her winning back possession and crossing just too high for Jancevski.
Karly Roestbakken hit a strong shot after drifting upfield but Newbon was well-positioned to save and hold onto the ball.
As the clock ticked past 90, Ash Sykes jinked into the area, she was patient and composed but her shot was deflected and squirmed wide.
The game ended 0-0, it was a frustrating game from a fan’s perspective and if not for Keeley Richards it would have been 2-0 by halftime.
Canberra will be pleased with the clean sheet but had enough chances of their own to earn a win. The importance of Emma Illijoksi was underlined by this performance and Michelle Heyman was inventive and threatening despite not making the breakthrough.
Grace Maher was as tidy as ever in the middle but she is often needed in deep midfield when her skills are most effective closer to goal.
In the end, this was not a game that did not offer any new information about either side. Perth’s first choice attack of Hintzen, Phonsongkham, and Jancevski were dangerous before fatigue set in. Sakalis offered the craft that she is known for but Lisa De Vanna was unable to impact the game off the bench.
On the positive for Perth, this was possibly Hana Lowry’s best performance of the season. She was constantly on the ball and remained a positive force even when exhausted.
Canberra ended had 16 shots on goal to Perth’s six. Despite this being a goalless game it was not a defensive one. After conceding four goals to Adelaide United, Perth’s defence looked greatly improved. We looked good with the ball, and that was the key message the team had, and we were solid without it.
This may have been a frustrating afternoon for both sides, but it was not a boring one.
Ben Gilby heard from Perth Glory head coach Alex Epakis after the game: “It was a more resilient performance than the one we gad against Adelaide (on New Year’s Day).
“We probably did enough to win it today. A lot of players had to step up and produce better individual performances which they did. It is a step towards our expectations. We created chances. Clear cut chances, and if we had put them away things would have been better – that is the next thing for us to work on.
“The ball was moving quite slowly today because the field was thick and the weather was humid. Therefore players didn’t have as much time and space as they would like, but that’s not something I’m overly worried about as it was more down to today’s conditions.”
Epakis was particularly impressed with the influence that his more experienced players such as Tash Rigby and Kim Carroll had on the younger members of the squad today. “They were immense. The communication was really strong – Lisa (De Vanna) was part of that too. It’s a really positive sign.
“Tash is an absolute warrior. She’s taken the pain (broken nose against Adelaide last time which opened up again during the game today) but she’s good.”
Looking ahead to the Sydney game on Saturday, the Perth head coach emphasized the schedule of three games in a week: “I have to look at resting a couple of people and rotating the squad. We were preparing for it and we have a deep squad.”
Teams: PERTH GLORY (4-4-2): Newbon, Rigby, Anton, K.Carroll, Hooks, Jancevski, Leth-Jans, Lowry, Craine, Phonsongkham, Hintzen. Substitutes: Aquino (GK), de la Harpe, Cain, Sakalis, De Vanna.
CANBERRA UNITED (3-4-3): Richards, Kier, Haran, Roestbakken, Maher, Washington, Taylor-Young, Middleton, Heyman, Toby, Hughes. Substitutes: Caspers, Karrys-Stahl, Lincoln, Robinne, Sykes.
Referee: Georgia Ghirardello.