Canberra United 1-3 Adelaide United
By Kieran Yap (8/1/22)
Above: Adelaide United celebrate after sealing a second straight win which renews their hopes of a first Finals place. Photo: A-League Women.
Canberra United hosted Adelaide United in their second game in three days. The home side had fought out a tough but exciting draw with Perth Glory on Wednesday night and were still looking for their first win of the season.
Adelaide played the same Glory team last week, winning 4-2 on the back of some spectacular attacking football, and were looking to extend their winning streak over Canberra to three games.
Adelaide welcomed back captain Izzy Hodgson. She started at right-back and was directly opposed to a marauding Karly Roestbakken for the first half.
Roestbakken started in her farewell game of sorts. The Canberra favourite has been recalled to The Matildas and was expected to depart after the match.
It was a ballistic start to the game, the sort of match that commentators love, neutrals switch on to and fans watch in rotating states of excitement and stress.
Both teams attacked in the opening minutes like they were the closing minutes. It did not take long for somebody to score. Adelaide United’s returning star Dylan Holmes volleyed to take the lead in the ninth minute.
It was Fiona Worts who started the move with a twisting run into the penalty area. The chance was partially cleared by Lauren Kier but Emily Condon collected the loose ball. With quick thought and excellent skill, Condon lifted the ball over the Canberra defenders.
Adelaide’s Hayward nodded the ball square for Holmes to volley in and set up an early lead for the home side to chase.
Canberra tried to answer quickly and Michelle Heyman slipped a pass into space for Margot Robbine. The French winger had time and struck her shot solidly but Annalee Grove was well positioned and saved what looked like a certain goal.
Roestbakken, positioned on the left combined with Heyman and Allira Toby to almost set up Grace Maher, but the lunging midfielder was inches away from making good contact.
From a corner kick, Toby flashed a header wide and Heyman did almost everything right to level the scores. Her shot flew across the face of goal and bounced off the inside of the far post in a quirk of physics.
For the third game in a row, Chelsie Dawber added her name to the scoresheet. Worts long ball beyond the defence caught Canberra by surprise. Dawber sprinted clear, changed the angle of her run as she approached goal, and clipped the ball into the bottom corner in a composed finish.
Adelaide went into halftime 2-0 up but the talking point at the break was that Karly Roestbakken limped off under the cloud of an unclear injury.
She returned to the field and was joined by Ash Sykes. The returning club legend made an instant impact with a piercing run down the left flank. Her square ball was delayed just a little too long and Heyman was unable to make clean contact, but Canberra were playing with intent.
In the 57th minute, Sykes scored her first goal since returning to the top level and brought Canberra back into the game.
Toby swung in a high, early cross from the right and Sykes looped her header over Grove to make it 2-1 with half an hour to play.
Canberra continued to dominate and Heyman has another near miss. Roestbakken had moved to the right side and whipped in a perfect cross. The captain met the ball at pace and directed her header back across goal. Grove was beaten but it narrowly missed the target when the crowd were ready to celebrate.
Against the run of play, Fiona Worst nailed shut any realistic hopes of a comeback.
In the 77th minute she collected the ball on the edge of the box and dragged a composed finish into the right bottom corner. Canberra were caught on the counter attack and Worts’ finish was clinical.
The home side continued to create chances. The possibility of scoring twice in ten minutes was not beyond them, they had done the same against Brisbane Roar two rounds ago.
On that occasion, Grace Maher was able to drag them back from defeat with a brilliant free-kick. With a set piece in a similar position, the home crowd hoped for another miracle.
Her shot looked good off the boot and from many angles it looked like a goal but when the net rippled it was because her shot had skimmed off the top of it.
This was not to be Canberra’s day and it is shaping up to be a difficult season despite them playing some very entertaining, high-octane football.
Michelle Heyman is finding herself in excellent positions but goals are evading her at the moment, however, she and her team are creating chances, they will eventually start going in.
In defence things are looking tricky. They have lost both of last season’s centre-backs and have reshuffled their defensive lineup and strategy throughout this season.
With Roestbakken departing to the pre-Asia Cup training camp, things will not get easier in their own half of the field.
Adelaide are in flying form. They have won two in a row and importantly, all of their good players are playing well. Emily Condon is creating, Holmes is linking play, Chelsie Dawber is scoring and Worts is causing problems.
With the disruption to both Melbourne teams and Sydney FC due to Matilda’s call-ups, this season presents the best chance in years for The Reds to finally crack the top four.
The game ended 3-1, Canberra have completed a taxing week and Adelaide have improved their finals credentials. What a game it was to watch.
Teams: CANBERRA UNITED (3-4-1-2): Richards, Ilijoski, Haran, Kier, Roestbakken, Washington, Maher, Middleton, Robinne, Heyman, Toby. Substitutes: Caspers, Hughes, Lincoln (GK), Sykes, Taylor-Young.
Scorer: Sykes 57′.
ADELAIDE UNITED (4-5-1): Grove, E.Hodgson, Sharples, McNamara, I.Hodgson, Hayward, Stanbury, Condon, Holmes, Dawber, Worts. Substitutes: Murray, Omiya, Sasaki, Templeman (GK), Tonkin.
Scorers: Holmes 9′, Dawber 40′, Worts 77′.
Referee: Kate Jacewicz.