Above: Canberra United’s Ash Sykes gets a shot away in the second half against Perth Glory today. Photo: Canberra United.
Canberra United 3-3 Perth Glory
By Ben Gilby (5/2/22)
Canberra United hit back from 3-1 down with two goals in the last 11 minutes to put a major dent in Perth Glory’s Finals hopes.
Perth had been looking good to record their first-ever win in Canberra against a United side who are without a win in their last ten matches.
Canberra head coach Vicki Linton made three changes to her team with Ash Sykes dropping down to the bench with Hayley Taylor-Young moving from the backline to her traditional offensive position.
Lauren Keir replaced Taylor-Young at the back with Grace Maher also coming in for Margot Robinne.
For the visitors, Cyera Hintzen started after scoring one and providing an assist in her team’s comeback win over Wellington Phoenix on Monday. It was a straight swap for Sofia Sakalis.
Canberra made a strong start, looking to develop a rapid passing game through the midfield and looking to release Taylor-Young on the right.
With six minutes gone, Perth captain Tash Rigby pulled back Allira Toby both outside and in the box. Referee Isabella Blaess initially looked to have waved play on. However, after what seemed to be an inordinately long period spent looking over at her nearest placed assistant, she finally and correctly pointed to the spot.
Grace Maher stepped up and dispatched a clinical penalty kick into the right-hand corner of the net.
Perth tried to respond with Hana Lowry beating Laura Hughes along the right then and squeezing past Ali Haran to win a corner which the home side cleared despite a half-hearted penalty shout for handball.
Despite this it was Canberra who was far more composed on the ball in the opening 20 minutes, seeming to have more time to patiently construct their passes in the search for the final killer ball. Lauren Keir was finding a lot of space on the right which the visitors would have done well to limit.
From one such build-up, Maher played an accurate ball through to Chelsee Washington who got a shot away from the ‘D’ which flew narrowly over the bar.
Canberra were also creating opportunities on the right with Michelle Heyman showing that she still has pace to ease away from Rigby before getting a shot in from an acute angle that Morgan Aquino was equal to in the Perth goal.
The Greens had another penalty shout just before the half-hour mark when Toby looked to play a pass back to Washington, and the ball came off of the arm Danish international Mie Leth Jans. Play did continue this time and, referee Blaess called it right again as Jans did not look to know much about it.
Approaching the half-time whistle, whilst Glory were able to deny Canberra the speed of passing and creativity, they still struggled to impose their own brand of intensity on the game. This, plus the inability of the Western Australian side’s midfield to find Hintzen in the final third was hampering Perth’s chances.
The American’s worth was shown with 44 minutes played. Canberra goalkeeper Keeley Richards, who was showing signs of a knee injury, rolled out a pass which was nodded back to Lowry on the right of the box. The Perth local played an intelligent ball between Haran and Maher to Hintzen on the edge of the box. She took a touch, turned, and fired a shot into the left-hand side of goal.
Buoyed by this, Perth pressed from the kick-off and Mikayla Vidmar got in a tangle which allowed De Vanna to race away, but the former Matilda could not get enough power in her shot to trouble the ailing Richards.
Lowry then fired in a powerful effort at the left-hand post which Richards held onto just ahead of the interval.
Given the problems that Richards’ left knee was giving her, after an awkward fall to earth collecting the ball just before the break, it was a surprise to see her come out for the second half.
Canberra, with Ash Sykes on for the second half created the first chance of the second stanza. Maher’s skills from a set-piece are well-known, but she excelled herself with a vicious inswinging corner from the right which Lowry cleared away from the back post. The ball came back to Sykes who fired high over the bar.
The home side came close once more with 57 minutes on the clock. Emma Ilijoski played a ball across from the left between Deborah-Ann de la Harpe and Rigby for Sykes. She squared a low pass for Toby to escape too easily from Kim Carroll and Abbey Green, but the Canberra attacker could only put it wide.
The home side rued these two missed opportunities with 25 minutes to go. Vidmar, under pressure, conceded a corner. Lowry bent the flag-kick in from the right. Canberra failed to clear and Anton smashed home.
The Kiwi has only scored two goals in the A-League Women, both of which have come at Viking Park against Canberra United.
Another defensive disaster just six minutes later led to Perth’s third. Sarah Cain, on as a sub had a pass deflected into the path of Hintzen by Maher. In trying to clear the danger, Haran could only hit the ball against Vidmar which allowed it to roll back towards Hintzen.
The American ran across the box and turned a shot back into the net past a despairing Richards for her fourth goal in four games this season. It was therefore surprising to see her substituted with just over 15 minutes to go for young Aideen Keane.
Also on at the same break in play was 17-year-old Canberra goalkeeper Chloe Lincoln. It is of course a moot point, but if an obviously struggling Richards had come off the pitch sooner, Perth may have been denied their second goal at least.
At 3-1 behind and without a win in their last nine matches, some may have felt that Canberra was dead and buried, but the Green’s are famed for their fighting spirit.
With 12 minutes remaining on the clock, Sykes earned a corner after pressuring Rigby and Anton. The set-piece came in from Robinne to the back post for Washington to time her run into the back post. Rising above two defenders, she nodded home.
Canberra ratcheted up the pressure in the closing stages. There were six minutes remaining when Kim Carroll was adjudged to have fouled Sykes. Maher stepped up around thirty yards out and lifted the ball in towards the back post. Heyman headed the ball to Haran who nodded it across the box for Keir to lift the ball into the net.
Despite their best efforts, Canberra could not find a winner. This was a massive missed opportunity for Perth Glory. With their remaining three matches against the two Melbourne sides and Sydney FC, they will have it all to do to qualify for the Finals.
Speaking after the game, Perth head coach Alex Epakis said: “It feels like two points dropped. The first 10 minutes they were on top. The last 10 minutes they were on top. In between we were the better team.
“There were a lot of elements of things there that showed where we want to be. We recovered well after the early goal. We stamped our authority on the match. I’m happy with that, but we need to do that more consistently through 90 minutes.”
Epakis reflected on the substitution of two-goal Cyera Hintzen when the team went 3-1 up by saying: “That was a weighting issue. She’s come back from a pretty significant injury and we have to compromise a bit.”
Asked about some of the refereeing decisions, the Perth head coach said: “Some of the decisions were borderline unfair. We didn’t lose the lead because of the ref, but we didn’t keep it because of her either. There needs to be a level of accountability for the officials in terms of quality. Everyone else is assessed. I hope the APL are doing their due diligence.”
With both Canberra’s comeback goals being set-pieces, Epakis highlighted the need for his team to defend them better. “You need to be more stronger and aggressive in those moments. When you are under that much pressure, you are always liable to crack.”
Perth’s head coach concluded by expressing his message for the players going forward. “There is a lot of frustration there after today. Instead of putting that against each other, we really want to focus that on the opposition this coming week. Hopefully what happened today will be the fuel that keeps us going for the final push.”
Glory defender Liz Anton was devastated after the game. “I got a goal here last year too, so that’s good, but the result was a draw and we’re pretty disappointed with that. It never seems to go our way here and that sucks.
“Coming into the game we knew that one of Canberra’s strengths is set pieces and we gave away some soft late set-pieces and that really threw us under the bus. We weren’t good enough.”
There were contrasting emotions from Canberra United’s Lauren Keir who spoke about her equalizer: “I was quite surprised, I didn’t expect it to come across the box, I just put it away. I’m pretty stoked to get my first goal.
“We stick together to get results. I’m so happy with the girls and the fight that we put in there at the end.”
Teams: CANBERRA UNITED (4-2-1-3): Richards, Keir, Vidmar, Haran, Ilijoski, Maher, Hughes, Washington, Taylor-Young, Heyman, Toby. Substitutes: Lincoln (GK), Robinne, Middleton, Sykes, Grove.
Scorers: Maher (pen) 9′, Washington 79′, Keir 84′.
PERTH GLORY: (4-2-1-3): Aquino, Rigby, Anton, K.Carroll, Green, Jans, Lawrence, Lowry, de la Harpe, Hintzen, De Vanna. Substitutes: Newbon (GK), Koulizakis, Sakalis, Cain, Keane.
Scorers: Hintzen 44′, 70′. Anton 64′
Referee: Isabella Blaess.