Canberra United 2-2 Melbourne Victory
Above: Canberra United scorers Michelle Heyman (left, 23) and Chelsee Washington (7) celebrate together.
By Kieran Yap (22/2/22)
Melbourne Victory escaped Viking Park with a 2-2 draw after Canberra United dominated much of the match.
The result means that Victory keep their destiny in their own hands as the season enters the final weeks.
Melbourne Victory was coming off a tough eight-day run of matches where they played three times since last Wednesday. Canberra were comparatively well-rested after their Friday match against Brisbane Roar was postponed.
The difference in energy was obvious in the opening half. It was an open game but Victory looked slower than Canberra. The home side passed and ran the ball through midfield with ease. Sasha Grove looked particularly lively for the hosts.
Melbourne’s best chance came to Catherine Zimmerman on the edge of the area. Her shot was swell saved by Chloe Lincoln.
Courtney Nevin’s corner kick almost snuck in for a goal but Hayley Taylor-Young was well-positioned in textbook fashion at the back post to prevent it from crossing the line.
Despite these two chances, the first half belonged to Canberra United. Michelle Heyman and Ash Sykes were linking up well and looking dangerous. Often it was just the final ball that was missing, but Canberra were looking most likely to score either on the counterattack or through the build-up play of Grace Maher.
Inevitably, the goal arrived. Michelle Heyman created space for herself 20 yards from goal and attempted a shot. It was blocked but she was given a second chance after collecting the ball again.
This attempt made it through to Casey Dumont who got down low but the ball spilled to Chelsee Washington. The in-form American midfielder poked it home to put Canberra United 1-0 up.
The lead was doubled on the stroke of halftime when Heyman got on the end of some nice interplay between Sykes and Washington.
It was a vintage Heyman finish. She took one tough to open up the angle and the second rifled the ball above Dumont and into the net. The 2-0 lead was what Canberra deserved at the break.
Melbourne Victory introduced Maja Markovski to their attack and her first touch of the ball was to take a penalty kick.
Lincoln anticipated correctly, dived to her right, and saved the ball, pushing in downward to prevent the rebound.
It looked as if Melbourne’s chance to get back into the game was fading, and Jeff Hopkins introduced Alex Chidiac and Harriet Withers to provide some spark. Chidiac was immediately busy. She picked up the ball in deep positions and tried to dribble and link play.
Courtney Nevin was the most dangerous attacking option for Melbourne for much of the second half. She has been an important signing for the club following the departure of Angie Beard.
Even with the injury crisis at centre-back, Hopkins has resisted the temptation to move Nevin into the position and kept her at left-back. This game was a huge example why.
Nevin may not have the pace of Beard or Steph Catley, but she is a terrific crosser of the ball. She has a deceptive ability to dribble into space and can accelerate quickly in tight spaces. She was huge in the second half.
She set up the goal to give Victory a lifeline, A quick change of direction and a whipped in cross found the head of the surging Chidiac. The pace was all on the ball as she guided it past Lincoln to make it 2-1 with 10 minutes to play.
Soon after, Nevin almost score the equalizer herself, she charged down a bouncing ball and hooked her shot toward goal but Lincoln backpedalled quickly enough to hold onto it.
Nevin took a knee to the ribs in that effort and was slow to get up, but she jogged off the pain and was fit to continue.
Melbourne fans were glad that she did, she took the corner that found Tiffany Eliadis in a crowded penalty area. The header looped high and fell in slow motions off the bar and into the net.
It was an unfortunate goal for Lincoln to conceded. The 17-year-old had been terrific all game and is another goalkeeper that has made her mark this season alongside fellow teenagers Annalee Grove of Adelaide United and Mia Bailey from Brisbane.
However, the celebrations belonged to Victory. For the second time in just over a week, they had clawed back from 2-0 down in the second half. They are tired, injured and on the road, but Jeff Hopkins team still is in a strong position to stay in fourth position.
This is likely to be the last time we see Alex Chidiac in a Victory shirt this season. She has been essential to their success so far and is always one of the most watchable players on the pitch.
If this is her final game in blue, she went out with a game-changing performance.
Canberra United are improving, this side has started to click just as the season is ending. Chloe Lincoln is a real discovery and Hayley Taylor-Young has grown from a handy substitute into a very good, versatile player.
She is able to fill in in either full-back position or midfield and is a player that Canberra United will be keen to hold on to.
Canberra now has a two-day break before facing Newcastle Jets and Melbourne Victory have only four days before they try and stop the rampant Adelaide United.
Teams: CANBERRA UNITED (4-2-3-1): Lincoln, Taylor-Young, Haran, Keir, Ilijoski, Maher, Hughes, Sykes, Washington, Grove, Heyman. Substitutes: Esposito (GK), Middleton, Richards, Robinne, Toby.
Scorers: Washington 41′, Heyman 45+3′.
MELBOURNE VICTORY (4-3-3): Dumont, Nevin, Hendrix, Eliadis, Doran, Barbieri, Zois, Robers, Cooney-Cross, Zimmerman, Privitelli.
Scorers: Chidiac 80′, Eliadis 90+1′.
Referee: Rachael Mitchenson.