Glorious second half as Perth click to see off Canberra

Perth Glory 3-2 Canberra United

Report by Ben Gilby with photos from Tom McCarthy at Macedonia Park (18/12/22).

Above: Joy for Perth Glory as they come from 2-0 down against Canberra United. Photo: Tom McCarthy.

Perth Glory claimed their first win of the A-League Women season after showing their attacking potential in coming from 2-0 down to defeat Canberra United at Macedonia Park today.

This was a hugely entertaining game that eventually saw the Western Australians record only their third victory over the capital city side in 27 encounters over the 15 seasons of the competition. Yet they did it the hard way after a well organised and quick-thinking Canberra side reaped the reward of their fast start with two goals in a 22-minute period.

Above: Susan Phonsongkham, who came into the starting line up today. Photo: Tom McCarthy.

Perth Glory head coach Alex Epakis shuffled his pack, bringing Sarah Langman back in goal, Kim Carroll returned after missing last weekend’s game with Melbourne Victory, and Susan Phonsongkham was brought into the starting line-up.

This was Canberra’s first visit to Perth in just over three years, and the visitors looked to get on the front foot from the start with Vesna Milivojević looking to make progress along the left as they employed a high press to make it exceptionally challenging for the Glory to play out from the back.

From an offensive perspective, Perth were also forced into playing quick passing in order to find space as Canberra aimed to shut down any purple shirt on the ball as rapidly as they could in the 32c heat.

Above: Canberra United celebrate their opening goal. Photo: Tom McCarthy.

Canberra took the lead their hard work deserved with 12 minutes on the clock in some style. Michelle Heyman eased past the attempted tackles of Carroll and Sadie Lawrence along the left and turned on the after-burners to sprint towards the by-line in order to square a ball for an unmarked Nikki Flannery who had all the time in the world to score.

With 20 minutes of the half gone, the home side built their first serious attack of the game. Liz Anton’s throw on the right found Cyera Hintzen, who returned the favour to the Football Fern. The ball was then fed through to Hana Lowry who used outrageous skill to flick the ball past Kennedy Faulknor and get a shot away that fellow Young Matilda Chloe Lincoln saved with her legs.

Despite this glimmer of what they are capable of, the home side were suffering from slow and ponderous decision-making leading to passes that were more hopeful than crisp and creative. Rylee Baisden and Phonsongkham were on the periphery as a consequence; rarely able to pose a threat as the home side were unable to spend time in the Canberra half.

Above: Vesna Milivojević’s shot flies into the net despite Sarah Langman’s dive as Canberra United go 2-0 up. Photo: Tom McCarthy.

Consequently, it was no surprise when Canberra doubled their lead. Grace Jale skipped away from Carroll and Anton, before squaring to Milivojević who was positioned centrally on the edge of the box to fire home.

Perth reacted well and switched on their multiple attacking threats. Lowry was found by a low ball threaded across from Hintzen on the left. The locally produced star turned and got a shot away that Lincoln had to push away at the far post. Hintzen got herself involved again shortly afterwards on the opposite flank when she laid a pass back to Alana Jancevski to fire in a trademark rocket shot that Lincoln covered.

The idiosyncratic talent of Jancevski shone through again as the half came to a close. Baisden broke through and faced Lincoln who blocked. The American laid off to the 19-year-old who lifted a delicious high chip that bounced twice off of the crossbar before being cleared.

Above: Rylee Baisden, scorer of Perth Glory’s crucial goal in first-half stoppage time. Photo: Tom McCarhy.

Right before the break, the home side emphasised their dominance from set-pieces against Canberra this season having grabbed both of their goals against Njegosh Popovich’s side on the opening day. Lowry’s corner curled in from the right. The visitors could only succeed in heading it against each other and amidst the chaos, Baisden forced the ball home.

The second half opened with a bang as over a period of two minutes, Canberra forced a corner, Jancevski tried her luck from the halfway line after noticing Lincoln off her line, and Lowry curled a corner onto the roof of the net.

The home side remained on the front foot as Hintzen was found by a looped pass over the top from Ella Mastrantonio. Despite being under the close attention of Faulknor, the American striker took a touch to get free and fired a rocket across Lincoln and into the far corner.

Above: Cyera Hintzen’s rocket shot flies into the net to level the scores. Photo: Tom McCarthy.

Hintzen was now at the peak of her powers, with pace and strength allowing her to get free along the right and fire a low ball across for Lowry to smash a shot in from just outside the box in a central position that Lincoln needed to repel.

Despite a flurry of chances for the visitors, it was the increasing influence of Hintzen that caused further damage. Sakalis headed into her path and the striker flicked the ball through beautifully into the path of her compatriot Baisden into the box who smashed a shot into the corner of the net.

Both sides had further chances to change the outcome of the game once more, with Faulknor seeing a great chance go well wide and Hintzen trying to create up the other end.

Above: Rylee Baisden sgteers home Perth Glory’s winner. Photo: Tom McCarthy.

Whilst Perth’s comeback was a superb team effort, the influence of Cyera Hintzen cannot be overlooked. The pace, strength, flicks, and goals from last season were back and then some. It was a superb shift from the striker.

For Canberra United head coach Njegosh Popovich, it was a frustrating afternoon with the outcome hinging on Perth’s goal in stoppage time at the end of the opening 45 as he told the media post match: “The goal conceded before half-time from a corner. We spoke in the week about it and making sure set pieces were strong (defensively). It’s a tough trip to get to Perth. We ran out of legs a little bit.”

Whilst Popovich felt his team worked hard in their response, the momentum shift allied with weather conditions was ultimately too much:”We came out strong (in the second half), but there were some lapses of concentration and there was the heat. The wind was a factor (too).”

Above: Cyera Hintzen’s delightful flick-through for Rylee Baisden’s winning goal. Photo: Tom McCarthy.

His counterpart Alex Epakis’ overwhelming reaction after the match was one of pride: “It was a performance built on resilience and character. It wasn’t the start we wanted, but the players knew that this was really important today to get something. We knew we are capable of results like that, and performances like that, and today the players did us really proud.”

The performance and comeback was the consequence of a lot of hard work put in at the club’s Fremantle Oval base after their loss to Melbourne Victory last Sunday. “It was a very intense week. We build in a lot of conversations on the training pitch and the laptop was in overdrive with the film in terms of reviewing individual, team, and collective stuff. We have a foundation now, but we’re still not where we want to be.”

Epakis emphasised the vital importance of Rylee Baisden’s strike in first-half stoppage time to get Perth back into the game: “That was like the life support starting (us) back up again. It was critical. Rylee has scored some important goals for us already in her career. It definitely made the conversations in the changing room, and the momentum that bit different.”

Above: Alana Jancevski produced another hugely skilled performance. Photo: Tom McCarthy.

The focus now for Perth Glory is to use this performance as a springboard. This was the longest period of any match this season in which they showed their true potential. But a 45-minute or a 60-minute performance doesn’t cut it at this level. Nor does it cover up the issues defensively. Perth can be better. To finish where they are capable of being in the league this season, they must be better.

More of Tom McCarthy’s photos from Macedonia Park today:

Teams: PERTH GLORY (4-4-2): Langman, Rigby, Anton, Carroll, Lawrence, Jancevski, Mastrantonio, Lowry, Phonsongkham, Baisden, Hintzen. Substitutes: Aquino (GK), Coleman, Green, Koulizakis, Sakalis.

Scorers: Baisden 45+2′, 69′, Hintzen 53′

CANBERRA UNITED (4-2-3-1): Lincoln, Grove, McComasky, Faulknor, Ilijoski, Maher, Hughes, Flannery, Milivojević, Jale, Heman. Substitutes: Brush, Christopherson, Richards (GK), Taylor-Young.

Scorers: Flannery 12′, Milivojević 34′.

Referee: Kelly Jones.

Attendance: 611.

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