Adelaide United 2-0 Canberra United
by Ben Gilby (7/1/23)
Above: Grace Maher (right) celebrates with Nikki Flannery after her sensational strike. Photo: Keep Up.
Two goals in a three-minute spell on either side of the half-hour mark at the Service FM Stadium, including a typically stunning strike from Grace Maher, earned Canberra United only their second win of the A-League Women season.
Maher’s effort, from approaching 30 yards, in addition to Michelle Heyman’s clever escape from her marker to fire home, give the capital city side renewed hope of pushing towards the top half of the table.
Going into the match, Adelaide United were without Emily Condon who is suffering from a groin injury. Elsewhere, Paige Hayward was able to play further forward and renew her partnership with Fiona Worts and Chelsie Dawber.
For the visitors, Canberra United head coach Njegosh Popovich handed a first start to teenager Ellen Gett after her move from Brisbane Roar in place of Emma Ilijoski who stepped down to the bench. Hayley Taylor-Young was also given a starting berth for the first time in 11 months.
Kick-off was pushed back over three hours due to extreme heat in Adelaide, but despite the new 7pm start time, the match began in 35c temperatures with two drinks breaks in each half.
It was the visitors who created the first chance with six minutes on the clock. A trademark run along the right from Michelle Heyman saw her motor away from the attention of two defenders before cutting in and firing a shot across goal that Reds keeper Annalee Grove did well to get a hand to ahead of Nikki Flannery.
Canberra were in receipt of most of the possession, and were targeting the bulk of their attacks in the opening 20 minutes along the right where Sasha Grove and Heyman were able to dictate. Adelaide chances were few and far between, with Nanako Sasaki firing wide and Melindaj Barbieri’s effort blocked by Ellie Brush.
Just before the half-hour mark, the game caught fire with a stunning three minutes of action. It all began with the visitors gaining their reward on the scoreboard. Gaining possession from Grace Jale in the ‘D’, Heyman turned away from her marker Emily Hodgson to create the space to fire home into the left-hand corner.
Adelaide created a chance from the re-start as Dawber played a ball in from the right for Dylan Holmes, but the effort was blocked.
The rapid-fire action continued as Canberra doubled their lead with a piece of magic from the cultured boot of Maher. Positioned almost 30 yards out from goal, to the right of centre, the Canberra legend looked up, saw home keeper Annalee Grove off her line slightly and fired a stunning effort over the Adelaide shot-stopper and in. It was Maher doing what Maher does best as Canberra closed out the half on top.
With the second half more even at the start, clear-cut chances were at a premium. The best opportunity of the encounter’s third quarter came when Heyman once more got free up the right to play in a ball for Laura Hughes who failed to connect properly, allowing Vesna Milivojević to see an effort go wide.
Emilia Murray’s introduction from the bench added some pace and drive along the flank, but Adelaide were unable to make any headway on the visitors.
Jale continued to probe and influence proceedings. Her link-up play and presence in the box is a reminder of exactly what Wellington Phoenix are missing this season.
Adelaide United have now gone down in successive weeks without scoring in games against Newcastle Jets and now Canberra United, teams that Adrian Stenta’s side would have been targeting for victories.
They don’t have the pep up front of last season. With Chelsie Dawber scoring more goals than the rest of her Reds team-mates put together, they need to find a way of getting their offensive threat firing again. Melbourne City’s visit on Wednesday serves as a reminder it’s not going to get any easier for the South Australians.
Teams: ADELAIDE UNITED (4-3-3): A. Grove, I. Hodgson, Waldus, McCormick, E. Hodgson, Barbieri, Holmes, Sasaki, Dawber, Worts, Hayward. Substitutes: Farrow (GK), Murray, Tolland, Westland, Xiao.
CANBERRA UNITED (4-4-2): Lincoln, Taylor-Young, Brush, Gett, S. Grove, Flannery, Hughes, Maher, Jale, Heyman, Milivojević. Substitutes: Christopherson, Ilijoski, Roach, Segavcic (GK), Taranto.
Scorer: Heyman 28′, Maher 31′.
Referee: Casey Reibelt.