Canberra United 3-0 Western Sydney Wanderers
By Lucy Fuller (26/2/23)
Above: Canberra United celebrate after a goal against The Wanderers. Photo: Canberra United.
Canberra United kept their hopes of reaching the finals alive this weekend with a 3-0 win against Western Sydney Wanderers to push them to three wins in a row and keep them within the race for a spot in the finals.
This game was the first back for the two sides after the most recent international break and it was always going to see interesting to see if they could keep recent momentum going or if they would need to settle back into a rhythm to push for the remainder of the season.
They might not have had the most possession throughout the game with 46.6% of possession as opposed to the 53.4% for Western Sydney Wanderers but Canberra made the most of what they did have in scoring three times.
Crucially, Wanderers were without attacker Sarina Bolden. The Phillippines international has been such a focal point of their team since her mid-season signing, offering a target up front that has long been missing for all Western Sydney’s impressive approach play.
The early exchanges offered no clues as to the conclusive final scoreline as it was end to end with plenty of energy for both sides however, the home side were just that bit more threatening every time they had the ball and were moving forward.
Just four minutes into the game Canberra hit the front when, after a bit of a battle for possession, the ball which eventually found its way to the feet of Michelle Heyman, and there was no way the league’s all-time top scorer was going to be missing from there.
It did look like there could have been a shout for a free kick in the buildup to the goal but Heyman showed the prime example of why you play to the whistle as she never slowed down and had the back of the net in mind all through the piece of play.
Despite remaining second-best in the possession count, Canberra doubled their lead in the 25th minute, and again it was Heyman who found herself on the scoresheet with a brilliant solo goal.
This time, the Canberra icon used her strength to outmuscle the Wanderers defence and slotted the ball into the back of the net calmly showing us all why she is still a threat after all these years. The back of the net was the only place that ball was going.
It wasn’t just the weather that was heating up in the game either as things got a bit hot on the pitch with Laura Hughes and Sheridan Gallagher both receiving yellow cards for their little tussle in the middle of the pitch.
The Wanderers came out for the second half a little stronger than they ended the first half but again they just couldn’t seemed to find that breakthrough to get a goal to get back into the game.
In the 54th minute though the game was all but done for the Wanderers as Canberra wrap up the scoring with a third goal as Sasha Grove grabbed her first senior goal for the team.
Starting off the game in a right-back position however, Grove moved out to the left wing after Grace Jale’s departure. Having experience at youth level as an attacking player who has been moved into an right-back role since entering the senior team, Grove’s goal was the consequence of some fantastic link-up play which eventually found the feet of Grove to put the game out Western Sydney Wanderers reach.
Wanderers seemed prone to sit back rather than pressing like they had in the early minutes and they just seemed to be passing the ball around the pitch rather than all out attacking. This plus the loss of attacking target Bolden rendered and hopes of a consolation unrealistic.
There is so much talent is in these two teams, it was great to see Clare Hunt in action after her impressive first taste of international football.
With Heyman being one of the leading advocates for a Pride Round, it was fitting that she played such a major role in the outcome of this game. She still has it after all those years.
This was actually my first time sitting down and watching an A-League Women game and I have to say I was very impressed with what I saw and the league has a new follower here in the UK, there is so much potential for the league and I am looking forward to keeping a closer eye on it and discovering a whole host of new talent that have been hiding away in Australia.
Teams: CANBERRA UNITED (3-5-2): Lincoln, Grove, Brush, Maher, Taylor-Young, Flannery, Hughes, Murray, Jale, Heyman, Milivojevic. Substitutes: Richards, Ilijoski, Middleton, Faulknor, Gett.
Scorers: Heyman 4′, 25′. Grove 54′.
WESTERN SYDNEY WANDERERS (4-1-4-1): Bloomer, Matos, Hunt, Ferris, Apostolakis, Harrison, Gordon, Price, Harding, Gallagher. Substitutes: Hristodoulou, Chessari, Saveska, Rue, Khamis (GK).
Referee: Georgia Ghirardello.