Draw could be as good as a Victory after Eliadis’ late strike

Canberra United 1-1 Melbourne Victory

by Ben Gilby (18/3/23)

Above: Celebrations for Melbourne Victory after their late leveller at Canberra United today. Photo: Liberty A-League.

Tiff Eliadis’ strike two minutes before the end of normal time gained Melbourne Victory a huge point in the context of the Finals race.

In the battle of the sides who went into the round placed fourth and fifth, Jeff Hopkins’ side knew that avoiding defeat could prove to be decisive in their bid to seal yet another top-four berth.

In an opening that saw both teams feeling each other out, Hayley Taylor-Young was full of intelligent running, and Vesna Milivojević was looking to bring her fellow attackers into the play as Canberra looked to push for a win that would be potentially monumental in their Finals hopes.

However, as the game developed, clear-cut scoring opportunities were few and far between. Both goalkeepers were called into action largely for claiming crosses rather than out and out shot stopping. Victory earned more possession and territory in this spell with the industry of Beattie Goad apparent, along with link-up play between Lia Privitelli and Melina Ayres that was keeping Canberra’s backline busy.

In the final ten minutes of the opening period, with Grace Maher probing, Taylor-Young getting further forward, and Nicki Flannery more involved along the left, Canberra began to trouble the Victory defence with a flurry of chances.

Michelle Heyman held off Claudia Bunge on the right-hand side of the box and fired in a low shot that hit the side netting. Flannery then found Milivojević with a lofted ball over the top that the Victory defence failed to deal with, allowing the Canberra attacker to hit a shot that Casey Dumont did well to tip over.

Above: Ellie Brush, a foundation player at Canberra United, in action during what could be her last A-League Women match at McKellar Park. Photo: Keep Up.

The visiting goalkeeper was called into action again shortly afterwards as Heyman danced her way towards the area on the right and lifted a shot that Dumont had to jump to hold.

Goad served the home side a late reminder deep into first-half stoppage time that the visitors could pose a threat as the Australian international motored along the right wing, turned Taylor-Young, and hit a vicious cross-shot that whistled just beyond the top right-hand corner of the goal.

The momentum remained with Canberra as the second half opened. On the hour mark, Grace Jale received the ball from Holly Murray and lifted a high ball in that Dumont failed to claim, but Milivojević couldn’t pounce.

Just over ten minutes later, Canberra had better luck. Sasha Grove threaded a pass through to Heyman who in turn fed Wu Chengsu, and the Chinese star hit a shot that Dumont repelled at the cost of a corner. Milivojević played it in high from the left, Ellie Brush, in what could be her final appearance at McKellar Park, got a shot in before newly arrived substitute Kennedy Faulknor ghosted between the Victory defenders to see an initial shot come off the post before having the time to tap the rebound home.

The home side continued to press with Wu forcing Dumont into another superb save with nine minutes remaining, and shortly afterwards Jale broke through and side-footed a shot that went agonisingly high and narrowly wide. It was a moment that Canberra would rue.

With two minutes to go, Maja Markovski took the ball out wide to the right and played a clinical low ball into the path of Tiff Eliadis to poke the ball home. This was a huge goal in the context of both teams’ seasons.

Above: Melbourne Victory goalkeeper Casey Dumont making another in a series of fine saves today. Photo: Keep Up.

To further increase Canberra’s frustration, Maher played a long ball through to Milivojević who then found Heyman whose shot incredibly came back off of the right-hand post and rolled along to bounce against the opposite post. Despite five minutes of stoppage time and both sides’ best efforts neither could find the net again.

For Canberra United, this was a heartbreaking outcome. Regardless of the outcome of their appeal against a three-point deduction, this draw, and the stage of the game that the visitors’ goal came, makes this feel like a loss. The gap between them and the last spot in the finals is now five points, and with two games to go, that’s tough to make up. Melbourne Victory have a habit of coming good when it matters.

Teams: CANBERRA UNITED (4-4-1-1): Lincoln, Grove, Nash, Maher, Taylor-Young, Jale, Murray, Hughes, Flannery, Milivojević, Heyman. Substitutes: Faulknor, Middleton, Richards, Taranto, Wu.

Scorer: Faulknor 72′.

MELBOURNE VICTORY (4-4-1-1): Dumont, Tathem, Morrison, Bunge, Nash, Goad, Jackson, Eliadis, Privitelli, Zimmerman, Ayres. Substitutes: Briedis, Curtis, Markovski, Murphy, Templeman.

Scorers: Eliadis 88′.

Referee: Rebecca Durcau.

Attendance: 1,204.

Artwork: Charlotte Stacey, founder of On Her Side.

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