It was a long way from Canberra, a fair way from the champions’ best, and a close-up of just how good this Melbourne City team is, as Canberra United suffered a 4-2 defeat at Central Coast Stadium, their home away from home due to this season’s broadcast arrangements.

With talent to burn, Melbourne City coach Joe Montemurra had no hesitation in sending his players as far up the park as possible, rotating players through the midfield and into the forward line, taking turns in creating chances and shooting.

His Canberra counterpart Rae Dower had a similar strategy.

Caitlin Munoz and Veronica Perez regularly displaced Michelle Heyman at the top of the formation, but the flow was impeded too many times in the first half by the zippy and tenacious City midfield

A midfield who seemed to be feeding off each others’ successes, and Canberra’s passes were not as crisp as their southern counterparts.

It was City who broke the deadlock early in the first half, exposing the Canberra United defence who had ventured too far up the park, leaving just Julia de Angelis to track Jessica Fishlock as she played the perfect ball unselfishly across to Marianne Tabain who neatly finished.

This was the theme for City’s goals, 3 for the half, and additional chances including two shots that came of the post.

Pace of foot, speed of ball movement, catching Canberra before they had a chance to re-group, sending wave after wave of attack forward, usually through Little and Fishlock, and De Vanna with the ball at her feet, finding Crummer, Tabain and Luik, generally in space.

While it wasn’t totally one way traffic, Canberra’s movement up the park was generally rushed and uncharacteristically mistake ridden, a symptom of the pressure City applied as soon as they were out of possession.

In contrast, when City gained the ball, they were methodical in working the ball quickly through their backline, launching attacking raids at will by taking the ball to the line and creating the extra player out wide, or going themselves if United players chose to mark a player ahead of closing down the space.

The highlight of Canberra’s first half was a well worked move that saw Munoz receive the ball high up the park. Her perfect ball through to Sykes was deftly slotted past Trudy Burke at the far post to reduce the deficit to two at half time.

The second half was evened up slightly with the send off of Lisa De Vanna after she appeared to shove Nicole Begg’s face after the two picked themselves up after a collision near United’s defensive line.

Just minutes later, Heyman was on the scoresheet after Begg overlapped forward and snuck a swift ball into her path, and City were left to scratch their heads at the 2-3 scoreline, having enjoyed the majority of possession.

With the tenacious De Vanna off the park, there was more room for United’s midfield to enjoy some time on the ball, and City had to work harder with each surge forward, still impressing through their technical ability and work rate.

W-League debutant Kim Little lived up to the hype, appearing all over the field, collecting the ball from defence, taking corners, taking free kicks, and stretching Canberra’s defence to test the offside, with her and Crummer not giving the United defence a moment to relax.

City’s final goal came through a typically unstoppable Little run, as she nipped past Williams, sending the ball towards goal. Emma Checker managed to bump the ball off the goal line but Little beat Checker to the scraps and tucked the ball into the net to score on debut and collect the player of the match award in the process.

After the game, Canberra captain Nicole Begg was understandably disappointed with her team’s start.

“A few simple errors at the start of the game really put us under pressure needlessly and it was tough to come back from there. The early goals kill us. We gave away two early goals against Brisbane, a few early goals against City and it means we have to push back. We need to give ourselves an opportunity to win games.

“The girls pushed so hard to come back and showed a lot of character to get some goals back and I think we can definitely build on that.” Begg said

Jessica Fishlock who finished the game as captain after De Vanna’s send off was pleased with the 4-2 win. “It was a good result against the champions – there’s a lot of positives. The biggest positive is the way we played with 10 men,” she said.

When asked if there is a team in the W-League that can beat Melbourne City, she was philosophical.

“We have a great team and we have a great squad, but you have to perform. You see teams that on paper you think are supposed to do really well and they don’t, and that’s cause, yes, we have a great squad, but so do other teams in this league.

“It comes down to hard work and preparation and what you do on the training ground and how you work as a team and that has nothing to do with how good a squad we are, it’s to do with attitude, and how we present ourselves.

“We’re extremely lucky we have the facilities we have at City, but what happens on the pitch is down to nothing but hard work. That’s up to us. We can go on the pitch week in week out and want to perform and want to achieve, or we can go on the pitch and just expect that to happen, and that’ll be down to us.“

If this week’s display against Canberra United is any indication of City’s attitude on the park, we can expect them to continue to raise the bar, and some silverware, along the way.

Canberra United 2 (Ashleigh Sykes 29’, Michelle Heyman 60’)

Melbourne City 4 (Mariana Tabain 5’, Larissa Crummer 11’, Aivi Luik 41’, Kim Little 87’)

Sunday 8 November 2015

Central Coast Stadium, Gosford

Kick-off: 2pm

Referee: Lara Lee

Canberra United: Lydia Williams (gk), Julia De Angelis (Meg McLaughlin 68’), Kendall Fletcher, Caitlin Munoz (Tegan Riding 84’), Ellie Brush, Michelle Heyman, Nicole Begg (c), Ashleigh Sykes, Emma Checker, Veronica Perez, Rebecca Kiting

Substitutes – Melissa Maizels (gk), Jenna McCormick

Cautions – Caitlin Munoz 21’

Melbourne City: Trudy Burke (gk), Jennifer Beattie, Laura Alleway, Aivi Luik, Steph Catley, Kim Little (Alexandria Chidiac 92’), Larissa Crummer (Amy Jackson 81’), Jess Fishlock, Lisa De Vanna (c), Rebekah Stott, Marianna Tabain (Beattie Goad 63’)

Substitutes – Erin Herd (gk)

Red Card: Lisa De Vanna 58’