Season 7of the W-League is done and dusted.
Season 7of the W-League is done and dusted.
Against the odds it was Canberra United who headed west and took that trophy right from under the noses of premiers Perth Glory with a 3-1 victory.
After learning last year that finishing first means not a thing come finals time, Canberra boasted seven players who had tasted championship success in 2011/12, and used all of their experience by bursting out of the blocks from kick off.
There was a sense early in the game, once Canberra had settled into good possession, that they were buoyed by the big game atmosphere. Had Perth won the championship already in their mind, while Canberra knew the job they had to do to win?
Other than a stunning attack on goal from Caitlin Foord in the 19th minute off a pinpoint pass from Collette McCallum that Chantel Jones smothered, it was all Canberra.
Their first touches were clean, their one touch passing brilliant, and as a unit they danced down the park for attack upon attack. In contrast, Perth’s play in the early stanza seemed stilted, nervous even, while Canberra brought the bouncing ball to ground and moved it swiftly along the deck.
Steph Ochs was the one to break the deadlock, latching onto a sweet ball from debutant Grace Maher.
Migchelsen stunned all by naming 15 year old Maher in her starting line up as a replacement for Kendall Fletcher whose guest stint expired with her semi final winning penalty kick the previous week.
Maher played like she had been preparing all season for this moment, as indeed she had, and when she dispossessed McCallum in her own half, carried the ball over half way, approaching the 18 yard back and spotted Ochs out on her right, there were heads nodding all around the Canberra United club house, that the coaching staff had made a great call to include Maher.
Ochs unleashed a trademark shot from the right of goal, eluding Arnold across the box, rocketing it off the inside of the far post and stunning the Perth faithful.
Canberra took this 1-0 lead into half time and would have like a few more as a buffer given their dominance in the go-forward department, particularly through Ashleigh Sykes and Michelle Heyman.
Canberra’s defence had shut Kate Gill down well, and the midfield did enough to keep Caitlin Foord at bay. Any mis-timed touch from a Perth player was snaffled up by United in the first half and Glory were forced to back pedal time and time again.
Players like Bronwyn Studman, dominant in matches over previous weeks, weren’t able to grasp hold of the game, having to absorb the hi-vis onslaught of the United attack, and Canberra bounced into the changeroom at halftime.
It was Perth who emerged the brightest in the second half though. They staged a resurgence in the second half, and Canberra faced a barrage of attacking raids, mainly from Foord who was more willing to take on the line, but also from Tabain and Gill who were desperate to equalize.
With Foord looking dangerous, this freed up Kate Gill and it was one of her darts forward that drew a free kick when Catherine Brown ran into her path and tripped her up.
Collette McCallum delivered a spectacular free kick around the wall to even up the scoreboard, and to give us all yet another special reminder of just how well McCallum can strike the ball.
Every. Single. Time.
Perth held the upper hand as Foord continued to split the defence, and Canberra found themselves on the hop, giving up free kicks, and turning over passes that stuck in the first half. Kennedy was solid throughout in defence, without injecting herself into the match.
Against the run of play really, Lori Lindsey spotted Ashleigh Sykes busting to break the line and she sprung her with a perfect chipped pass that Sykes headed to herself and touched deftly passed the oncoming Arnold, the ball rolling gently into the goal to the delight and relief of the green team.
Perth didn’t take the foot off the pedal, pressuring the opposite goal square with Gill taking the ball into the box just seconds later. Another minute passed and Perth had a golden opportunity - Canberra conceded a penalty in their attempt to scrap the ball out.
With Gill at the spot, Perth was bound to equalise, but it was one of those rare moments where Gill’s feet didn’t deliver for her, and Chantel Jones was able to easily gather the shot.
If that wasn’t enough, Canberra was off down the other end, and before Perth could take stock, Ochs whipped in a superb cross, on the turn and off balance, finding Heyman who drew out Arnold, headed the ball to Sykes who headed the ball gently into the net.
The celebration? Something called the “Bernie Lean”, a dance famous in America apparently, passed on by Ochs and Jones to their team mates, possible originating in “Weekend at Bernie’s II“ according to Wiki.
With the Glory deflated somewhat, Canberra found themselves eyeing the championship at 3-1 up, and continued to press. A sweet touch from Heyman found Sykes on the run again.
Zadorsky tugged at her shirt and brought her down for a penalty and it was Grace Gill’s turn to step up to the spot. It was a fine strike, and a fine save from Arnold, right on full time.
Canberra really did take the spoils, rewarded for their season long preparation and determination to finish what they started last season, while Perth were left to contemplate a record breaking season that didn’t go to plan when it mattered.
A highlight for Canberra was the performance of Stephanie Ochs who turned up all over the park, scored the first goal and fed her fellow strikers for the third.
The young guns in midfield, Maher and Julia de Angelis, who really didn’t expect more than 10 minutes of game time this season, injected quick feet and quality possession into Canberra’s midfield. Canberra’s defence can be pleased they restricted Perth to a handful of chances outside of the deadball opportunities.
At times Canberra were too polite in front of goals and could have shot earlier, but the positive was they were in good position to shoot.
For Perth, Foord was outstanding in the second half.
She really troubled Canberra, even in patches of the first half, and when Foord looked dangerous, Gill looked promising around goal. McCallum also looked comfortable in the big occasion.
What a free kick. But the rest of their team looked shell-shocked in the first half, and perhaps the realisation that they had one half left of football in a monstrous season was enough to spark the Glory in their second half, their touch returning momentarily before Sykes defused their hope.
Perth coach Jamie Harnwell is receiving a lot of well deserved plaudits for taking his talented team to the top of the table with daylight second this season.
Certainly credit should also go to Liz Migchelsen, proving her creativity by mixing up the starting line up the night before the match. It really looked like every player knew their role.
A tertiary education rather than secondary… sometimes you’re wondering where your teacher is taking you, and how this is going to get you where you need to be. And then you’re standing there with a gold medal around your neck.