Photo: Emily Mogic Photography
Photo: Emily Mogic Photography
At Floriade in Canberra this week, locals have been encouraged to Unite for the Asian Cup, with the announcement of a number of women ambassadors including former Matilda and Canberra United star Sally Shipard.
The W-League had its a fair share of uniting this weekend, with a record breaking round of attendances, and folk from around Australia and the world gathering for this match in person, on television and via the agony of twitter.
This was a game that got away from Canberra, as much as they tried to claw it back, and one that fell in Melbourne’s lap, with a well organised and disciplined display that pounced on Canberra’s errors.
Both sides had their hiccups early in the first half, but Canberra pressed early, their go-forward and half chances with not quite potency to trouble Victory keeper Bri Davey.
Any advantage Canberra held in the first half hour was eroded by a penalty late in the half, won skilfully by Christine Nairn, and finished perfectly by fellow US import Lauren Barnes.
Canberra conceded shortly afterwards after De Vanna made space down the left and found her captain Steph Catley hovering in unfamiliar territory near the six yard box, Jones spilling the save and captain Nicole Begg miscuing a clearance off the line.
“In the big moments we didn’t stand up and make it ours," said Begg post match.
"To drop our heads after the penalty and concede a goal was not good enough. Then to be positive at half time but concede straight after half time. That wasn’t good enough.”
Lisa De Vanna had been wary of the talented Canberra defence before the match, but found enough space at key moments of the game, none better than her perfectly timed tap over United’s keeper Jones who had every right to be off her line but was found wanting by De Vanna’s unpredictable strike early in the second half.
United’s Lori Lindsey was on song with dead ball plays, particularly in the second half, and made an impact by sending a missile-like free kick into the net past Victory’s keeper Bri Davey to take the game to 3-1.
Melbourne substitute Gema Simon did well to evade Ellie Brush at the top of the 18 yard box after some sharp midfield passing and slot the ball under Jones to make it 4-1 deep in the second half.
Michelle Heyman had a few close chances, beating the entire team at one stage on the end of a Caitlin Munoz special, but her last touch took her over the goal line.
Heyman and Munoz combined for Canberra’s final goal, with Heyman heading a Lindsey corner towards goal for Catley to save on the line. Munoz made sure of it and buried it high into the net.
It was just reward for Munoz who won her fair share of possession through the midfield and turned on some entertaining sharp, silky skills for the enthusiastic crowd, winning her team’s coaches’, players’ and supporters’ player award at the post game function.
Canberra coach Migchelsen was philosophical after the match “We gave the chances away. If Heyman in the 1v1 scores, then that’s 3-2 and it’s a different game. If you’re not clinical in finishing chances then you don’t win the game. That’s football.”
She added “If you make little mistakes in our building up, and you give the ball away to Melbourne, then you don’t deserve to win.”
All over the park, Melbourne were ready to pounce on anything loose, and with Elli Reed and De Vanna hovering, and Racheal Quigley steering the forward line, Canberra’s usually solid backline had some rocky moments.
Speaking after the match, goal scorer Lauren Barnes said “I think the early goals helped us a lot momentum wise. Consistency will be the key this season."
"Every game we go in and work on a few things and get them done quicker. I think today wasn’t a full performance."
"Defensively, for me, I don’t want goals scored on us, but I thought the backline did great from our point of view and we battled it out. At the end of the day it doesn’t matter what the game looks like, we scored more goals than the other team.”
It was certainly an entertaining match, with both sides featured a strong suite of trump cards, a point Begg made clear after the match. “I don’t think there’s that much difference in star power between the two teams."
"I think we’ve got great players across the park in Canberra United and I think that we need to recognise that and when people build up other teams like that we need to make sure we back ourselves and back the skills we do have here. That’s a major point we’ll work on next week.”
With two of Melbourne’s imports in Barnes and Reed still dusting off the jetlag after arriving in Australia just days before the game, it’s a valuable three points to take home from the Capital.
Canberra will focus on delivering their training paddock precision when they face Brisbane Roar this weekend to ensure they remain in the top four.