In tense semi final encounter Canberra United won through to their third W-League Grand Final with a 5-4 penalty shoot out win over defending champions Melbourne Victory.

Praise has to be given to Canberra United and Melbourne Victory; with the temperature in excess of 32 degrees, both teams threw everything at each other for over 120 minutes, barely faltering.

Neither team was able to break the 0-0 deadlock, so it was left to Chantal Jones and Brianna Davey to try and save the day in a penalty shootout. Ultimately, Jones saved Victory’s fifth shot and Kendall Fletcher coolly converted moments later, giving Canberra a well deserved 0-0 (5-4) win over a heartbroken Melbourne team.

For most of the afternoon, Canberra dominated Melbourne, but the green machine were unable to outplay the posts and the prodigious skills and fearlessness of ‘keeper Brianna Davey.

The pace of Ashleigh Sykes and Michelle Heyman were a standout for Canberra and as much as the midfields for both teams lacked speed, it was Kendall Fletcher and Lori Lindsey who were able to exude the greater influence, closely controlling and cleanly distributing the ball into space for the supersonic Sykes and the harefooted Heyman to pounce on.

Had any number of Canberra’s 18 shots on goal been closer to the target, United could have saved themselves another 30 minutes of play in the scorching heat.

Heyman in particular might rue the missed opportunities of her wayward shots, something she will need to improve to really put a sting in the final and bolster her Matildas’ chances.

Chantel Jones played a huge game for Canberra. Jones came off her line time and time again to thwart Melbourne’s chances. Fast reads and quick reactions from the custodian kept Lisa De Vanna at bay and negated any influence from the enigmatic Racheal Quigley.

Ellie Brush was also a presence in the defensive line. Finishing the match last week with an injured ankle, the tough defender didn’t miss a beat and was a key in neutralising Victory’s attack.

Coach Lisbeth Migchelsen, displayed huge belief in her starting 11, making no substitutions until the last moment of extra time, leaving some to ponder her faith in the bench given the hot conditions.

Melbourne, well it wasn’t their day. Victory coach Joe Montemurro started with an attacking lineup and Emma Checker on the bench, but whilst they controlled their fair share of the ball, Victory weren’t able to build their game and break down Canberra’s midfield and defense.

Notable players for Melbourne included Brianna Davey, Lauren Barnes, Christine Nairn and Elli Reed.

Davey was remarkable in goals, putting on a brilliant display in front of a small crowd including Matildas’ coach Alen Stajcic.

Lauren Barnes kept Victory in the game with a few well timed saves and Elli Reed played perhaps her best game of the season, managing to hold up Canberra’s attack and creating a few opportunities on the counter.

Nairn, as she has been all season, was the driving force in the midfield for Melbourne. In stifling heat, the Maryland native toiled relentlessly with the heart of a lioness to no avail.

Questions need to be asked to see if anything could have made a difference for Victory. One thought is that perhaps the injection of Gulcan Koca into the flagging midfield earlier in the game could potentially have been rejuvenated Melbourne’s game.

Additionally, rather than substituting Victory’s leading goalscorer, Racheal Quigley, could a substantial difference have been made if Koca took the place of Amy Jackson or Ella Mastrantonio, a midfield pairing which has been questionable all season.

Now Canberra awaits the result of the semi final match between Perth Glory and Sydney FC and Melbourne Victory will hopefully celebrate a strong season and be proud of all they have achieved.

Melbourne Victory 0

Canberra United 0

(Canberra United win 5-4 on pens)

Saturday 13 December 2014

Simonds Stadium, Geelong

Local kick-off: 3pmReferee: Kate Jacewicz

Melbourne Victory: Brianna Davey (gk), Hannah Brewer, Lauren Barnes, Stephanie Catley, Amy Jackson, Racheal Quigley (Gulcan Koca 110’), Christine Nairn, Lisa De Vanna, Ella Mastrantonio, Beattie Goad (Emma Checker 91’), Elli Reed

Substitutes – Cassandra Dimovski (gk), Alexandra Natoli, Tiffany Eliadis

Canberra United: Chantel Jones (gk), Catherine Brown, Kendall Fletcher, Caitlin Munoz, Ellie Brush, Michelle Heyman, Sally Rojahn, Nicole Begg, Ashleigh Sykes (Grace Gill 118’), Lori Lindsey, Stephanie Ochs

Substitutes – Melissa Maizels (gk), Julia De Angelis, Grace Field, Tegan Riding

Cautions – Michelle Heyman 58’, Sally Rojahn 61’, Catherine Brown 81’, Lori Lindsey 110’