With Saturday’s 2-0 victory over Brisbane Roar, Canberra United have asserted themselves on the W-League competition, gripping firmly to second position on the ladder after Round 8.

Just three weeks ago, Canberra was looking up at the pack from 8th position, but they were confident a few weeks at home at McKellar Park would be a good settler for them.

“We’d had this date marked in the calendar since we saw the draw,” said head coach Rae Dower. “This venue is known as a fortress for United so we’re glad to be back here.”

Canberra had the stronger start over Brisbane, enjoying most of the possession for the first 10 minutes, but it was the visitors who had the better of the rest of the half.

The Roar’s high pressing style restricted United’s ability to play out of defence, and Katrina Gorry and Tameka Butt were playing at Matildas’ pace, winning balls and laying them off at will.

Canberra’s defence were equal to the pressure, although keeper Lydia Williams was required to show why she is Australia’s number one on a number of occasions in the first half.

“Lyds really kept us in the game,” said Canberra striker Ashleigh Sykes. “She made me look good with my two goals by keeping out the others.”

The best chance from Brisbane came when Tameka Butt launched a shot that clanged the crossbar. Gorry was there for the rebound but her shot was blocked by Williams.

Gorry caused more problems around the goalmouth, her ability to will her team mates to ‘kick it to me’, then jink into space for a shot, is one of the most mesmerising elements of women’s football.

The action was goal mouth to goal mouth, but it was Brisbane who were making the best opportunities in front of goal where Brush and Checker were busy blocking shots and tackling, while Canberra were able to get up the park swiftly but being dispossessed out wide, or spoiling their crosses.

The Roar took a hit to the proverbial guts right before half time when, off the back of a Williams’ point blank save on a Ruth Blackburn shot, Michelle Heyman took the ball in behind the defence and laid it diagonally back across goal for Sykes to slide onto and convert low past debutant keeper Simpson.

The pair had threatened this play on a few occasions but their execution had been off until this moment.

Roar were visibly deflated as they took to the tunnel for half time. In contrast, United skipped to the change rooms with the energy of a team that had survived somewhat of an onslaught, but held the upper hand.

Brisbane were strong early in the second half, but it didn’t take long for Canberra to increase their possession, patiently building, and sharing the shots around. It was somewhat surprising therefore that their second goal came from a counter attack.

Butt was threatening on goal, but it was Munoz who gathered the ball and spotted the in form Sykes up at half way, feeding her a delicious long delivery that Sykes controlled and ran onto.

After a touch, she looked up and finished perfectly with her trademark shot low into the bottom corner of the net.

Canberra searched for another but the 30 degree heat appeared to be affecting both teams with passes starting to fall away. While Yallop’s second yellow card put the game to bed as far as the crowd was concerned, Brisbane lifted their intensity and didn’t allow Canberra the additional goal they were seeking.

What we witnessed was two well matched teams, peppered with Matildas and those not far off the pace.

Gorry continues to grow into one of the most special players Australia has produced, while Munoz for Canberra was again outstanding – her strength on the ball, her vision in attack and defence, and her leadership and work rate visibly settling for her team.

Both Heyman and Gielnik looked dangerous for their teams, but it was Sykes again who impressed the most.

She’s clinical in front of goals, she’s a work horse up and down the park, and she’s a horrendous distraction for any defence – she seems to effortlessly surf a line so that defenders aren’t quite sure where she will pop up and cause havoc.

It’s another one for the memory bank – and Canberra and Brisbane have certainly provided plenty of those in the past eight seasons.

Canberra United 2 (Ashleigh Sykes 45’, 60’)

Brisbane Roar 0

Saturday 5 December 2015

McKellar Park, Canberra

Kick-off: 3pm

Referee: Casey Reibelt

Canberra United: Lydia Williams (gk), Kendall Fletcher, Jenna McCormick (Nickoletta Flannery 84’), Caitlin Munoz (Julia De Angelis 66’), Ellie Brush, Michelle Heyman, Nicole Begg (c), Ashleigh Sykes, Emma Checker, Veronica Perez, Rebecca Kiting (Catherine Brown 71’)

Substitutes – Melissa Maizels (gk)

Cautions – Veronica Perez 43’

Brisbane Roar: Carrie Simpson (gk), Amy Chapman (Sofie Persson 67’), Clare Polkinghorne (c), Angela Beard, Gabrielle Marzano (Alisha Foote 79’), Katrina Gorry, Kirsty Yallop, Tameka Butt (Ayesha Norrie 90’), Summer O’Brien, Ruth Blackburn, Emily Gielnik

Substitutes – Haley Kopmeyer (gk)

Cautions – Kirsty Yallop 56’, 75’

Red Card – Kirsty Yallop 75’