Brisbane face of with Canberra | (Credit: Nick Guoth) Brisbane face of with Canberra | (Credit: Nick Guoth)

The first semi final sees last year’s runner up and season one champions Brisbane Roar host third placed Canberra United at Ballymore Stadium.

After a slow start to the season, the Brisbane Roar certainly picked up the pace in the back half  to see them finish second on the W-League table securing that all important home final.

The Roar squad are old hands at this finals business.  A majority of the players not only have participated in the finals but they also have ‘big game’ experience with nine players involved in the Westfield Matildas 2010 AFC Asian Cup campaign.

That makes for a seriously strong team across the park.  Up front the Roar have not been as prolific as they have in the past but 'prolific' is a relative term.  They have again been well serviced by the regular combination of Tameka Butt and Lana Harch but this season there is a little more unpredictability about their attack with several notable additions.

Matildas’ striker Lisa De Vanna has added serious pace, and although her radar has been a little off lately, her addition, along with the imposing Emily Gielnik and Kennya Cordner, has ensured that the Roar can score from several sources.

Defensively, well once again they have been the best all season.  Since conceding 4 against Sydney in their first game,  Jeff Hopkins’ defensive unit have only conceded 3 goals in 9 matches.  To say that’s impressive is an understatement.  Lead by Casey Dumont, Kim Carroll and Karla Reuter, they will have to be strong once more against a Canberra United attack that will come at them hard.

Unlike their opponents, Canberra United started Season Three with a bang.  However, a patchy middle part of the campaign meant the girls from the capital only confirmed their finals place on the last weekend of the regular season.

“The break didn’t do us any favours,” remembered Canberra United coach Ray Junna.

“Just losing that intensity at training and then coming back.  It was like starting the season again.”

“I don’t think the girls really coped with that too well.”

Regardless of that dip in form, the Green Machine are there in the finals and are a very dangerous proposition.

Much has been written about their attack leading up to the start of the season, and we will get to that, but the most important unit in the United team is their defence.

Lead by arguably three of the best in the League, co-captains Lydia Williams and Ellie Brush and, a former captain, Caitlin Cooper have been immense.  Their importance was highlighted last weekend when their desperate defending held off a determined Perth Glory outfit time and again.  Up against a Brisbane Roar side blessed with multiple avenues to goal, the performance of these three will go a long way to determining the result.

Spearheaded by Michelle Heyman and Caitlin Munoz, Canberra’s attack has been good all season as they netted 16 goals.  However, as good as these two are, they will need plenty of support and supply come Saturday.

Crucial to this will be the midfield.  Dynamic and possessing a mixture of youth and experience, the United midfield will need to perform at a very high standard defensively and going forward.  Sally Shipard, the uncompromising Cian Maciejewski, Emily van Egmond and the talented Ellyse Perry will all be keys to tomorrow’s contest.

“As you play at a high level the little things are so important,” states Junna.  “The better quality players, you give them half a start, especially Brisbane, they are going to punish you.”

“We are going to create chances as we have against these top sides, we just have to be able to take them.”

“The game is going to go in peaks and troughs.  When we are a peak we need to ake the most of it, when we are in a trough we need to cope with it as best we can.”

Brisbane are fit and firing with all their players available for selection.  Meanwhile Canberra United have lost young midfielder Kahlia Hogg for this week and Leah Blayney for the rest of the season, with a quad strain getting the best of the influential midfielder.

In their two clashes this season not much as separated the sides.  Their Week 2 encounter ended in a 1 – 1 draw and their Week 7 rematch was only decided by Lana Harch’s 60th minute goal.  Considering their history and their current form, Brisbane will be favourites heading into the semi-final but you write Canberra off at your peril.

Follow Brisbane Roar on twitter for the latest updates on the match.

DON’T FORGET: Catch a One Hour Westfield W-League Semi-Final highlights package on ABC1 in the Primetime of 6pm.

Saturday, 5 February 2011

Ballymore Stadium, Herston

Local kick-off: 2:00pm (3:00pm AEDT)

Referee: Jacqui Melksham

Assistant referees: Airlie Keen Tanya De Boer

Fourth official: Kate Jacewicz

Brisbane Roar: 1. Casey DUMONT (gk), 2. Laura ALLEWAY, 3. Karla REUTER, 4. Clare POLKINGHORNE (C), 5. Brooke SPENCE, 6. Kim CARROLL, 7. Joanne BURGESS, 8. Elise KELLOND-KNIGHT, 9. Alisha FOOTE, 10. Lana HARCH, 11. Aivi LUIK, 12. Rebekah STOTT, 13. Tameka BUTT, 14. Amy CHAPMAN, 15. Erika ELZE, 16. Lauren COLTHORPE, 17. Emily GIELNIK, 18. Kennya CORDNER 19. Lisa DE VANNA, 20. Kate STEWART (gk)

*five to be omitted*

In: Alisha FOOTE, Erika ELZE, Rebekah STOTT, Kennya CORDNER (all promoted), Clare POLKINGHORNE (returns from injury), Elise KELLOND-KNIGHT (returns from injury)

Out: Nil

Unavailable: Nil

Canberra United: 1. Lydia WILLIAMS (gk), 2. Caitlin COOPER, 4. Michelle HEYMAN, 6. Caitlin MUNOZ, 7. Ellie BRUSH, 9. Grace GILL, 10. Emily VAN EGMOND, 11. Cian MACIEJEWSKI, 13. Nicole SYKES, 14. Ashleigh SYKES, 15. Sally SHIPARD, 16. Ellyse PERRY, 18. Grace FIELD, 19. Jennifer BISSET, 20. Jocelyn MARA (gk), 22. Georgia YEOMAN-DALE

*one to be omitted*

In: Grace GILL (promoted), Georgia YEOMAN-DALE (promoted)

Out: Leah BLAYNEY (injured)

Unavailable: Kahlia HOGG (injured), TSENG SHU-O (injured)