08 Mar Match Report: Canberra United 4–1 Brisbane Roar
Canberra United produced arguably the result of the W-League season by demolishing previously unbeaten Brisbane Roar in front of a big crowd at Viking Park.
It was a result that renewed the capital city side’s Finals hopes and came with the added delight of club icon Michelle Heyman scoring a goal that saw her equal Sam Kerr as the W-League’s all-time leading scorer.
The stats going into the game emphasised just what a phenomenal result this was. Canberra United went into the game without a win since 30th January after opening the season with an unbeaten run of five games. This run coincided with Michelle Heyman going a month without scoring a goal. If both of those statistics were not depressing enough for the Lime Greens’ fans, United went into this game without a win over Brisbane Roar since December 2016.
From the Queenslanders perspective, Clare Polkinghorne was playing her 150th W-League game for Brisbane Roar, becoming the first player to play that number of games for a single club in the competition’s history. The Roar were though without head coach Jack Goodship, who remained in Queensland as he was about to become a father. Assistant coach Kelly Crew stepped up to take over the reins.
The opening period of the game was cagey. It took five minutes for anything close to a chance to be created. Brisbane’s Australian international Tameka Yallop got through and just outside the box, she was denied by a great tackle from Kendall Fletcher. The ball then went straight to Mariel Hecher, but her follow up went over.
Four minutes later, this season’s W-League top scorer Emily Gielnik tried to lift an effort over Keeley Richards in the United goal, but the Canberra keeper was equal to it.
From the resulting goal kick, Canberra developed their first attack of the game. A beautiful directed lofted pass by Grace Maher from the middle of the pitch into the box was chested down by Nikki Flannery and her shot deflected off of Roar defender Kim Carroll and trickled over the line for the Lime Green Machine to take the lead.
Brisbane tried to respond to going behind, but despite looking good in the build-up, the final ball consistently let them down, and this would cost them badly.
With twenty-three minutes played, Fletcher played another delightful ball through the midfield to Heyman. Her offload to Laura Hughes needed to be tidied up at the cost of a throw in.
From that throw in, Roar initially looked to have cleared any danger, but a loose pass from Kim Carroll found 21-year-old Canberra midfielder Grace Maher over thirty yards from goal. She unleashed a shot which flew both through the air and the grasp of Brisbane keeper Morgan Aquino and it was 2-0 for the hosts.
Canberra created another great opportunity shortly afterwards. A beautiful one-touch offload from Hughes found Flannery in acres of space down the right only for her ball in to be cleared.
Roar responded a minute later when Emily Gielnik chested down a long ball just outside the area and turned before hitting an effort that came back off the bar.
Just prior to the half-hour mark, there was more joy for the Lime Green Machine and another stunning build-up which produced a memorable goal. Flannery was stationed inside her own half on the right-wing and played an inch-perfect pass into the feet of Heyman who took possession just outside the ‘D’. The Matildas’ and Canberra goal-scoring legend took a touch and rolled a calm finish into the net to equal Sam Kerr’s record as the leading scorer in W-League history to a delirious reaction from the home fans. Canberra United were in dreamland and they deserved everything for the outstanding skill and work ethic that they displayed throughout the opening half.
Brisbane probed and pressed in the remaining ten minutes of the half, but still struggled to produce a dangerous final ball to trouble the home defence.
With just over a minute left though, they finally got it right, courtesy of a free-kick awarded for a foul on Clare Polkinghorne just outside the centre circle and the consequence was a goal. The long ball in was directed towards Gielnik whose glancing back header found the net.
From the kick-off of the second half, former Perth Glory teenager Leticia McKenna drove a shot in which was narrowly wide of the left-hand post.
Canberra came back strongly and Heyman turned Isobel Dalton and eventually found Paige Satchell who forced a corner.
With eight minutes of the second half played, the Roar had a glorious opportunity to get a second goal back when Yallop’s low cross from the right was side-footed goalwards from just a few metres out by Gielnik, but Keeley Richards produced a great save.
Shortly afterwards, just outside the box, McKenna ran across a pass to Isabel Dalton who unleashed a shot that crashed back off of the bar.
Despite Brisbane pushing forward and creating some excellent chances, they couldn’t fashion a second goal and they were made to pay for that.
With sixty-four minutes played, Heyman picked up the ball just inside the Brisbane half and found Bianca Galic who was 40 yards out from goal. She looked up and saw Morgan Aquino off her line and the 21-year-old lifted a superb long-range shot over Aquino’s head and into the net.
With twenty-two minutes left, Michelle Heyman was substituted to a huge reception from the Lime Green Machine fans.
Hayley Taylor-Young came on as a result and was involved instantly after being played through beautifully by Satchell, who must have been seriously impressing her Football Ferns boss Tom Sermanni, who was looking on. As Taylor-Young homed in on goal, she was involved in a crunching collision with Polkinghorne but eventually was able to return to the action.
Another substitute was then involved, this time from Brisbane’s perspective as the game neared its final quarter of an hour. Kaitlyn Torpey broke through and her effort was saved magnificently by Richards. It rebounded back to Torpey who put in a low cross which found Gielnik who looked odds on to score, but a quite sensational “how did she do that?” header off the line from Kendall Fletcher denied the Matildas striker. This one piece of action summed up exactly why Canberra were so far ahead in this game – their sheer determination and never say die spirit put them head and shoulders above the Roar.
Try as Brisbane might they could not break through the Canberra defence as the ACT-based side earned one of their greatest wins in recent times.
Speaking about equalling the competition’s all-time goalscoring record, Michelle Heyman said: “I am just glad that it is finally done, it’s been haunting me for the last couple of weeks! To finally get that off my shoulders is a big release and now I can go out and hopefully get a few more in.”
In terms of what inspired Canberra to create a performance that led to the outstanding result, Heyman revealed: “We just wanted to focus on being that best that we can be. If everyone does that, as a team we will always be successful.”
Proud Canberra United boss Vicki Linton said: “We’d been on the road for a number of weeks and it was nice to be back home. It was a great start which gave us momentum. It was disappointing to concede just before half-time and we needed to be smart and work hard to finish it off. The execution we had been working on and it showed. We concentrated on our work with the ball and it really paid off.”
Canberra United: Richards, Keir, Ilijoski, Nash, Fletcher, Galic, Maher, Hughes, Heyman, Flannery, Satchell. Substitutes: James (GK), Goldstein, Rasschaert, Koulizakis, Taylor-Young.
Scorers: Flannery 10. Maher 23, Heyman 29, Galic 64.
Brisbane Roar: Aquino, Heatley, Rankin, Carroll, Polkinghorne, Dalton, Chance, Hecher, McKenna, Gielnik, Yallop. Substitutes: Worth (GK), Torpey, Crummer, Horsey.
Scorers: Gielnik 44.