One of the most dramatic last ten minutes of any match you will see anywhere this season ended with Canberra United’s Finals hopes remaining intact after a 3-2 win over Perth Glory.
This was a game that had everything – Michelle Heyman breaking the all-time W-League goal scoring record, two missed penalties within minutes of each other, a sending off and a goal at the death.
Something which really must be underlined amidst all of the drama of the ending to the game and Heyman’s record breaking efforts is the incredible effort and never-say-die spirit that this exceptionally young Perth Glory side displayed throughout. Alex Epakis’ team came back from a losing position twice and scored two quite outstanding goals.
This game, officially a Perth Glory home game was moved to Viking Park, Canberra United’s ground, due to restrictions in force within Western Australia on people who had been in the state of Victoria within a given time frame, and with Canberra having played in Melbourne recently, their whole squad came under that bracket.
Despite Canberra’s outstanding performance in thrashing previously unbeaten Brisbane Roar at home last weekend, Perth went into the game buoyed by the fact that their sole point this season came in their visit to the same venue back in late January.
Within twenty-four seconds, Canberra won a free-kick due to hand in the face of Bianca Galic by Malia Steinmetz which resulted in the Perth player being yellow carded.
The first half chance came after three minutes when Grace Maher ran through the midfield and found Nikki Flannery on the right hand side but she couldn’t get any power into the shot and Lily Alfeld easily gathered in the Perth goal.
Three minutes later, Flannery was involved again. She off loaded to Michelle Heyman centrally just outside the box. Heyman’s deft touch back to her team mate saw Flannery through on goal, she squared the ball across to Laura Hughes who slid in but couldn’t quite reach the cross.
With twelve minutes played, Kiwi international Paige Satchell raced down the left and played in Heyman who in turn found Maher. The 21 year-old midfielder ran into the box and skewed an effort off of her right foot into the arms of Alfeld as Canberra continued to press in the opening exchanges.
Satchell was flying down the left wing in this period, and her pace created an opportunity for Galic to play a low ball across the face of the goal which Flannery was not able to get on the end of. A whole volume of missed opportunities in the opening twenty minutes were racking up for the Lime Green Machine – would these come back to haunt them?
The New Zealander had another opportunity shortly after when she got through on the left yet again and looked to have an arm put across her. It was one of those moments that had she gone down, you feel a penalty would have been awarded, however, Satchell stayed on her feet and got a shot away which didn’t trouble her compatriot Alfeld in the Perth goal.
It was all too comfortable for Canberra in the opening twenty minutes. To try and grab some form of foothold in the game, Glory tried to develop short passing triangles ahead of looking for a longer ball down to Deborah-Ann De La Harpe to run onto. One such move led to the Glory defender winning a corner from Lauren Keir. De La Harpe’s flag kick came in high and was met by a great header which was narrowly over.
Despite Perth’s best spell in the game, with nine minutes of the half left, it was Canberra who took the lead, thanks to the impressive partnership of Michelle Heyman and Nikki Flannery. Grace Maher offloaded to Heyman who laid off a side footed pass for Flannery to run onto on the right of the box. Flannery took a touch and comfortably shot home past Alfeld.
Two minutes later, Canberra almost doubled their advantage when Lauren Keir’s dangerous cross was met by Heyman sliding in with her effort being saved by Alfeld’s foot. It ricocheted off a Glory defender and away for a corner which Perth eventually cleared.
However, Perth showed their character by levelling with four minutes of the half left, and what a strike it was. Sarah Morgan took possession from a throw in on the right and a long ball through from Liz Anton was perfect for Caitlin Doeglas on the left hand side. Doeglas beat Keir outside the box and fired a superb shot into the top right hand corner to level matters for the Glory.
Canberra had one further chance right at the end of first half stoppage time. Heyman beat both Sarah Carroll and Tash Rigby to play in a low ball across the six yard box. The pass found Flannery whose goal bound effort was brilliantly blocked by De La Harpe.
Perth created the first opportunity in the second half, seven minutes in. The busy Alexia Moreno played a lovely long through ball into Caitlin Doeglas who ran onto it with Keeley Richards getting there first.
Canberra’s reply was instant and, literally record breaking. Michelle Heyman took advantage of a slip and hit an effort which rebounded off Alfeld back into her path and she turned and lofted a glorious first time effort into the right hand top corner of the net – a magnificent strike to become the W-League’s all-time record goal scorer.
Laura Hughes then called Alfeld back into duty again minutes later when she hit a long range shot that the Glory keeper had to tip over.
Perth reverted to a patient build up to stem the flow of Canberra possession – it was a mature response from a very young side. In this period, Kat Jukic played a ball in towards Jamie-Lee Gale whose effort was off target.
With nineteen minutes to go, Jukic gave Perth a lifeline once more. From well over thirty yards, the midfield substitute lofted a magnificent shot over Keeley Richards into the net. It was a fantastic reply from the Western Australian side.
Hayley Taylor-Young’s introduction as substitute brought a massive injection of pace to the left flank in the closing stages for Canberra.
As the game entered its final six minutes, Heyman headed on a ball towards Flannery who got in ahead of Alfeld, but Anton tidied up brilliantly. Moments later, Kendall Fletcher was brought down in the box by a combination of Patricia Charalambous and Tash Rigby, with referee Lara Lee pointing to the spot.
Up stepped Fletcher and she hit the base of the left hand post with Perth reacting quickest to clear for a corner.
Within seconds though, Lara Lee was pointing to the spot again with Tash Rigby being adjudged to handle from the resulting corner. Perth felt it was incredibly harsh and Sarah Carroll received a second yellow for her protestations. Up stepped Fletcher once more, and once more she missed. This time it went wide of the left hand post. A staggering chain of events and yet another series of opportunities gone begging for Canberra United.
Yet, with a minute of stoppage time to play, there was yet another twist. This was simply a must win game for Canberra for their Finals hopes and who would you put your money on to ensure the Lime Green machine won it?
Michelle Heyman was played through by Demi Koulizakis and calmly placed the winner past Alfeld for her second of the evening.
The plethora of chances that Canberra created in the opening twenty minutes could have put the game out of Perth’s reach early on. As the campaign reaches its climax, teams wishing to play Finals cannot afford to spurn opportunities in such great numbers when they come, but those worries are for the future. For now, Canberra are celebrating an incredible win. It was cruel on Perth, but for the sheer number of chances created across ninety minutes, the ACT side will feel it was a deserved win.
Perth Glory: Alfeld, De La Harpe, Rigby, Carroll, Anton, Steinmetz, Morgan, Lowry, Moreno, Gale, Douglas. Substitutes: Bennett (GK), McKenna, Jukic, Tabain, Charalambous.
Scorers: Doeglas 41, Jukic 71.
Canberra United: Richards, Keir, Ilijoski, Nash, Fletcher, Galic, Maher, Hughes, Heyman, Flannery, Satchell. Substitutes: James (GK), Goldstein, Rasschaert, Koulizakis, Taylor-Young.
Scorers: Flannery 34. Heyman 54, 90+5.
Referee: Lara Lee.