Heyman to the rescue in Victory draw

A goal from Michelle Heyman nine minutes from time secured Canberra United a precious point with a 1-1 draw against Melbourne Victory on a blisteringly hot afternoon in Victoria.

A goal from Michelle Heyman nine minutes from time secured Canberra United a precious point with a 1-1 draw against Melbourne Victory on a blisteringly hot afternoon in Victoria.

The free-scoring striker struck a superb effort with time running out on the clock to rescue United who had fallen behind to Jodie Taylor penalty midway through the first-half, with the result maintaining United-s unbeaten run and ensuring that a win over Adelaide United in their final home match would see them end the season in top spot.

United went into the match with an unchanged side from the one that secured it-s sixth win of the season with a 2-1 win over Newcastle Jets prior to Christmas with the attacking triumvirate spearheaded by the Westfield W-League leading scorer Heyman. And, with the Victory requiring a win to keep alive their finals aspirations, an exciting match was in store. Canberra haven-t got the greatest of records in Melbourne having lost on their lost two visits, failing to trouble the scorers on either occasion, and their lacklustre start was endemic of recent travails in Victoria.

The Victory threatened the lead early on when Jodie Taylor found Ashley Brown inside the United penalty area but her shot was weak and went straight ay Lydia Williams in the Canberra goal.

The let-off was short-lived for the visitors though as Melbourne took the lead just before the twentieth minute in controversial fashion. Caitlin Friend released Kendall Fletcher to run at Nicole Sykes and, when the pair tangled in the penalty area, the referee adjudged the United left-back had brought down the US import and awarded the home team a spot-kick.

To add insult to injury Sykes received a yellow card for the challenge. Williams dived the right way but couldn-t prevent Taylor from finding the net low to the ‘keeper-s left.

Almost immediately Victory should have doubled their lead. A raking pass from Fletcher found Taylor in behind the United back four but the English striker sent her shot wide of both the advancing Williams and the post. The league leaders were stunned by this set-back and gradually began to find their way back into the match.

Caitlin Munoz sent a long-range shot that floated over Briana Davey in the Victory goal but landed on the roof of the net before Michelle Heyman almost levelled matters with a shot that beat Davey but was scrambled clear off the goal-line by the retreating Rebecca Stott.

Melbourne were far from idle in attack themselves though and Fletcher could have made it 2-0 shortly afterwards when a precise pass from Louisa Bisby found the attacking midfielder, whose driven shot from the angle was superbly saved by Williams with her feet.

Canberra-s response was for Heyman to head over a difficult chance from a deep cross, before Ashleigh Sykes thumped a low shot towards goal in stoppage time that Davey did well to push away to safety.

The pattern of the game continued at the commencement of the second half with Victory almost celebrating again three minutes after the re-start when leading scorer Taylor whipped in a vicious free-kick from the right -hand side that crashed down off the underside of the crossbar and away to safety with Williams beaten.

United-s afternoon got worse just before the hour with the loss of Matildas star Caitlin Munoz with the combative midfielder suffering what appeared to be a recurrence of the knee injury that forced her out for the whole of the 2009/10 season. Grace Gill replaced the stricken Munoz in the centre of the field.

It took a while for Canberra to re-organise after this with Victory again getting in over the top of a flat United defence but, once more, Williams was at her brilliant best to defy Taylor in the one-on-one. Knowing that a goal would earn a precious point towards claiming the league championship title United pressed for an equaliser with Ellyse Perry coming to the fore.

Taryn Hemmings was also brought more into the game and the Colorado native twisted and turned before firing a shot that curled just wide of the Melbourne goal.

It was a warning that the home team should have heeded as United squared the ledger with nine minutes remaining. Hemmings made the initial inroads winning a throw-in on the far side. From the set-piece the ball bobbled free to Heyman on the edge of the penalty area and the sharp-shooter held off a challenge before thrashing a left-foot shot inside the post for a crucial goal, her tenth of the season.

Melbourne-s response was lively and a late shout for a penalty was waved away whilst at the other end Hemmings could have won it in stoppage time when breaking clear but was denied by a stunning save from Davey who blocked her shot for a corner. That was the last real chance of the match as Canberra took another giant stride towards the Grand Final by all but securing a home semi-final spot with a game to spare.

MATCH STATISTICS Friday 30th December 2011 Veneto Club, Bulleen MELBOURNE VICTORY 1 (Jodie Taylor 20- (pen)) CANBERRA UNITED 1 (Michelle Heyman 81-)

Half-time: 1-0

Melbourne Victory: 1. Brianna Davey, 2. Rebekah Stott, 3. Maika Ruyter-Hooley, 4. Kendall Fletcher, 5. Danielle Johnson, 7. Stephanie Catley, 8. Ashley Brown (6. Rita Mankowska 89-), 10. Jodie Taylor, 11. Caitlin Friend, 15. Amy Jackson (9. Georgie Koutrouvelis 84-), 16. Louisa Bisby (14. Enza Barilla 66-) Substitutes not used: 20. Cassandra Dimovski

Canberra United: 1. Lydia Williams, 2. Caitlin Cooper, 6. Caitlin Munoz (9. Grace Gill 62-), 7. Ellie Brush, 11. Michelle Heyman, 13. Nicole Sykes (10. Snez Veljanovska 89-), 14. Ashleigh Sykes (3. Georgia Yeoman-Dale 93-), 15. Sally Shipard, 16. Ellyse Perry, 18. Taryn Hemmings, 19. Jennifer Bisset Substitutes not used: 20. Aroon Clansey

Yellow Cards: 13. N. Sykes (CUFC)

Referee: Catherine Hoffman Assistant Referees: Elizabeth Hyland, Laura Moya