Heyman strike sends United to Grand Final

A goal from leading scorer Michelle Heyman was enough to decide the first Westfield W-League Semi-Final in favour of Canberra United as they defeated a stubborn Melbourne Victory in front of 1785 at McKellar Park in Canberra.

A goal from leading scorer Michelle Heyman was enough to decide the first Westfield W-League Semi-Final in favour of Canberra United as they defeated a stubborn Melbourne Victory in front of 1785 at McKellar Park in Canberra. Heyman struck with seven minutes remaining to break the deadlock after both teams had wasted numerous chances to give their side the lead and, although the goal came via a deflection of a Victory defender, it was hard to deny that Canberra didn-t deserve the victory after a tense ninety minutes.

It was United who made the first attacking thrust of the afternoon when lively winger Ashleigh Sykes backed her pace and took on the Victory defence. Her blistering speed saw her past the challenge of Danielle Johnson whose attempted tackle was clumsy and saw Sykes tumble to the ground. What looked like a good shout for an early penalty was however waved away. After that it was Melbourne in the ascendancy and they really should have taken the lead wasting a number of good chances. Jodie Taylor was at the forefront of the Victory raids and saw Lydia Williams pluck a deflected shot out of the air after a jinking run from Katrina Gorry. Gorry went close herself moments later with a skidding shot that Williams pushed round the post before Taylor blew two gilt-edged opportunities.

Firstly, a long range pass from Amy Jackson had Taylor in behind the United defence but the English striker lobbed tamely over the bar under pressure from Nicole Sykes. Minutes later the in-form forward should have had the visitors in front. A scramble in the area saw the ball fall kindly to Taylor inside the box, but she snatched at the chance and dragged her shot wide of goal. If the opening fifteen minutes saw a jittery Canberra with the Victory on top, the next quarter of an hour saw the game twist on its head. Michelle Heyman nutmegged Danielle Johnson and saw her goal bound shot blocked by Maika Ruyter-Hooley and Ellie Brush tested Brianna Davey-s concentration with an effort on the turn from range. Ashleigh Sykes was next to go close as her cross-shot drifted just wide with Davey back-pedalling as Canberra upped the ante.

Perhaps the best opening fell to leading scorer Heyman who, freed into space by a precise pass from Sally Shipard, rounded the on-rushing Davey but from an incredibly wide angle sent her shot over the crossbar. The Victory responded well and when Taylor went clear from an Ashley Brown pass it seemed certain she would score. Changing her feet as Williams rushed from goal the Victory-s top-scorer stabbed her shot past the United custodian but, once again, missed the target to her own evident disgust. By now the game was opening up and Hayley Raso fed Sally Shipard who flashed a venomous shot wide of goal. And it was United who had the last word of a tense first half when Jennifer Bisset swung in a beautiful cross that Raso met and bundled a shot at goal that grazed the base of the post as the half ended goalless.

The ball was in the back of the net less than five minutes into the second period though, as Canberra appeared to have taken the lead. A beautiful floated cross from Nicole Sykes was met with a powerful downward header from Heyman that flashed past Davey and into the bottom corner. Delirious United celebrations were cut short however by an offside flag from the assistant referee in what seemed a tight call. The home crowd was almost on its feet in the 59th minute when Raso met a Grace Gill free-kick, award after Ashley Brown felled Taryn Hemmings for which she received a yellow card, with a thumping header that flew just over the crossbar. And, barely sixty seconds later, Raso was at it again running hard at the Victory defence and combining with Ashleigh Sykes for Heyman to get a half-hit shot away, but to no avail. It was all United at this stage with the dancing feet of Hemmings almost finding Heyman, the Victory indebted to the barest of touches by Davey to distract the Golden Boot winner, before Ashleigh Sykes chipped just over the bar.

Heyman was getting closer and Davey had to be alert and quick off her line to deny the marauding forward with a brave block at her feet and it was Heyman again sweeping over in the 75th minute after the over-lapping Hemmings, who was looking ever more dangerous as the game wore on, beat her marker and cut back a fine cross. A goal seemed inevitable and it duly came seven minutes from time. Substitute Emma Kete was involved sending a pass wide to Heyman. Showcasing her power and skill the Westfield W-League-s all-time leading scorer cut infield and fired a shot from twenty-five metres that deflected off the back of Rebekah Stott and looped into the Victory net. Whilst it was a cruel deflection United were thoroughly deserved of their lead on second half possession. The home team almost added a second in stoppage time when a fierce Heyman strike from close range cannoned off the crossbar but it was no matter as Canberra booked their Grand Final ticket.

MATCH STATISTICS Saturday 21st January 2012 McKellar Park, Belconnen CANBERRA UNITED 1 (Michelle Heyman 83-) MELBOURNE VICTORY 0 Half-time: 0-0

Canberra United: 1. Lydia Williams, 2. Caitlin Cooper, 7. Ellie Brush, 8. Hayley Raso (17. Emma Kete 60-), 9. Grace Gill (6. Caitlin Munoz 91-), 11. Michelle Heyman, 13. Nicole Sykes, 14. Ashleigh Sykes, 15. Sally Shipard, 18. Taryn Hemmings, 19. Jennifer Bisset Substitutes not used: 3. Georgia Yeoman-Dale, 10. Snez Veljanovska, 20. Aroon Clansey

Melbourne Victory: 1. Brianna Davey, 2. Rebekah Stott, 3. Maika Ruyter-Hooley, 4. Kendall Fletcher, 5. Danielle Johnson, 7. Stephanie Catley, 8. Ashley Brown, 10. Jodie Taylor, 11. Caitlin Friend (9. Georgie Koutrouvelis 80-), 13. Katrina Gorry, 15. Amy Jackson Substitutes not used: 6. Rita Mankowska, 16. Louisa Bisby, 20. Cassandra Dimovski

Yellow Cards: 8. Brown (Victory)

Referee: Kiralee Gardner Assistant Referees: Sarah Ho, Allyson Flynn Fourth Official: Samantha Ockerby