Late Victory goal breaks Canberra hearts

A solitary goal, struck three minutes from time by Melbourne substitute Katie Thorlakson, has broken Canberra hearts and put a severe dent in the club’s finals aspirations.

A solitary goal, struck three minutes from time by Melbourne substitute Katie Thorlakson, has broken Canberra hearts and put a severe dent in the club-s finals aspirations.

Thorlakson reacted quickest to a shot that was blocked by Jennifer Bisset on the goal-line to net the all-important strike and seal the points for the Victory. The result meant Victory leap-frogged United on the ladder and leaves Canberra in a perilous position heading into the final round of Westfield W-League fixtures.

Canberra United coach Ray Junna was forced into making one change from the side that defeated Newcastle Jets last Sunday with Cian Maciejewski, who rolled her ankle at work, replaced in the starting line-up by Grace Gill with Thea Slatyer, who re-signed for the club this week, on the substitutes bench.

The match kicked off in blustery conditions which made life difficult for both sides to play any constructive football, and the first fifteen minutes saw the respective teams sizing each other up, without any real opportunities emerging. United, playing into the breeze, started well stroking the ball around with confidence.

On Canberra-s first real attack, on the quarter hour mark, United will have felt aggrieved not to have been awarded a penalty. Midfielder Grace Gill made an incisive run in the left channel and swung over a cross that clearly came off the hand of Maika Ruyter-Hooley, as Ashleigh Sykes closed in on the near post. Referee Catherine Hofmann however adjudged it accidental and awarded a corner.

This seemed to lift the intensity of the match and Melbourne, in particular, started to come to the fore. Deanne Niceski just failed to get on the end of a ball into the penalty area, before the Victory should have taken the lead on twenty-two minutes.

Katrina Gorry beat Nicole Sykes on the left wing and played in a superb cross that fell to Niceski in the box. The forward miss-hit her shot goalwards, but it fell beautifully for Selin Kuralay on the six-yard line. Fortunately goalkeeper Lydia Williams was out sharply to smother the shot from close range.

A minute later Canberra was indented to the swiftly retreating Nicole Sykes who raced back to clear from close to the goal line after Vedrana Popovic had fired towards the gaping net after Williams had fumbled a cross from Julianne Sitch.

At this stage Williams was the busier of the two ‘keepers, the Matildas international diving to her left to beat away a fierce header from giant centre-back Ruyter-Hooley, and watching anxiously as a shot on the turn from Popovic trickled just wide of the post.

United responded in kind and Emily Van Egmond, arriving unmarked in the centre of the penalty area, should have done much better than head tamely wide from a terrific right wing cross from Ellyse Perry, but heading into the interval Canberra would have been the happier of the two sides with the blank score sheet.

Playing with the wind at their backs in the second half United looked to utilise the pace and trickery of striking duo Ashleigh Sykes and Shu O Tseng by releasing passes over the top of the Victory back line. However, the Victory defence were in fine form, not giving the United forwards an inch of space.

When Canberra did create a chance it came from an unlikely source. Ellyse Perry pulled a corner back to the edge of the penalty area to the unmarked Jennifer Bisset, but her half-hit cross-shot failed to trouble Melissa Barbieri in the Melbourne goal.

At the other end the home side continued to press, making the occasional foray into the Canberra penalty area without really threatening Williams, Popovic going closest with a drive that was well-blocked by the continually impressive Ellie Brush and Selin Kuralay testing Williams- concentration from long-range.

Ray Junna introduced Rebecca Kiting for the hard-working Grace Gill midway through the half, putting a more defensive-minded ethos into the side, knowing that Melbourne would push for the winner as the game entered its closing stages and the rain began to fall in earnest.

With three minutes remaining Melbourne struck the killer blow. From a corner the ball was half-cleared to Laura Alleway in the centre of the penalty area. The centre-back-s low drive was heroically blocked on the line by Bisset, but the rebound fell invitingly for substitute Katie Thorlakson who slotted the ball into the net from six yards out.

It was a heart-breaking end to the game for Canberra who must now defeat Adelaide United, and hope that Perth Glory can deny Melbourne a win in the final round of action next weekend, in order for the Capital club to make the finals.

MATCH DETAILS

Melbourne Victory 1 (Katie Thorlakson 87-) Canberra United 0

Olympic Park, Melbourne

Melbourne Victory squad: 1. Melissa BARBIERI (c), 2. Vedrana POPOVIC (3. Marlies OOSTDAM 77-), 4. Tal KARP, 5. Laura ALLEWAY, 6. Maika RUYTER-HOOLEY, 9. Stephanie CATLEY (18. Ursula HUGHSON 85-), 10. Deanne NICESKI (8. Katie THORLAKSON 56-), 11. Julianne SITCH, 12. Monique HANSEN-KOFOED, 13. Katrina GORRY, 14. Selin KURALAY

Subs Not Used: 20. Nicole PAUL (GK)

Yellow Cards: Nil Red Cards: Nil

Canberra United squad: 1. Lydia WILLIAMS, 3. Bronwyn STUDMAN, 5. Kahlia HOGG, 7. Ellie BRUSH (c), 8. Emily VAN EGMOND, 9. Grace GILL (2. Rebecca KITING 68-), 10. TSENG Shu O, 14. Ashleigh SYKES, 15. Nicole SYKES, 16. Ellyse PERRY, 19. Jennifer BISSET

Subs not used: 6. Ellie RAYMOND, 13. Thea SLATYER, 20. Jocelyn MARA (GK)

Yellow Cards: Nil Red Cards: Nil

Referee: Catherine HOFMANN