It was a script that was almost perfectly written. With her last kick of the ball for Canberra United in Season 7 Kendall Fletcher sent her club to the Westfield W-League Grand Final.
Saturday 13th December 2014
Canberra United 0 Melbourne Victory 0 – Canberra United win 5-4 on penalties
(Simonds Stadium, Geelong)
It was a script that was almost perfectly written. With her last kick of the ball for Canberra United in Season 7 Kendall Fletcher sent her club to the Westfield W-League Grand Final ending her seven game guest stint with the winning penalty as Canberra downed Melbourne Victory 5-4 in the shoot-out after 120 minutes had ended 0-0.
Chantel Jones had set up the moment with a diving save to deny Gulcan Koca after confident spot-kicks from Grace Gill, Lori Lindsey, Stephanie Ochs and Caitlin Munoz had kept United in touch with the Victory in a high-quality exhibition of the dreaded arts. And with her parents watching on from the stands, Fletcher sealed the deal showing nerves of steel to settle the contest.
In truth this was a game that Canberra should have wrapped up in ninety minutes. The visitors created ample opportunities to kill off the tie and secure a third Grand Final spot. As early as the sixth minute Elisabeth Migchelsen’s team passed up a glorious chance to open the scoring. Michelle Heyman, who has had better days in the finishing department but few where she would have worked so hard for the cause, created it flashing a low ball across the face of goal with Ashleigh Sykes a stud away from converting.
It set the tone for the match with Canberra dominating, passing up chances, and the Victory reduced to sporadic counter-attacks. With the pace and guile of Lisa De Vanna there’s always an outlet however and Jones denied the Matildas forward on three occasions with smart pieces of goalkeeping down low.
In between times Heyman was waging a one-person war on the Victory goal. A looping header on eighteen minutes clipped off the top of the crossbar and the forward was denied again just before the interval with a right foot drive that Brianna Davey, outstanding in the Victory goal, was equal too. Ashleigh Sykes also went close, striking the post with a right foot shot just past the half-hour in what was a dominating display.
The siege continued into the second half. Heyman headed over from six yards after Fletcher had nodded a deep Stephanie Ochs cross back into the danger area whilst Sykes and Lindsey saw efforts in quick succession blocked by Davey. Canberra almost stole it in the 87th minute when Heyman met a delicious Nicole Begg cross with a glancing header that beat the Victory custodian but bounced off the inside of the post and safely into the grateful ‘keeper’s arms.
And Heyman really should have put the game to bed in stoppage time. A sensational pass from Fletcher freed the Westfield W-League all-time leading scorer away on goal but her chip was tame and Davey stood tall to collect. It wasn’t all one-way traffic though and Melbourne had chances of their own in the second half, notably a thumping header from skipper Stephanie Catley that flashed wide and a long-range shot by Christine Nairn that Jones held well.
In the main United was comfortable at the back with Ellie Brush a colossus. Having forfeited a week’s wages in an effort to do everything within her power to recover from the ankle injury sustained against Perth Glory in Round 12, the central defender didn’t just get through the match. It’s fair to say that Brush enjoyed one of her greatest performances in green. 120 minutes of passion and endeavour that led by example.
Extra-time came and went with a similar tale to the proceeding ninety. Munoz saw a header off a Lindsey corner drift just wide whilst Ochs almost forced a winner with her mid-range effort. Heyman, of course, went close to deciding the tie with a cross-shot that Davey beat away and another fine strike on the turn that the outstanding Victory number one clutched firmly.
So penalties decided it and Fletcher’s moment arrived. The US midfielder has been an inspiration for Canberra since joining mid-season and her absence from the final was unfortunate. But that’s a story for another day as United revelled in their immediate success.
Melbourne Victory: 1. Brianna DAVEY, 2. Hannah BREWER, 5. Lauren BARNES, 7. Stephanie CATLEY, 8. Amy JACKSON, 9. Rachael QUIGLEY (17. Gulcan KOCA 110’), 10. Christine NAIRN, 11. Lisa DE VANNA, 12. Ella MASTRANTONIO, 16. Beatrice GOAD (15. Emma CHECKER 91’), 18. Elli REED
Substitutes not used: 4. Alexandra NATOLI, 14. Tiffany ELIADIS, 20. Cassandra DIMOVSKI
Canberra United: 1. Chantel JONES, 2. Catherine BROWN, 4. Kendall FLETCHER, 6. Caitlin MUNOZ, 7. Ellie BRUSH, 11. Michelle HEYMAN, 12. Sally ROJAHN, 13. Nicole BEGG, 14. Ashleigh SYKES (9. Grace GILL 118’), 16. Lori LINDSEY, 22. Stephanie OCHS
Substitutes not used: 3. Julia DE ANGELIS, 5. Grace FIELD, 15. Tegan RIDING, 20. Melissa MAIZELS
Discipline: YELLOW CARDS: 2. Catherine BROWN, 11. Michelle HEYMAN, 12. Sally ROJAHN, 16. Lori LINDSEY
Referee: Kate JACIEWICZ