United feel the bite at Shark Park

Canberra United were unable to take advantage of the early dismissal of Sydney FC central defender Alesha Clifford, succumbing to a 0-3 defeat in the semi-final of the Westfield W-League at Shark Park, Cronulla.

Canberra United were unable to take advantage of the early dismissal of Sydney FC central defender Alesha Clifford, succumbing to a 0-3 defeat in the semi-final of the Westfield W-League at Shark Park, Cronulla.

Clifford was sent off in the 12th minute for pulling the shirt of Ashleigh Sykes when the United forward was clean through on goal but, despite playing 78 minutes with only ten players, Sydney FC used all their experience to gain victory with goals from deadly strike duo, Sarah Walsh and Leena Khamis and Captain Heather Garriock.

Earlier, Canberra had named the same starting line-up as defeated Adelaide United last weekend, even though midfield powerhouse Cian Maciejewski returned to the squad after a two week lay-off, Ray Junna resisting the temptation to thrust the hard-working battler into the first eleven.

The hosts, Sydney FC, spurred on by their small, but extremely, vocal band of support on loan from the Cove, started brightly, but it was Canberra who had the first shooting chance of the match in only the fourth minute.

Ellyse Perry, who was a constant source of harassment for the Sydney FC defence, played a ball into the box to Shu O Tseng, whose lay-off was fired goalward by Kahlia Hogg, only for the ball to drift just past the post. The home team-s response saw a Leena Khamis shot drift harmlessly across goal after excellent approach work from Cathrin Paaske, as both teams traded early blows.

In the week that saw Canberra United and Sydney FC jointly receive the Westfield W-League Fair Play Award, it was somewhat ironic that the early advantage swung United-s way with the twelfth minute dismissal of centre-back Clifford. The tall defender received her marching orders after pulling back the shirt of Ashleigh Sykes, as the rapid striker bore down on goal, leaving referee Casey Reibelt with little option but to brandish the red card.

As is so often the case though, the ten players were galvanised into action and, after Hogg tested Deiter from range once more, had the better of the exchanges in front of goal. Firstly, Sarah Walsh tested Lydia Williams- reflexes, the ‘keeper diving to her right to beat away a fierce drive, before the forward almost got on the end of a wonderful Paaske delivery.

Sydney, with the bit between their teeth, broke the deadlock on the stroke of half-time with a typical poacher-s goal from Walsh. Kyah Simon, breaking down the right flank, rolled a delicious pass across the face of goal and Walsh reacted quickest to poke the ball past Williams from close range.

United began the second-half looking to make the most of their numerical superiority by flooding forward whenever in possession. Sykes- pace was continuing to trouble the Sydney FC defence and the striker had a great chance to level on 51 minutes. Emily Van Egmond stroked a beautifully weighted ball over the Sydney defence for Sykes to run onto, but she dallied on her shot and the chance was lost.

Just when it seemed that United might find a way back into the match, Sydney struck a decisive blow. After Van Egmond had been cautioned for a challenge near the half-way line, Julie Rydahl-s well-struck free kick from deep found Leena Khamis unmarked in the penalty area. The league-s all-time leading scorer showed her prowess in front of goal, flicking a brilliant header over Williams and into the back of the net for a killer second goal.

Ray Junna responded by sending on Maciejewski for Jennifer Bisset, but even the presence of United-s inspirational midfielder failed to turn the tide.

Even though they were depleted, Sydney continued to create the better opportunities with Heather Garriock denied by a fine save from Williams, before Paaske headed over from close range from the resulting corner.

Chasing the match, Canberra introduced Ellie Raymond into the attack, but to no avail and, to rub salt into the wounds, Sydney struck for a third time with minutes remaining on the clock.

It was move that outlined their class, the ball moving swiftly across the field to Danish international Julie Rydahl, who squared for the impressive Walsh to lay into the stride of the rampaging Garriock, whose first-time effort flashed into the roof of the net, giving Williams no chance and burying United-s title aspirations.

Match Statistics

Sydney FC (1) 3 (Sarah WALSH 44-, Leena KHAMIS 60-, Heather GARRIOCK 84-) Canberra United (0) 0

Sydney FC Squad: 1. Nikola DEITER, 4, Alesha CLIFFORD, 6. Servet UZUNLAR, 7. Heather GARRIOCK, 8. Julie RYDAHL, 9. Sarah WALSH (12. Michelle CARNEY 87-), 10. Kylie LEDBROOK, 11. Cathrin PAASKE, 15. Kyah SIMON, 16. Linda O-NEILL (2. Teigen ALLEN 37-), 19. Leena KHAMIS (13. Catherine CANNULLI 82-)

Substitutes not used: 18. Brittany WHITFIELD, 20. Carla MONFORTE (GK)

Yellow Cards: Nil Red Cards: Alesha CLIFFORD 12-

Canberra United Squad: 1. Lydia WILLIAMS, 2. Rebecca KITING, 3. Bronwyn STUDMAN, 5. Kahlia HOGG (6. Ellie RAYMOND 84-), 7. Ellie BRUSH, 8. Emily VAN EGMOND, 10. Shu O TSENG, 14. Ashleigh SYKES, 15. Nicole SYKES, 16. Ellyse PERRY, 19. Jennifer BISSET (Cian MACIEJEWSKI 60-)

Substitutes not used: 9. Grace GILL, 13. Thea SLATYER, 20. Jocelyn MARA (GK)

Yellow Cards: Emily VAN EGMOND 59-, Cian MACIEJEWSKI 62-, Bronwyn STUDMAN 76-

Red Cards: Nil

Referee: Casey REIBELT Crowd: 741