WWL Semi-Final Preview: Canberra United v Melbourne Victory

Canberra United welcomes Melbourne Victory to McKellar Park for the second time this season as the club gets set to host their first ever Westfield W-League semi-final match.

Canberra United welcomes Melbourne Victory to McKellar Park for the second time this season as the club gets set to host their first ever Westfield W-League semi-final match.

After finishing the season undefeated and top of the ladder Canberra has won the right to host a final for the first time in the club-s history. And, whilst home advantage may well go some way to deciding the outcome of the match, the Victory are no strangers to the stadium having been visitors here in Round 4 this year as well as in previous seasons.

The Victory were our guests at McKellar for what turned out to be a tight encounter. It seemed early on that United might win the game at a canter having raced into a 2-0 lead courtesy of goals from Ashleigh Sykes and Taryn Hemmings and having looked likely to score on numerous other occasions. Melbourne though has often proved to be hard nuts to crack and their response after the interval was typical of what to expect from the strong line-up. Kendal Fletcher reduced the arrears with a fine finish and only an exquisite double save from Lydia Williams kept the maximum points in Canberra-s ledger.

The return fixture saw a more even match in which Victory were the better side in the opening forty-five minutes. Jodie Taylor in particular was causing problems for the United defence and her penalty, given after Nicole Sykes was adjudged to have fouled, gave the home team the lead. A late equaliser from Michelle Heyman ensured parity in what was an end-to-end battle in the second half. Williams was once again required to perform heroics in the Canberra goal to preserve the draw which Jitka Klimkova pronounced herself pleased with afterwards.

The semi-final clash has all the hallmarks of yet another absorbing tie. The fact that Canberra finished the season seven points clear of the Victory will mean nothing come kick-off and with the league-s leading scorers, Heyman and Taylor, on the field goals should be assured. Defensively both teams have only conceded nine goals this season with only Sydney FC (eight) boasting fewer. And with goals having been scored on a frequent basis (23 to United, 21 to Victory) the teams seem evenly matched. The Canberra crowd could well have something to say in the outcome with a large attendance expected and the possibility of Canberra breaking their own ground record which currently stands at 1,637.

Across both teams there is plenty of talent to keep an eye on. The midfield duel between Fletcher and Sally Shipard for example would be worth the price of admission alone and in Williams and Brianna Davey the future of Australian goalkeeping is also on display. Which way the tie may go depends on whether you are clad in green or dark blue. The omens point to a Canberra win, in four previous visits to the Capital the Victory have suffered three loses and a draw. And yet there is always the niggling feeling that the Victory has what it takes to upset the form-book and create their own piece of history. One thing is for sure though whoever emerges victorious will have earned it the hard way.

1. Lydia WILLIAMS, 2. Caitlin COOPER, 3. Georgia YEOMAN-DALE, 4. Christine WALTERS, 7. Ellie BRUSH, 8. Hayley RASO, 9. Grace GILL, 10. Snez VELJANOVSKA, 11. Michelle HEYMAN, 12. Sally ROJAHN, 13. Nicole SYKES, 14. Ashleigh SYKES, 15. Sally SHIPARD, 17. Emma KETE, 18. Taryn HEMMINGS, 19. Jennifer BISSET, 20. Aroon CLANSEY Unavailable: 5. Kahlia HOGG (left for US Scholarship), 6. Caitlin MUNOZ (injured), 16. Ellyse PERRY (cricket commitments) *two to be omitted