A towering header from Ellie Brush earned Canberra United a 2-1 win over title chasing Sydney FC amidst ecstatic scenes at McKellar Park. The former Sky Blues lynchpin climbed highest to meet a Grace Maher corner with three minutes remaining to claim the points for United.
Brush’s winner ensured United claimed back-to-back wins in the Liberty A-League and inflicted a potentially damaging blow to Sydney’s hopes of finishing top of the pile in what was a typical ding-ding Hume Derby affair.
United, who surprised their visitors by adopting a new-look formation with Maher posted in central defence and Holly Murray deployed in a five-player midfield, got off to the perfect start by taking the lead after only four minutes of the encounter. And who else but Michelle Heyman should net the opener.
The prolific super-striker registered her seventh goal of the season in only the fourth minute as United stunned Sydney. New Zealand international Grace Jale collected a pass in midfield and fed Heyman thirty metres from goal.
There was still plenty to do for the Liberty A-League all-time leading scorer, but she made it look easy, advancing towards the edge of the penalty area before arrowing a low right-footed finish unerringly into the far corner of the net leaving the Sky Blues goalkeeper, the returning Jada Mathyssen-Whyman, a spectator.
It was the first time Canberra had scored against Sydney since December 2018 and had the buoyant home crowd, the attendance approaching nearly 1,000, the start that they had craved.
The hosts could have been behind thirty seconds in but Chloe Lincoln stood firm when Rachel Lowe was put in by Madison Haley, the Young Matildas custodian making a point-blank save that was crucial to the mind-set of the home side.
United could have been two to the good during an open first-half but, with the goal at her mercy following excellent approach work by Heyman, Jale fired over the crossbar. Jale also tested Mathyssen-Whyman from distance midway through the half, but Heyman’s goal was the difference at the break.
Sydney aren’t in the top three for no reason though and, seven minutes after the restart were level. Lincoln dawdled on a Maher back pass and was closed down by Rola Badawiya who nicked the ball off her toe and had the simple task of passing it into an empty net for the equaliser.
If the ‘keeper was at fault for that goal she more than made amends with twenty-five minutes remaining of an absorbing contest. Cortnee Vine showed her rapid pace to latch onto a long ball over the top and burst clear but, just as she appeared likely to put the visitors ahead, Lincoln made a magnificent save to preserve parity.
And that set the scene for the late dramatics as Brush met Maher’s inch-perfect set-piece with a header of prodigious power to seal a stunning Canberra victory.
Saturday 11 February 2023
Canberra United 2 (Heyman 4’, Brush 87’) Sydney FC 1 (Badawiya 53’)
(McKellar Park, Canberra)