CITY SLICKERS SEE OFF UNITED CHALLENGE

Canberra United fell to a first home defeat of the season, and a second Liberty A-League setback in succession, as Melbourne City swooped to record a 4-0 victory at Seiffert Oval in Queanbeyan.

Goals in each half from Melbourne City Captain Rhianna Pollicina, plus strikes from former Canberra striker Maria Rojas and substitute Daniela Galic, sent City to the top of the table at the conclusion of ninety minutes whilst United head into the Christmas break in 7th place, currently five points off the top four.

Head Coach Njegosh Popovich made one change from the team that was beaten by Perth in Western Australia last week, rotating his goalkeepers and starting Keeley Richards between the posts with Chloe Lincoln reverting to the bench.

After an earlier heavy shower, the pitch was in pristine condition as the teams entered the fray and that allowed both to string together some early swift patterns of play, City’s Rojas sending a chip over the head of Richards which landed harmlessly onto the roof of the United net.

Canberra meanwhile relied on the pace of their front pairing, Nickoletta Flannery and Michelle Heyman running the channels in order to stretch the Melbourne City defence, but unable to test Sally James in goal.

The closest United came in the opening quarter was in the 23rd minute when James inexplicably failed to hold a routine Vesna Milivojevic through ball, Heyman pouncing on the rebound but curling her effort just wide of goal. The lethal forward almost opened the scoring minutes later, her powerful header from a Grace Maher corner superbly turned away by a magnificent one-handed save by James.

But it was City who hit the front just before the half-hour mark. A perfectly weighted through-ball by Naomi Thomas-Chinnama found Pollicina at the top of the United penalty area and the Melbourne playmaker swept an inch-perfect shot beyond the reach of Richards and into the far corner.

United should have equalised before the break, but Heyman saw her effort from a Grace Jale assist fly over the top of the bar when well placed. At the other end Pollicina was denied a second by a brilliant stop by Richards.

United went in search of a response in the second half having made a change at the interval, the returning Ellie Brush replacing Kennedy Faulknor who had picked up a knock in the shadows of the half-time break.

However, it was City who extended their lead nine minutes into the second stanza via another precise finish from Pollicina. The midfielder pounced on a loose ball inside the United box to place a low drive past the despairing dive, and out of the reach, of Richards.

After the second goal City dominated possession and added a well-crafted third when Rojas was allowed to drift into space unchecked inside the penalty area, her arrowed finish giving Richards no chance.

Popovich sent on Hayley Taylor-Young in an advanced role to attempt to check the momentum, the hard running forward tasked with breaching the rock solid Melbourne defensive unit, and Grace Jale did test substitute stopper Melissa Barbieri, who replaced James with 12 minutes to play, with a firm header, but the experienced custodian stood strong.

City added to their tally late on with a sensational finish from replacement Galic. The Melbourne side forged their way up field, Rojas laying off a perfectly weighted pass into the path of Galic who curled a Christmas cracker into the top corner.