Canberra United suffered Christmas heartbreak as they were handed a 0-3 home defeat by Central Coast Mariners in front of 1,285 spectators at McKellar Park in the National Capital.
United Head Coach Njegosh Popovich made three changes to the starting X1 from the Round 8 clash in Melbourne, the enforced absence of goalkeeper Chloe Lincoln due to suspension, handing a first start to Coco Majstorovic in goal, whilst Sarah Clark also made a first start having impressed from the bench against Victory. Ruby Nathan completing the changes.
Canberra almost got off to a perfect start as Vesna Milivojevic sliced a cross that cannoned off the woodwork inside the opening two minutes. With Sofia Christopherson and Sasha Grove using their pace to good effect, the home side had the ascendency early on without troubling Sarah Langman in the visitors’ goal.
The Mariners burst into life just before the twenty-minute mark as midfielder Bianca Galic unleashed a fierce drive from distance that Coco Majstorovic did well to palm up onto the underside of the crossbar, before Milivojevic replied with a shot from 25 metres that flashed just over at the other end.
It took something special to break the deadlock, and it was the Mariners that provided it in the 29th minute. Wurigumula collected the ball inside the Canberra final third, cut inside the defender and smashed a stunner that flew high above the outstretched arm of Majstorovic and into the top corner for a sensational goal.
The Mariners number nine almost repeated the trick five minutes later as the woodwork came to Canberra’s rescue, Wurigumula’s thumping effort hitting the bar with Majstorovic beaten.
Despite their lead, Mariners made a change at the break bringing on Peta Trimis for Tess Quilligan, starting the second-half the better of the two teams and forcing Canberra onto the back-foot, Clark making an outstanding tackle on the ever-dangerous Wurigumula.
Majstorovic was called into action to beat away a shot from just inside the box, reacting well to push the rebound from Jazmin Wardlow to safety, although Wardlow was flagged for offside, before United had strong claims for a penalty waved away after Christopherson appeared to be hauled down in the area.
United sought to up the tempo by introducing the returning Maria ‘Cote’ Rojas and Kiwi Deven Jackson, but it was Mariners who struck again. Wurigumula got to a through ball ahead of her marker, touching it into her own path and raced clear to round Majstorovic and slide home her, and her team’s, second.
Mariners’ pace was causing issues to the home defence and Wardlow streaked clear five minutes later to clinically bury the third. In response, Rojas saw a header saved by Langman but Canberra were unable to force a way back into the contest and the Mariners were deserved winners.
Canberra United (0) 0 Central Coast Mariners (1) 3 (Wurigumula 29’, 69’, Wardlow 74’)
TEAM: 18. Coco MAJSTOROVIC, 3. Sarah CLARK, 5. Emma ILIJOSKI, 8. Sasha GROVE, 9. Ruby NATHAN, 10. Mary STANIC-FLOODY (11. Deven JACKSON 63’), 13. Sofia CHRISTOPHERSON, 17. Vesna MILIVOJEVIC, 19. Nickoletta FLANNERY (7. Maria ROJAS 63’), 22. Cannon CLOUGH, 23. Michelle HEYMAN
SUBSTITUTE NOT USED: 24. Georgia RITCHIE
YELLOW CARDS: 6. Isabel GOMEZ (Central Coast Mariners), 19. Nickoletta FLANNERY (Canberra United)
RED CARDS: None