Canberra United gained a measure of revenge for their loss to Western United earlier in the season by inflicting a potential hammer blow on Western’s title chances, keeping their own finals hopes alive in the process, with a dominant and hugely comprehensive 3-0 victory at City Vista Recreation Reserve.
Canberra made one change from the side that drew 1-1 with Melbourne Victory at McKellar Park a week earlier as Chinese international midfielder Wu Chengshu was restored to the starting line-up in place of Holly Murry who dropped to the bench, where she was joined by the returning Madison McComasky, fit again after a long-term injury absence.
The teams had barely taken the field before the side from the Capital stunned the table-toppers with an incredible start to the contest, taking the lead after just 40 seconds, as they pounced on an error from Western United ‘keeper Hillary Beall.
Beall fluffed her lines in attempting a clearance from a back-pass, presenting the ball directly to Vesna Milivojevic who was able to curl a beautiful right-footed effort back over the head of the stranded goalkeeper and into the top corner of the net.
Following that blockbusting start, both teams settled into the encounter with Canberra successfully keeping their hosts at arm’s length, goalkeeper Chloe Lincoln unemployed in the opening half-an-hour of the match, with the more threat coming from the green and white clad visitors.
Western’s best effort came at the conclusion of a bull-dozing run from Hannah Keane, the striker’s powerful left-foot shot always rising as it cleared the crossbar, before Adriana Taranto fired narrowly wide.
Canberra almost grabbed a second in stoppage time at the end of the half as Grace Maher drove a mid-range free-kick at goal that beat the back-pedalling Beall, but clipped off the top of the crossbar and away to safety, a strong way to end the opening stanza as Canberra went into the changing rooms 1-0 ahead.
With a precarious lead United began the second half in the same vein, dominating in midfield with Wu dictating the tempo and enjoying, arguably, her most productive afternoon in Canberra colours. For Western, Keane tested Lincoln just prior to the hour, but the Canberra custodian was easily equal to the challenge.
At the other end, Wu skinned Julia Sardo and forced a top save from Beall, the goalkeeper pawing the shot at goal up and over the bar, before the Chinese star was instrumental in Canberra doubling their lead with twenty-five minutes remaining.
Wu fed Michelle Heyman who supplied a simply sublime no-look reverse pass into the path of the onrushing Milivojevic, who took a touch and calmly rolled a side-footed finish beyond the reach of Beall and into the far corner, taking her season tally to half-a-dozen and Canberra two to the good.
And it got even better as Canberra added a third nine minutes later. Following a goalmouth scramble the ball broke to Wu on the edge of the penalty area and she controlled well, before unleashing a fierce low drive through a crowded penalty area and into the corner for a terrific goal to seal a fantastic performance.
Heyman was denied a fourth deep into stoppage time, coolly finishing when put through on goal only to be disappointed by the offside flag, but it mattered little as Canberra had already done more than enough.
Western United 0 Canberra United 3 (Milivojevic 1’, 65’, Wu 74’)
Canberra United: 18. Chloe LINCOLN, 6. Laura HUGHES (4. Holly MURRAY 82’), 7. Ellie BRUSH, 8. Sasha GROVE, 9. WU Chengshu (14. Chloe MIDDLETON 89’), 10. Grace MAHER, 11. Grace JALE, 12. Hayley TAYLOR-YOUNG, 17. Vesna MILIVOJEVIC, 19. Nickoletta FLANNERY (16. Kennedy FAULKNOR 77’), 23. Michelle HEYMAN
Substitutes (not used): 1. Keeley RICHARDS, 15. Madison MCCOMASKY
Yellow Cards: 8. Sasha GROVE