Canberra United fell to a third straight Liberty A-League loss as they were defeated by Melbourne Victory at CB Smith Reserve, a solitary goal from Alex Chidiac proving the difference, but it was the performance of Victory ‘keeper Casey Dumont that proved the difference, the Matildas international unbeatable between the posts.
Dumont made a string of outstanding saves to preserve a clean sheet and leave United frustrated on an afternoon in which the visitors did more than enough to earn at least a share of the spoils.
United Head Coach Njegosh Popovich made two changes to the team that was defeated by Melbourne City at Seiffert Oval two days before Christmas, recalling Chloe Lincoln into the starting team with Keely Segavcic named on the bench as the substitute goalkeeper, whilst Ellie Brush started in the absence of the injured Kennedy Faulknor.
With points vital for both teams in their respective hunt for a top four spot, it was a typically cagey beginning to the contest with clearcut opportunities very much at a premium. Alana Murphy’s long-range effort for Victory, a shot that drifted wide of the upright, the closest either went in the opening quarter of an hour in which Melbourne were in the ascendency.
United went close just past the half-hour when Michelle Heyman dispossessed Kayla Morrison and advanced on goal, but from the angle dragged her right-footed shot across the face of goal and wide of the target.
Ten minutes before the interval Canberra got in behind the Victory defence again. Heyman was the architect, dropping deep to send an arcing pass over the top of the home rear-guard, sending Grace Jale through on goal. Dumont, the Melbourne custodian, stood strong however, and palmed Jale’s attempted curler away to safety.
Heyman then elected to attempt a square pass to Nickoletta Flannery when played in down the channel, the shooting angle closed off by the covering defence, but it came to naught, and it was the hosts who went in front just before the interval.
A perfectly weighted through-ball from Paige Zois freed Chidiac who made no mistake in her one-on-one duel with Lincoln, slotting her finish past the ‘keeper at her near post.
United should have equalised in stoppage time as they carved a route behind the Victory defence once more. Vesna Milivojevic was clean through on goal but was denied by a one-handed stop by Dumont and Canberra went into the break trailing by a solitary goal.
United made a brace of substitutions at the break, introducing Ellen Gett at centre-back and Hayley Taylor-Young at left full-back meaning that Canberra’s full-back pairing were both Academy graduates, and former strikers, having netted 60 goals in 93 games between them in the Academy NPL set-up.
However, Morrison almost doubled Victory’s lead at the commencement of the second half but saw her downward header cleared off the line by midfielder Laura Hughes, making her fiftieth appearance for Canberra United as the home side started strongly.
Defender Sasha Grove, a day after turning eighteen, was impressive at both ends, blocking several Victory efforts and adding her pace and forward nous to the United attack but, as the clock ticked past the hour, United couldn’t break through the Victory defence.
At the other end Chidiac, again found by Zois, fired wide after cutting inside before Dumont made another magnificent save, clawing a low shot from Flannery away from goal when it appeared certain that the Canberra forward would equalise.
And Dumont was at it again in the 80th minute saving spectacularly from Jale after Milivojevic played the winger in before Flannery hit the top of the crossbar seconds later. Incredibly, after Rikke Madsen shot straight at Lincoln, Flannery was again denied by Dumont after a lovely one-two with Milivojevic.
Try as they might Canberra couldn’t find a way past the brick wall that was Dumont and Victory held on to claim an important success.
Melbourne Victory 1 (Chidiac 44’) Canberra United 0
Canberra United: 18. Chloe LINCOLN, 5. Emma ILIJOSKI (24. Ellen GETT 46’), 6. Laura HUGHES, 7. Ellie BRUSH (4. Holly MURRAY 90+1’), 8. Sasha GROVE, 10. Grace MAHER, 11. Grace JALE (13. Sofia CHRISTOPHERSON 85’), 15. Madison MCCOMASKY (12. Hayley TAYLOR-YOUNG 46’), 17. Vesna MILIVOJEVIC, 19. Nickoletta FLANNERY, 23. Michelle HEYMAN
Substitutes Not Used: 22. Keely SEGAVCIC
YELLOW CARDS: None