Sykes strike secures semi spot

A header from substitute Ashleigh Sykes two minutes from time secured Canberra United a 1-0 win over Perth Glory and a spot in the semi-finals of the Westfield W-League where they will face Brisbane Roar at Ballymore.

A header from substitute Ashleigh Sykes two minutes from time secured Canberra United a 1-0 win over Perth Glory and a spot in the semi-finals of the Westfield W-League where they will face Brisbane Roar at Ballymore.

Sykes pounced on a deep free kick from Emily Van Egmond to head the ball into the back of the net to secure the victory with in her fourth goal in Canberra United colours, with ironically all three previous goals also having come against the Glory.

Sykes makes a habit of hurting the West Australians and this strike left Perth anxiously awaiting a miracle from Adelaide United who, if they defeated Melbourne Victory to claim their first win of the year, would send the Glory to Sydney for a last four battle.

A combination of injuries and tactical changes saw Ray Junna shake up the United starting eleven giving spots to the returning Ellyse Perry, fresh from helping the Australian Women-s cricket team to Ashes Glory, allowing Cian Maciejewski, who suffered a concussion against Sydney FC, to take up her preferred position in midfield. Leah Blayney, fully recovered from the quad injury that had sidelined her in recent weeks also made a return to the starting eleven.

Having defeated Perth 4-1 in the first round earlier this season, a match that included a Michelle Heyman hat-trick, United entered the fixture in a confident mood and hoping to repeat the feat in the knowledge that a point would see them safely into the semi-finals.

Attacking from the start United created the opening chance of the match early on when Caitlin Munoz headed wide from an Emily Van Egmond corner after good approach work from the dynamic young central midfield playmaker. Perth responded with Sam Kerr getting on the end of a Kate Gill flick on, but allowing the ball to roll through to a relived Lydia Williams following a heavy touch.

The home team should have been in front midway through the first half after Perry burst down the right flank and squared a peach of a ball across the penalty area to Leah Blayney who side-footed over the bar from the penalty spot when arriving unmarked.

United continued to press and almost took the lead ten minutes later. Perry swung over a delicious cross that was met firmly by the forehead of Ellie Brush. The ball sailed towards goal but was magnificently cleared off the line by Glory defender Alexandra Singer to deny the Canberra skipper the opening goal.

Shortly afterwards United did have the ball in the net but striker Caitlin Munoz was, correctly, flagged for offside. It was evident that United were having the better of the play during the first stanza, dominating the central midfield areas, but couldn-t find a crucial breakthrough before the interval.

The second half began in much the same vein with United pushing for the opening goal. The best chance early on though fell to Glory midfielder Elissa D-Ovidio who found herself free inside the penalty area but could only fire a tame effort at the goal which Williams comfortably dealt with.

As the minutes ticked by the nerves began to jangle amongst the 797 supporters as United-s semi-finals hopes hung in the balance.

A midfield scrap developed as the searing temperatures began to affect both teams before the Glory almost stole the lead when a goalmouth scramble ended with Williams bravely diving on the ball on her goal line. Junna responded to this threat by introducing the lively Ashleigh Sykes for the tiring Munoz in an effort to breach the Glory rearguard.

The winner, when it came, had a touch of the farce about it. Glory captain Tanya Oxtoby was penalised for handball on the far touchline when she inexplicably picked up the ball having assumed it had gone out of play. Referee Kiralee Gardener had no option but to award a free kick to the home team and from Van Egmond-s delivery Sykes headed the match winner.

And United almost doubled their lead in the final seconds when the tireless Maciejewski rose to head towards goal from a near side corner only to see her effort clip the top of the crossbar before heading to safety.


Canberra United 1 (Ashleigh Sykes 88-) Perth Glory 0
Saturday 29th January 2011
McKellar Park, Belconnen
Kick off 3pm
Attendance: 797

CANBERRA UNITED: 1. Lydia WILLIAMS (gk), 2. Caitlin COOPER, 4. Michelle HEYMAN (18. Grace FIELD 84-), 6. Caitlin MUNOZ (14. Ashleigh SYKES 66-), 7. Ellie BRUSH, 10. Emily VAN EGMOND, 11. Cian MACIEJEWSKI, 13. Nicole SYKES, 15. Sally SHIPARD, 16. Ellyse PERRY, 17. Leah BLAYNEY (19. Jennifer BISSET 32-)
Substitutes not used: 20 Jocelyn MARA

PERTH GLORY: 1. Tine CEDERKVIST, 3. Carys HAWKINS, 4. Sam KERR, 5. Shannon MAY ((9. Monique KOFOED 77-), 6. Alexandra SINGER, 7. Alexandra NILSSON, 8. Tanya OXTOBY, 12. Katie GILL, 13. Elissa D-OVIDIO (17. Marianna TABAIN 69-), 14. Collette McCALLUM, 15. Jaymee GIBBONS (2. Stacey LEARMONT 85-)
Substitutes not used: 20. Kathleen WAYCOTT (gk)

Match Officials: Kiralee GARDENER (referee), Rebecca DURCAU, Luke WITHELL, Katie PATTERSON (4th official)

DISCIPLINE: YELLOW CARDS: 3. Carys HAWKINS, 14. Collette McCALLUM (both Perth Glory)