Canberra United were comfortably victorious over league leaders Melbourne City in Round 15 of the Liberty A-League at home.
The away side began as expected at McKellar Park, coming out of the blocks with attacking intent as Hannah Wilkinson was played in behind after ten minutes, however found herself facing an inspired Chloe Lincoln who saved the City forward’s shot from point blank range.
Diminutive winger Emina Ekic played a prominent role in City’s attacking intent, while her side’s set piece threat posed serious questions to the Canberra defence, however United custodian Chloe Lincoln constantly thwarted the visitors’ endeavours to open the scoring.
In the build up Nickoletta Flannery spoke about the importance of defensive discipline as the key to a good performance, and this was matched to impressive effect by the team in green, keeping a strong defensive shape that resorted the league leaders to shots outside the box.
While City continued to have the lion’s share of possession, United grew in confidence as the game drew closer to the conclusion of the first period, as Clough did well to pick out dangerous passes to the frontline, while Deven Jackson and Vesna Milivojevic picked up the ball in the pockets to try and carve out an opening.
The pressure eventually proved too much for the away side, as Heyman read a looped ball in behind to beat defender Taylor Otto in the air, strolling into the box and calmly slotting the ball into the bottom right corner to put Canberra 1-0 up in the 37th minute.
It took just two minutes for them to again capitalise on their positive momentum, as Flannery showed enviable pace to leave Karly Roestbakken for dead, before cutting the ball back to Michelle Heyman, who in turn laid it off for Mary Stanic-Floody to side-foot the ball home for 2-0.
United’s build up play became a feature of their performance, frequently carving open City with crisp passing that ensured the side would head into the break leading comfortably by two goals.
The second half began as the first ended, United looking dangerous and dogged defensively, while City struggled to link their passes effectively enough to break the stubborn wall of green that greeted every foray forward.
As the second period continued City began to commit more numbers forward, leaving space in behind for Canberra to exploit, as Flannery again looked dangerous on the break, finding Milivojevic on the edge of the box in the 72nd minute, although the Serbian fired over.
Inspired by a raucous McKellar Park, Canberra tripled their lead just two minutes later, as Jackson found Heyman on the edge of the box who placed it for Flannery to score her third goal of the season, a deserved third that epitomised their enduringly clinical edge.
After a triple change from Dario Vidosic in response to United’s unrelenting quality and resilience, City began to push for a consolation while the home side sat back and true to the narrative of the match, defended Melbourne’s advances adeptly.
A late set piece tainted an otherwise flawless showing at McKellar Park, as Hannah Wilkinson’s header found Taylor Otto at the back post who bundled it in after another piece of Chloe Lincoln heroics.
Having been encouraged to view this match as an opportunity to prove themselves by coach Njegosh Popovich in the build up, his side have done just that, and will be full of confidence heading into next week’s encounter with Perth Glory on Saturday 10th February.