Canberra United secured a first victory of the Liberty A-League season and retained their unbeaten start to the campaign as they swept aside Wellington Phoenix 3-0 on a warm and sunny afternoon at McKellar Park.
United made one change from the team that sweltered their way to a point in Brisbane against the Roar a fortnight ago, Laura Hughes starting for the first time this season in the absence of Chinese international Wu Chengshu.
Other than that, it was the same eleven that earned that draw and the cohesion was apparent from the kick-off as the home side started on the front foot, attacking their opponents from the very first whistle.
United took the lead in the ninth minute via a special strike from midfielder Grace Maher. Michelle Heyman made inroads down the left flank and her cutback was half cleared into the path of the marauding Maher.
There was much still to do, but the finish was magisterial, a dipping effort that flew over Brianna Edwards in the Phoenix goal, much to the delight of the predominantly green-clad spectators.
It should have been two three minutes later but, after finding herself through in front of goal, Hughes drilled her shot off the base of Edwards’ right-hand post.
Canberra didn’t have to wait long to double the lead though with a scintillating goal on the counterattack. Maher played a pivotal role in the build-up, advancing deep into Phoenix territory before releasing Vesna Milivojevic.
Milivojevic had time to assess the options and sent a low ball across the face of goal where Michelle Heyman got a touch to steer it into the back of the net off the right-hand upright.
There were further chances before the break, Heyman putting the ball into the net again, the whistle having earlier been blown to deny the United sharpshooter, whilst Grace Jale and Nickoletta Flannery continually tested the Phoenix defence.
Phoenix came out looking for a way back into the match and almost did so six minutes after the resumption, only for Sasha Grove to make a last-gasp goal-line clearance.
And United extended their lead moments later. Edwards clearance was intercepted by Milivojevic who, clean through, unselfishly back-heeled the ball into the path of Heyman, the forward calmly slotted into the gaping net for her second of the match.
Phoenix offered little at the other end, United able to bring off goalkeeper Chloe Lincoln for Keeley Richards late on, and afford a debut to Grace Taranto after her switch to the club as the home team ran out comfortable victors.
Canberra United 3 (Maher 9’, Heyman 27’, 53’) Wellington Phoenix 0
(McKellar Park, Belconnen)
UNITED: 18. Chloe LINCOLN (1. Keeley RICHARDS 79’), 5. Emma ILIJOSKI, 6. Laura HUGHES, 8. Sasha GROVE, 10. Grace MAHER (3. Grace TARANTO 79’), 11. GRACE JALE, 15. Madison MCCOMASKY, 16. Kennedy FAULKNOR, 17. Vesna MILIVOJEVIC, 19. Nickoletta FLANNERY (12. Hayley TAYLOR-YOUNG 58’), 23. Michelle HEYMAN
SUBS NOT USED: 13. Sofia CHRISTOPHERSON, 24. Ellen GETT
YELLOW CARDS: 10. Grace MAHER 69’