A stoppage time winner from former Canberra United player Emma Kete has earned Sydney FC a 4-3 win at Leichhardt Oval and left the champions looking up at a glut of clubs above them on the ladder and facing the possibility of losing touch with the top four. Kete struck with virtually the last kick of the match, turning in Kyah Simon’s square pass after the Sydney FC striker, who had scored twice herself, had exposed United’s defensive frailties.
The injury-time winner denied United’s new signing Nikki Washington of a dream debut as her introduction off the bench had earlier provided a lucky goal from wide out to bring the visitors level at 3-3. However, it wasn’t to be for Canberra who must regroup ahead of a potentially season defining match against Perth Glory on Wednesday evening.
A thrilling first half had everything that the watching crowd could have wanted with end-to-end action, plenty of chances and goals. United looked a little jet-lagged in the opening twenty minutes as they struggled to come to terms with the heat and humidity coming off the back of a week in far more wintry conditions in Japan. And the Sky Blues were in mood to be charitable, tearing into the champions from the get-go.
It took the home team only five minutes to make the breakthrough with a goal of sheer simplicity. Renee Rollason made it, sending a raking pass from distance arcing over the Canberra defence and freeing Simon. The Matildas international held off the challenge of Ellie Brush and nonchalantly slipped the ball past the advancing Mackenzie Arnold and into the far corner of the net.
Canberra’s response was driven by Caitlin Munoz in the centre of the park with the experienced United player going close with a brace of free-kicks in quick succession and chancing her luck from range in the 14th minute but seeing the shot always rising over the crossbar. United was up against it moments later as Sydney doubled their lead. A sloppy clearance from a weak Ellyse Perry corner was switched to the right flank from where Nicola Bolger swept over a delicious cross that was met by a stunning glancing header from Sam Kerr that gave Arnold no chance as the ball nestled into the far corner.
Canberra are made of stern stuff though and Caitlin Cooper tested the reactions of Sian McLaren with a firm header from close range before Jennifer Bisset intercepted a wayward clearance but fired wastefully straight at the Sydney custodian. A goal appeared to be coming though and it duly arrived in the 33rd minute. Michelle Heyman found space on the right wing, crossed behind the retreating defence and found Georgia Yeoman-Dale who controlled well and thumped a half-volley into the net for her first Canberra United goal.
Having got back into the contest United gave the Sky Blues a gilt-edged chance to restore their two goal lead within seconds of the restart. Catherine Brown bundled over Simon who was attempting to meet a Lillie Billson cross and referee Kate Jaciewicz awarded a penalty. The ball moved slightly off the spot as Simon went to strike it and Arnold guessed correctly plunging ton her left to make a super save and keep her team in the match. Heyman later hit the bar with a thunderbolt strike as the half ended 2-1 to Sydney.
Hayley Raso had a great chance to level the scores a minute into the second half but, having gotten away from her marker, sent her effort straight at McLaren who gratefully palmed it over the crossbar. Raso was having more of an influence with her pace and penetration in the second stanza and it was no surprise that she was at the heart of Canberra’s equaliser in the 58th minute.
Yeoman-Dale was the creative force, riding a challenge and showing strength to step away from a tackle before sliding a delightful reverse pass in behind the Sky Blues defence. Raso read the move perfectly and bravely slid in with McLaren, getting there ahead of the Sydney goalkeeper, and toe poking into the net to level the scores.
United was their own worst enemy though and gifted Sydney the chance to re-take the lead thirteen minutes from time. Arnold had a brain-snap charging from her goal and up-ending Simon when there appeared to be little danger and the hot-shot forward dusted herself down to crash her penalty into the roof of the net.
Canberra responded again though as substitute Washington made a dream start to life in green. The American import, who only arrived in the country on Thursday, had been on the field for twenty minutes when she fortuitously levelled the scores. Collecting the ball out wide the winger looked up and attempted to send a cross towards Heyman at the back post. Fortunately for Canberra the flight of the ball deceived McLaren and dropped into the net.
A draw would probably have been a fair reflection on the contest but Sydney had other ideas and Kete tuck the knife into her former team mates with her late, late match-winner to send the Sky Blues into ecstasy and top of the Westfield W-League.
Sydney FC 4 (Kyah Simon 5’, 77’ (pen), Sam Kerr 18’, Emma Kete 94’) Canberra United 3 (Georgia Yeoman-Dale 33’, Hayley Raso 58’, Nikki Washington 83’)
(Leichhardt Oval, Sydney)
Sydney FC: 1. Sian McLaren, 2. Teresa Polias, 3. Elizabeth Ralston, 4. Sam Kerr (9. Caitlin Foord 46’), 7. Nicola Bolger (12. Chloe Logarzo 79’), 10. Renee Rollason, 13, Larissa Crummer, 15. Alanna Kennedy, 16. Ellyse Perry, 17. Kyah Simon, 22. Lillie Billson (19. Emma Kete 64’)