A brilliant solo strike by new signing Nikki Washington has given Canberra United a crucial 2-1 victory over league leaders Perth Glory at Deakin Stadium. Washington struck with a super effort in the 53rd minute to net her second goal in two games and put Canberra right back into the title race and set them up nicely for the weekend match with Newcastle Jets.
The match started at a terrific pace and barely let up for the opening forty-five minutes as both teams launched onto the offensive on a warm, but blustery, evening in Canberra. United, having lost their previous two matches in the competition, were determined to get their title challenge back on track against the league leaders and made in-roads as early as the fourth minute.
Hayley Raso showed a terrific turn of pace to get away from her marker and as she burst into the penalty area she was upended and referee Peta McCallum had no hesitation in pointing to the penalty spot. Caitlin Munoz assumed the responsibility and coolly sent Glory ‘keeper Carly Telford the wrong way to open the scoring.
The Canberra lead didn’t last long though as Perth hit back within five minutes. A free-kick was sent deep into the penalty area and headed back across goal by Katie Gill where Rosie Sutton, like all good strikers, had anticipated the bounce to dive and head firmly into the net for her fourth goal of the season.
It was real end-to-end stuff and new Canberra signing Washington showcased her trickery with a scintillating run down the right flank, culminating in a cut-back and curling cross that just eluded the diving Munoz on the far post. Perth responded with Collette McCallum rattling the crossbar with a howitzer of a shot from distance whilst Munoz tested Telford down low in reply for the green team.
It looked like goals could come at either end and Perth Glory centre back Sasha Andrews may have done better than blaze over the bar from the edge of the area after United struggled to deal with the visitor’s set-piece. As it was, neither side could add to their early goals and the teams entered the changing rooms evenly poised at 1-1.
It didn’t take Canberra long to seize the initiative though as, just as they had done in the opening half, they struck early. Washington intercepted a loose pass in midfield and put her head down advancing on the Perth goal. A drop of the shoulder opened up the requisite space and the finish was unerring, a low rifled shot beyond the dive of Telford and into the bottom corner of the net to send the majority of the 623 crowd delirious.
Perth though are flying on a wave of confidence right now and have an in-form striker in the Westfield W-League leading scorer Katie Gill. Her aerial presence proved a nuisance throughout and she tested Arnold a minute after the goal with a firm header from close range. Washington then almost repeated her feat of the Sydney FC match when her lobbed cross was pushed over the bar by a furiously back-pedalling Telford.
Whilst the tempo lulled the action certainly didn’t and Lisa De Vanna, who had up until this point been fairly quiet, suddenly exploded into action skipping past three challenges and shooting at goal but straight at a relived Arnold. Perth thought they had levelled six minutes from time when McCallum curled a wonderful free-kick over the Canberra wall and into the top corner but Glory celebrations were curtailed with the realisation that the free-kick was indirect and thus the goal was correctly chalked off.
With that moment went Perth’s last chance and Canberra emerged victorious to move within a point of the top four.
Canberra United 2 (Caitlin Munoz 5’ (pen), Nikki Washington 53’)
Perth Glory 1 (Rosie Sutton 9’)