Canberra United took another major step towards finals football by defeating Melbourne Victory 3-0 at McKellar Park on a sweltering afternoon in the Capital.
A much improved second half display was capped by goals from Jenna McCormick, Ashleigh Sykes and Michelle Heyman as United eased to a fifth straight win.
Former Canberra winger Hayley Raso fired the first shot of note but her skidding effort from 25 metres was easily gathered down low by Lydia Williams in the United goal. At the other end the hosts threatened down both flanks as Sykes and Rebecca Kiting found ample room out wide to run at the Victory defence, but too often the final pass lacked the precision required to break down the Melbourne back-four.
Heyman then tested Melissa Barbieri with a rising shot after being fed by Veronica Perez but the experienced Victory stopper made easy work of the strike, comfortably gathering to her right.
Canberra continued to dominate possession, stringing together a number of passes but some excellent destructive midfield work from the visitors, in particular Melissa Taranto, was stultifying any potential Canberra threat. It took a moment of inspiration from Sykes to break down the Victory wall but, when the in-form forward did beat Barbieri with a curling effort, the ball cannoned back off the post.
With the match score-less at the interval there was everything to play for in the second half and it was Canberra that made an explosive start. Just over two minutes of the restart had elapsed when McCormick and Heyman played a one-two on the edge of the Victory box, carving open the once impenetrable defence, and allowing McCormick to sweep a confident finish past Barbieri.
Moments later a fizzer from Caitlin Munoz grazed the outside of the post with Barbieri stranded. But it was a short-lived let off for Melbourne who conceded again in the 56th minute. And what a goal it was. Sykes collected the ball with her back to goal and manoeuvred some space with a sharp turn before belting an unstoppable finish into the roof of the net.
Christine Nairn almost pulled one back for Victory with a brilliant free-kick that Williams tipped over the bar but the visiting threat was increasingly sporadic. And United showed them how it was done with a third in the 81st minute. Kendall Fletcher picked the run of Heyman with a wonderful pass and the striker finished at the second time of asking.
Canberra United 3 (Jenna McCormick 47’, Ashleigh Sykes 56’, Michelle Heyman 81’) Melbourne Victory 0