A stoppage time goal from Ellie Brush earned Canberra United a share of the spoils in a 1-1 draw with Western Sydney Wanderers at McKellar Park.
Brush squeezed a shot on the turn into the bottom corner as the clocked ticked over ninety minutes, following a goalmouth scramble after Caitlin Munoz had hit the bar, to ensure parity following Hannah Beard’s first half goal for the visitors.
After an opening that was as bright as the fluorescent green shirts that Canberra wore it was the Wanderers that took the lead with what was their first positive foray into the opposition half. American Kendall Johnson provided the ammunition with a delightfully weighted cross that Michelle Carney flicked on for Beard to loop a precision header over Chantel Jones in the hosts’ goal and into the top corner.
Canberra attempted an immediate response. A Lori Lindsey free kick caused consternation in the Wanderers defence, but the ball was scrambled behind to safety. From the resultant corner Kendall Fletcher should have done better when sending a free header wide of the target. Shortly afterwards a Michelle Heyman snap-shot whistled narrowly over the crossbar.
It wasn’t all one-way traffic however and the Wanderers looked dangerous from set-pieces of their own. Johnson was a dynamo on the dead-ball and a couple of vicious corners almost brought a reward of a second goal. The first was palmed over the bar by Jones and the second, just past the half-hour, was met by ex-United defender Caitlin Cooper only for her downward header to be cleared off the line by Sally Rojahn.
Canberra should have been level in the 36th minute when Munoz pounced on a loose piece of possession at the back by the Wanderers defence but the midfielder went for power rather than placement, blazing her effort over the crossbar. At the other end Helen Petinos was denied by the feet of Jones after a defence splitting pass from Carney as the Wanderers led at the interval.
Needing to find a way back into the contest the home faithful were hoping for an improved performance in the second half and yet, for the first fifteen minutes, it was a strangely lacklustre and flat display from the green team with the Wanderers comfortably soaking up any threatening passages of play.
United needed a spark and Lindsey looked to provide it from a series of free-kicks with Munoz glancing a header over the bar under pressure as Canberra dominated territory and possession with the Wanderers retreating ever deeper and looking to hit on the counter-attack. Despite this Wanderers’ goalkeeper Trudy Burke was largely unoccupied, being rarely called into serious action.
Burke did need to react sharply to a low Fletcher drive with twelve minutes remaining as Canberra upped the pressure leading to a rousing finale. And the Wanderers’ ‘keeper was alert again in the 86th minute as the ball ricocheted off Fletcher’s knee and into her grateful embrace. But Burke had no chance in stoppage time as Brush reacted fastest, pouncing on a loose ball after Munoz had struck the woodwork, to gain a point.
Canberra United 1 (Ellie Brush 90’) Western Sydney Wanderers 1 (Hannah Beard 10’)
Canberra United: 1. Chantel JONES, 4. Kendall FLETCHER, 5. Grace FIELD, 6. Caitlin MUNOZ, 7. Ellie BRUSH, 11. Michelle HEYMAN, 12. Sally ROJAHN, 13. Nicole BEGG, 14. Ashleigh SYKES, 16. Lori LINDSEY, 22. Stephanie OCHS
Substitutes not used: 2. Catherine BROWN, 3. Julia DE ANGELIS, 10. Grace MAHER, 20. Melissa MAIZELS
Western Sydney Wanderers: 1. Trudy BURKE, 2. Caitlin COOPER, 3. Jessica SEAMAN, 4. Caitlin JARVIE, 5. Helen PETINOS, 6. Rachael SOUTAR, 7. Kendall JOHNSON, 9. Keelin WINTERS, 10. Michelle CARNEY, 12. Hannah BEARD, 16. Linda O’NEILL
Substitutes not used: 8. Grace HENRY, 11. Lorena BUGDEN, 14. Demi KOULIZAKIS, 22. Sham KHAMIS
Discipline: YELLOW CARDS: 6. Rachael SOUTAR, 10. Michelle CARNEY, 12. Hannah BEARD (Western Sydney Wanderers)
Referee: Lara SMITH