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W-League Wonders

by Teo Pellizzeri on Jan 24, 2012

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As a football spectacle the rewards were there for fans that chose to watch W-League at the weekend. Canberra United's unbeaten season moved to within a game of realising their destiny, unaffected by a potentially decisive chapter of the Ellyse Perry soap opera, while Brisbane Roar replicated the last-second heroics of their A-League club-mates to steal a grand final berth of their own.

This year's final is a re-match of season one (2008-09), where the then-Queensland Roar beat Canberra United to win the inaugural premiership. It's Canberra's second trip to the decider, while Brisbane has made every W-League grand final since the competition's inception.

Before looking at the grand final match-up, a quick word for each of the eliminated teams. Melbourne Victory's 1-0 loss to Canberra (Heyman, 83rd min) summed up their season - missed opportunities. Victory captain Jodie Taylor had two one-on-one chances in the first half and shot both wide of the target.

Taylor's value to Victory is beyond reproach, the team would not have made it as far as it did without her or her eight goals. But some of the opportunities squandered during the season ended up costing Victory a home final, and at the weekend, a first ever trip to the grand final.

Sydney FC imploded in stoppage time to throw away a grand final berth (1-1, 3-4 on pens). Conceding the equaliser in the 95th minute, reigning league medalist Kyah Simon red carded a minute later, then coach Alen Stajcic sent to the stands for overstepping the mark as he berated the player Simon fouled to get her second yellow, Brisbane's Vedrana Popovic.

And yet in 30 minutes of extra time, down a player, Sydney's Caitlin Foord still had miss-of-the-season from inside the six-yard box to let Brisbane off the hook. The reigning premier had been out of sorts all season, winning just five of 10 home and away games, but they came good at finals time and do have every right to feel aggrieved at the manner of their exit. Simon tweeted after the match her team was "cheated", but the refereeing in this competition is what it is.

Canberra United v Brisbane Roar - 3pm Saturday, McKellar Park, Canberra

Past meeting:

Just the one head-to-head to date this season which ended in a 2-2 draw in Brisbane. The Roar led on seven minutes through Jo Burgess only for a Sally Shipard penalty to equalise two minutes later. Michelle Heyman gave Canberra a 78th minute lead before an errant back-header from Ellie Brush wrong-footed Lydia Williams and bounced in for an 88th minute own goal.

These two met in a semi-final last year, with the 90 minute score 1-1 and 120 minute score 2-2. Brisbane won 4-2 on penalty kicks with goalkeeper Casey Dumont integral.

The Roar won the 2008-09 grand final 2-0 and both players that scored that day - Lana Harch and Tameka Butt, will be starting XI this weekend.

Canberra advantage - speed and fitness:

Canberra ran Melbourne into the ground in the semi-final, albeit without creating the clear-cut chances necessary to score before the 83rd minute. Michelle Heyman keeps appearing as the name on the scoresheet, but the ability to repeat-sprint of Taryn Hemmings (right wing-back), Ashleigh Sykes (left wing), Hayley Raso (right wing), Nicole Sykes (left full-back) and Sally Shipard (centre midfield) means Canberra can last the full 120 if scores are level after 90 minutes. Emma Kete coming off the bench is a luxury and will be an invaluable sub if Canberra is chasing a goal.

Brisbane advantage - The ultimate super-sub:


Brisbane's 95th minute equaliser in the semi-final was the fifth game of 11 this season where they have scored in the 88th minute or later. Emily Gielnik, zero goals as a starter but eight off the bench, continues to pop up and score from situations that opposition defences just cannot deal with. Expect goalless striker Catherine Cannulli to start, and Gielnik to come on at some stage in the second half. Gielnik has scored her eight goals across seven different games, there has been no bullying of poorer teams here to boost her goal count.

What should happen -
the goalkeepers play well:

Lydia Williams hasn't conceded this calendar year, while Casey Dumont continued her winning streak in penalty shoot-outs with the decisive save against Sydney in the semi-final. While casual fans of the W-League often bemoan the lack of goalkeeping quality, and yes some of the howlers this season have been up there with the worst you'll see, this column will stake it's reputation on the grand final NOT being decided by a goalkeeping error. Williams is the national number-one, Dumont is, arguably, the national number two. We should expect some top-drawer saves, and confidence defending high balls and crosses.

What shouldn't happen - Ellyse Perry plays:

After choosing to represent the Australian cricket team in a T20 against New Zealand last weekend, Canberra coach Jitka Klimkova called for Perry to decide on which sport she wanted to prioritise. But the public statements are diplomacy. The smart money is on Perry having played her final game for Canberra United, almost certainly if Klimkova is still coach next season.

Prediction:

Brisbane on penalties after a 1-1 draw. Back-to-back premierships and three W-League titles in four seasons for the Roar.