W-League finals are go

by Teo Pellizzeri on Jan 18, 2012

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How do you compete with destiny? After completing an unbeaten home-and-away season in the W-League there’s a very real feeling that this is Canberra United’s year.

The perennial W-League finalist played in the first grand final three years ago but has failed to win a final since.

With home ground advantage in finals for the first time and a team with international quality on every line it is difficult to find reasons why Canberra won’t complete an unbeaten season and win the premiership.

But standing between Canberra and its destiny are the three teams to have held it to a draw this season, setting up a compelling semi-final round.

Canberra United vs Melbourne - Saturday 3:00PM McKellar Park, Canberra
Past meetings:
Canberra won 2-1 at McKellar Park on November 5 and drew 1-1 at the Veneto Club on December 30.
Melbourne left the first meeting feeling hard-done-by after Steph Catley missed two point-blank chances to score when the game was still 0-0. Canberra’s Taryn Hemmings had a one-on-one saved in stoppage time of the re-match in Melbourne, after Jodie Taylor and Kendall Fletcher both missed one-on-ones when Victory led the match 1-0.

Canberra advantage:
Where Victory’s forward line is built around feeding eight-goal forward Jodie Taylor, Canberra has a range of attacking weapons to pull defenders away from its 12-goal league leading forward Michelle Heyman.

Hemmings, Ashleigh Sykes and recently acquired Kiwi international Emma Kete will all trouble the Victory defenders, making extra defensive commitment to guarding Heyman almost impossible.

Victory advantage:
Victory’s midfielders Kendall Fletcher and Louisa Bisby found ways to nullify the box-to-box productivity of Sally Shipard by forcing the Canberra midfielder deep to collect the ball in December’s 1-1 draw. That day Victory playmaker Katrina Gorry was suspended though, which leaves Victory coach Vicky Linton a selection head-ache to select a midfield mix that can limit Shipard and still allow Gorry to play in the starting XI.

What should happen:
Victory gets the chances within the 90 to win it.
Canberra’s defensive pairing of Ellie Brush and Caitlin Cooper may get plaudits from the W-League watchers, but their protection of Matildas number-one Lydia Williams has not been impeccable. Canberra has conceded against every team except Sydney FC this season and used its attacking firepower to overcome conceding in six of its 10 home-and-away games.

What shouldn’t happen:
The game gets to penalties.

Melbourne had the home ground advantage on December 30 of playing on the Veneto Club’s synthetic pitch, yet was still overrun by a fitter Canberra team. Back on grass, it’s difficult to see Melbourne holding on if the game does go into extra time.

Prediction: 1-1 full time, Canberra 3-1 after extra time.

Brisbane Roar v Sydney FC - Sunday 2:00PM QSAC, Brisbane
Past meetings:
Sydney and Brisbane drew 1-1 in a lacklustre season opener on November 22, the latter arguably the better side after Renee Rollason’s hail-mary caught Casey Dumont out of position in goals to put Sydney 1-0 up.

A Teresa Polias own goal separated the teams in a cagey final round of the home-and-away season, with both sides seemingly reserved in anticipation of squaring off again the next weekend.

Brisbane advantage:
Clare Polkinghorne and Brooke Spence have the counter-attacking capabilities to create for a Roar forward line that has not found a natural successor to last year’s title-winning forward Lisa De Vanna.
The big question for the Roar is if super-sub Emily Gielnik (seven goals) is kept on the bench like last week’s meeting, or if she starts ahead of Catherine Cannulli who has yet to score this season.

Sydney advantage:

Kylie Ledbrook, Teresa Polias and Servet Uzunlar should, having had 90 minutes of preparation at the weekend, be able to find ways to overpower Vedrana Popovic and Aivi Luik in the middle of the park, while countering the attacking threat of Tameka Butt.

What should happen:
Brisbane gets better the longer the game goes.
14 of Brisbane’s 20 goals have been scored in the second half this season, but significantly four of those goals have been in the dying stages. In four of 10 games during the home-and-away season, Brisbane scored in the 88th minute or later. Be it chasing an equaliser, trying to find a winner, or looking to seal a game, there is no team in the league better than the Roar.

What shouldn’t happen:
A goal-fest.

While last season started with a 4-2 Brisbane win, every match since has been a far tighter affair with just seven goals scored in the four matches since. Every defender that went to last year’s Women’s World Cup with the Matildas bar one, Ellyse Perry, is fit and available to participate in this match. Expect accountability.

Prediction: Brisbane 2-0, the second in stoppage time.