Not so sweet sixteen as United falls
Melbourne Victory 3 Canberra United 0
Caitlin Cooper heads the ball. Photo: Getty Images
CANBERRA UNITED'S undefeated streak was brought to an emphatic end on Saturday with a 3-0 defeat at the hands of Melbourne Victory.
Playing with an inexperienced side after six players were ruled out through injury, school, national duties and suspension, coach Jitka Klimkova said the result was not a fair reflection of her young team's performance against a side with two international midfielders.
''Honestly, the performance was much better than the result,'' Klimkova said.
''I am pretty happy with how we played.
''Of course the result isn't the best, but even if we had a really young team on the field, I am pretty proud of the way we performed.
''Melbourne's team is a really strong team, they have a few internationals, they played really great attacking football and all the players who are on the field are dangerous.
''The quality of this game I would say is the best I've seen so far this season.''
Without strikers Michelle Heyman, Ashleigh Sykes and Hayley Raso, nor midfield general Sally Shipard, goalkeeper Mackenzie Arnold or captain Ellie Brush in defence, United was always facing a steep uphill battle in a season it had already characterised as a mountain climb.
But Klimkova, who had not lost in her 16-match Australian coaching career before, did not see the result as a real setback.
''We knew sometimes we go up, sometimes we go flat, sometimes we will go down, but this is just down with our result. We didn't go down with our performance … if we would lose and play really bad, I would be disappointed, but I am not disappointed,'' Klimkova said.
''I think of course we can do better, of course we can be much more dangerous in the final third, the thing we will keep working on. But we played better football than last week, for example.''
Welsh captain Jessica Fishlock, who was wearing the armband for Melbourne, showed why she is the reigning FA Women's Super League Player of the Season when she recovered from a dubious tackle by first-gamer Sally Rojahn, then dribbled around goalkeeper Trudy Burke to slot home the Victory's first goal in the 28th minute.
Jessica McDonald added to Melbourne's lead when she found herself with a loose ball in front of goal in the final minute of the opening half.
United put on its best attacking spell after the break, but opportunities for the United midfielders on striker duties, Grace Gill and Caitlin Munoz, went begging.
There was some brilliant work in goal at both ends, with both teams' starting keepers on Matildas duties, the back-up goalies showed what they are capable of, Cassandra Dimovski pushing a Munoz shot wide, before a diving Burke saved a stinging strike from Fishlock.
It was defensive error in the 80th minute that allowed Melbourne to put the nail in United's unbeaten streak, when Enza Barilla pounced on a loose ball from a corner to score Victory's third.
AT A GLANCE
MELBOURNE VICTORY 3 (Jessica Fishlock 28m, Jessica McDonald 45m, Enza Barilla 80m) bt CANBERRA UNITED 0 at Wembley Park, Box Hill. Crowd: 575. Referee: Casey Reibelt.