Sport

W-League: Disallowed goal denies Canberra United an eighth straight win before finals

A controversial disallowed goal denied Canberra United an eighth straight victory, but the reigning W-League champions are adamant it won't affect their title defence.

Canberra put the finishing touches on their finals preparations with a scrappy 1-1 draw against Adelaide United at the Adelaide Shores Football Centre on Friday night.

Grace Abbey of Adelaide competes with Canberra United's Tegan Riding for the ball.
Grace Abbey of Adelaide competes with Canberra United's Tegan Riding for the ball. Photo: Morne de Klerk

Mexican international Veronica Perez scored from the penalty spot to put the visitors ahead in the 22nd minute before Abby Dahlkemper squared the ledger just before halftime.

Red-hot striker Ashleigh Sykes appeared to put Canberra back in front in the 63rd minute with a clinical finish off a clever set piece.

Canberra United striker Michelle Heyman runs with the ball over Adelaide's Grace Abbey.
Canberra United striker Michelle Heyman runs with the ball over Adelaide's Grace Abbey. Photo: Morne de Klerk

However, Canberra was judged to have taken the penalty too quickly to the relief of an Adelaide team desperately trying to keep its finals hopes alive.

The result didn't have any impact on Canberra's second position on the ladder and their home semi-final against Sydney FC at McKellar Park on Sunday, January 24.

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While Canberra's run of five straight clean sheets came to an end, they were able to extend their unbeaten streak to nine games.

"We certainly didn't play our best football, that was certainly on show for everyone there, but I think the conditions were pretty horrible as well," Canberra coach Rae Dower said.

Canberra United defender Rebecca Kiting passes the ball past Rosie Sutton of Adelaide.
Canberra United defender Rebecca Kiting passes the ball past Rosie Sutton of Adelaide. Photo: Morne de Klerk

"There was an absolute howling wind that was really difficult to deal with and the synthetic pitch at Adelaide Shores was horrible.

"Both teams really struggled to get the ball on the ground and play football.

"All things considered it was a good result in the end to keep our unbeaten run going."

Sykes put in another strong display to keep herself at the forefront of Matildas selection, earning her side the penalty while constantly troubling the Adelaide defence.

Canberra United midfielder Veronica Perez celebrates after scoring from the penalty spot during Friday night's 1-1 draw ...
Canberra United midfielder Veronica Perez celebrates after scoring from the penalty spot during Friday night's 1-1 draw with Adelaide United. Photo: Morne de Klerk

"She was absolutely on fire last night and created a number of opportunities apart from the goal," Dower said.

"A bit of familiar pattern for Ash, she's in such good form at the moment.

"She's learning with trying to stay out of some of those style of challenges because they happen so frequently you don't want her to risk getting injured."

Dower resisted the temptation to rest players before the finals.

Tegan Riding made her first starting appearance in the W-League for Emma Kete, who was on international duty with New Zealand.

Exciting 16-year-old Nickoletta Flannery was injected into the game for the final half an hour.

"We wanted to keep the momentum building for next week," Dower said.

"Our sights are firmly set on next Sunday.

"It was an opportunity to have another game together for those players to build combinations and cohesion."

Adelaide needed all three points to give itself a chance of scraping into the finals.

Brisbane Roar only require a draw to remain in fourth spot, while Newcastle Jets must win their clash on Sunday for the right to face premiers Melbourne City in the other semi-final.

W-League: Canberra United 1 (Veronica Perez 22' (pen)) drew Adelaide United 1 (Abby Dahlkemper 43') at the Adelaide Shores Football Centre on Friday night.