It's that touch of class, that "cutting edge" that Michelle Heyman brings to Canberra United, and it was just what they lacked as their W-League dream came to an end.
Canberra's hopes of a drought-breaking championship have been dashed in a 3-0 defeat at the hands of Sydney FC in a semi-final at Kogarah Oval on Monday.
Sydney have earned hosting rights for Sunday's grand final against the Melbourne Victory, who powered into the decider with a 6-2 semi-final win over the Brisbane Roar.
Canberra's hopes were dealt a major blow hours before the opening whistle when Heyman was ruled out with a quadriceps injury suffered at training in the days prior.
Heyman had scored 10 of Canberra's 21 goals all season and her absence only served to make an already tough task seem close to insurmountable.
"She obviously gives us a bit of a cutting edge, and maybe that was what we lacked," United coach Vicki Linton said.
"In general play, the group we had on at the start of the game did a great job, and so did the players who came on. In general play it didn't hurt us too much, but maybe in the cutting edge."
The clash marked Canberra's first finals appearance in four years. That on the surface makes Linton's first year at the helm a success for a club looking to re-establish itself as a powerhouse.
Yet it does little but mask the pain of a semi-final exit, with United left to rue what might have been as they watch Sunday's decider from afar.
It was clear it would take something special to drag Canberra back from the brink when Mackenzie Hawkesby struck inside the 15-minute mark to put the premiers ahead.
Sydney doubled their advantage when Clare Wheeler's volley ricocheted into the back of the net off Canberra defender Lauren Keir. Within minutes a phenomenal strike from Ally Green put the contest beyond doubt.
"The emotions are pretty raw just at the minute," Linton said.
"The overriding emotion for me is just pride in this team. I'm really proud of the girls and the season we've had. Even in this game, I don't think the scoreline reflected how good we were.
"For a lot of the time we dominated the possession and the play, we just lacked the cutting edge. They took their moments and that's football.
"Regardless of the result, I think it has been a successful season as a club, as a team, and for some of the players in this team. Wherever they're at in their journey, some players are in their first season, some are coming back to the club.
"The return of players like Michelle Heyman and even Kendall Fletcher, who is basically coming off an ACL injury. So many players had their debut. There are so many positives and so many success stories out of this season."
AT A GLANCE
W-League semi-finals: SYDNEY FC 3 (Mackenzie Hawkesby '15, Clare Wheeler '64, Ally Green '73) bt CANBERRA UNITED 0 at Kogarah Oval; MELBOURNE VICTORY 6 bt BRISBANE ROAR 2 at Lions Stadium.
Grand final: Sunday - Sydney FC v Melbourne Victory at Kogarah Oval, 4pm. Broadcast: Live on Foxtel and ABC.
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