Canberra United has booked its place in the Westfield W-League Grand Final, defeating Melbourne Victory 5-4 in a dramatic penalty shootout at Simonds Stadium on Saturday afternoon.
Former Victory player Kendall Fletcher converted the winning penalty after a scoreless 120 minutes, ensuring a grand final showdown against the winner of Perth Glory-Sydney, which will take place on Sunday.
Canberra ‘keeper Chantel Jones stood tall to save Gulcan Koca’s penalty, allowing Fletcher to step up for the winning penalty.
It was the visitors who dominated the majority of the game, striking the woodwork twice and coming agonisingly close to opening the scoring within the opening five minutes.
Breaching Victory’s back four, Michelle Heyman’s squared delivery travelled centimeters wide of Ashleigh Sykes’ outstretched boot at the back post.
Heyman then came close to breaking the deadlock 10 minutes later, looping her header over Bri Davey’s crossbar.
Sykes and Heyman then combined once again in the best opportunity of the first half, with the former striking the woodwork following a sensational run through midfield.
Melbourne had an opportunity to break the deadlock against the run of play via Lisa De Vanna.
Christine Nairn played De Vanna through on goal, but was foiled by Jones who was fast off her line to deny the forward a shot on goal.
Following the break, Heyman squandered another great opportunity, nodding her effort from point-blank range over the bar, while moments later Victory captain Steph Catley diverted her unmarked header over the woodwork.
Davey came to her side’s rescue on ample occasions throughout the second interval, which included a sensational double save to deny Sykes and Lori Lindsey with only eight minutes to spare.
The woodwork proved to be Melbourne’s saving grace once again in the dying minutes of regulation time, as Heyman directed Sykes’ driving cross onto the base of the upright.
The Matilda then butchered a sublime opportunity to win the game for her side with the last kick of regulation time, with her tame strike falling comfortably into Davey’s clutches in a one-on-one opportunity.
Davey continued her excellent form between the posts, nullifying Canberra’s advances on a number of moments throughout extra time, while Lauren Barnes provided a sensational last-ditch tackle to prevent Heyman through with a one-on-one with Davey.
A clash with Heyman in the final minute of extra time left Davey nursing what appeared a serious wrist injury, with play stopped for two minutes as she received treatment.
Sore but not broken, Davey took her position between the posts in Victory’s second semi-final penalty shootout in three years, but this one would end in stark contrast to that of the 2012/2013 semi-final against Perth Glory.
Canberra converted all of its penalties – Fletcher slotted the winner immediately after Gulcan Koca’s saved attempt – to spark wild celebrations among the visitors and prevent Victory advancing to a third successive grand final.
FULL TIME: Melbourne Victory 0 defeated by Canberra United 0 (Canberra United wins 5-4 on penalties) at Simonds Stadium [HT: 0-0]
Melbourne Victory 1st penalty: Lauren Barnes – GOAL
Melbourne Victory 2nd penalty: Steph Catley – GOAL
Melbourne Victory 3rd penalty: Elli Reed – GOAL
Melbourne Victory 4th penalty: Christine Nairn – GOAL
Melbourne Victory 5th penalty: Gulcan Koca – SAVED
Canberra United 1st penalty: Grace Gill – GOAL
Canberra United 2nd penalty: Lori Lindsey – GOAL
Canberra United 3rd penalty: Stephanie Ochs – GOAL
Canberra United 4th penalty: Caitlin Munoz – GOAL
Canberra United 5th penalty: Kendall Fletcher – GOAL
Melbourne Victory: 1. Brianna DAVEY (GK), 2. Hannah BREWER, 5. Lauren BARNES, 7. Stephanie CATLEY (C), 8. Amy JACKSON, 9. Racheal QUIGLEY (17. Gulcan KOCA 111’), 10. Christine NAIRN, 11. Lisa DE VANNA, 12. Ella MASTRANTONIO, 16. Beatrice GOAD (15. Emma CHECKER 91’), 18. Elli REED.
Unused substitutes: 20. Cassandra DIMOVSKI, 4. Alexandra NATOLI, 14. Tiffany ELIADIS.
Yellow cards: None
Red cards: None
Canberra United: 1. Chantel JONES (GK), 2. Catherine BROWN, 4. Kendall FLETCHER, 6. Caitlin MUNOZ, 7. Ellie BRUSH, 11. Michelle HEYMAN, 12. Sally ROJAHN, 13. Nicole BEGG (C), 14. Ashleigh SYKES (9. Grace GILL, 120’), 16. Lori LINDSEY, 22. Stephanie OCHS.
Unused substitutes: 20. Melissa MAIZLES (GK), 3. Julia DE ANGELIS, 5. Grace FIELD, 15. Tegan RIDING.
Yellow cards: Heyman 58′, Rojahn 61′, Brown 81′, Lindsey 110′
Red cards: None