13/04/2024

Michelle Heyman in action against Sydney FC in the A-League Women. Photo Credit: Poletti/The Inner Sanctum

In a rescheduled Round 17 fixture, Sydney FC made a mid-week trip to Canberra, with a chance to claim their fourth consecutive A-League Women premiership with a win.

The match came amongst ongoing concerns around the future of Canberra United, with Capital Football releasing a statement on Tuesday saying they want the side to continue existing into the 2024/25 season.

Speaking after the game, a 1-0 victory for Canberra United, their coach Njegosh Popovic said all the side can do is concentrate on the on-pitch stuff and what they can control, while Vesna Milivojević declined to comment when asked.

Sydney FC coach Ante Juric, who was born in Canberra, said it would be a disgrace if Canberra United were to be out of the league next season.

“I think they should be in the league, same as the mens, hopefully both.

“I’m confident they won’t be out of the league. I know there’s been talk. They’ve been a powerhouse for years here.

“Look at the crowds Canberra gets. Their rightful place is to be in the league. Again, I’m confident they won’t be out of the league, but you never know.

“If it is the case, then it’s a disgrace in my book.”

Cortnee Vine would come close to opening the scoring in the 13th minute, but Chloe Lincoln would force a corner with a lunging save to her left.

Vine and Lincoln would once again do battle in the 27th minute, with a clearance from a corner falling to Vine, who would shoot the ball straight at the Canberra United shot-stopper as Sydney FC searched for the opener.

Lincoln would come up strong for a third time, denying a free kick from Mackenzie Hawkesby to keep the scores level in the 41st minute.

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In the 56th minute, Michelle Heyman, who came into the game as a half-time substitute, would give the home side a 1-0 lead, sending the home crowd into applause for Canberra’s final home game of the season.

The goal, Heyman’s 16th of the season, would ensure the task of sealing the premiership would have to wait until Sunday for the Sky Blues against rivals Melbourne Victory.

It would also be Heyman’s 22nd goal involvement of the season (16 goals, six assists), which would see her overtake Sam Kerr for the most goals and assists in a single A-League Women season.

Heyman would almost score her second of the game in stoppage time, with the forward screaming in one-on-one with the keeper, but she would send her shot into the post and out for a goal-kick.

The result would also see Canberra United ensure they could not finish at the bottom of the table, creating a six point gap between themselves and Adelaide United with just one round to play.

Popovic said post-game that he did not want Sydney FC to win the premiership in Canberra.

“We don’t want anyone to come here and win a premiership at our home ground,” he said.

“The girls stepped up today and [it was] a great result. For the last two home matches, [it’s] two wins. I couldn’t be prouder of them.”

Canberra have a chance to end their season on a high as they face travel to Brisbane with potentially three straight victories to end the season on Saturday afternoon.

Sydney FC will need all three points against Melbourne Victory to ensure their shot at a fourth straight premiership is in their hands on Sunday afternoon, as Melbourne City play their game after full-time of the Sydney FC vs Melbourne Victory game.

Juric said that he will go with the strongest team possible on Sunday, as they want to win the premiership, which would mark the first time in A-Leagues history any side has won four consecutive premierships.

From a personal perspective, he said while it would nice to win, he’s not too much on personal accolades.

“It’s great for the club. To be in history with these girls, it would be justly deserved, but we’re focused more on the game.

“From that game, we get a premiership potentially, but we’re just focused on the game and putting 100 per cent in.”

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