Sydney FC primed for monumental Canberra test

Sydney FC will head down south to face Canberra United on Wednesday afternoon (4pm), where a win would see them secure a record-breaking fourth-consecutive Premiership Plate. 

Currently, the Sky Blue women sit on 39 points, one point ahead of their challengers, Melbourne City, on the Liberty A-League ladder. 

However, as City have played an extra game, a Sydney FC win would see Ante Juric’s side obtain a sixth Premiership Plate.

The Sky Blues will also want to extend their winning streak to five matches, making it the first time the side has done so since January 2023.

This match is a replay of the previous abandoned fixture between the two teams in February, where bad weather and poor lighting saw the game stopped in the 37th minute.

Scoreboard for the abandoned fixture

The fixture provides a three-day turnaround for both teams, as the pair came off victorious in their Sunday afternoon outings.  

Sydney FC secured their 16th consecutive finals berth after defeating Adelaide United 3-0 at Leichhardt Oval.

Ante Juric said that “it wasn’t the Sky Blues greatest performance”, but they got the job done, thanks to goals from Caley Tallon-Henniker, Mackenzie Hawkesby and Cortnee Vine.

The match saw Adelaide dominate play, but the Sky Blues were able to capitalise on the Reds’ sloppy and predictable tactics.

With Sydney FC walking away with the three points, it meant that a win against Canberra would obtain them the Premiership.

But if they draw or lose, they would have to return to Leichhardt Oval and draw or defeat Melbourne Victory on Sunday to secure it instead.  

Caley Tallon-Henniker before scoring on Sunday

Canberra United won their first match in five games on Sunday when they defeated the Wellington Phoenix 1-0, thanks to a goal from Golden Boot leader, Michelle Heyman.

Canberra is currently fighting Adelaide United in the Wooden Spoon race, where they sit three points in front of the Reds, and a win would see them avoid finishing last.

However, March has been a month to forget for the Canberran side, as they have conceded 13 goals in five games. 

Yet, United have been deadly at McKellar Park this season, having not lost since January and beating Premiership challengers, Melbourne City 3-1 last month.

Canberra also sits second in goals scored, with 36, and they have slotted 21 in the Capital.

Sydney FC have not defeated United since 2020 in Canberra.

But, on the 2023/2024 ladder, Sydney FC have double the points the Canberran side have and eight more clean sheets.

One’s To Watch: 

The matchup to look out for will be between Sydney FC’s defence and how they deal with the attacking duo of Nickoletta Flannery and Matildas star Michelle Heyman. 

Together, they have contributed to 33 of Canberra’s 36 goals this season.

Michelle Heyman after scoring on Sunday

The Sky Blues’ defence proved rigid against Adelaide’s last match, a hallmark of the backline all season. 

Led by Matilda Jada Whyman, the keeper has only let in 15 goals, eight less than the next-best defensive side, Central Coast Mariners.

Sydney FC Defence:

The Sydney FC defence has changed over the past fortnight after the club confirmed that fullback Kirsty Fenton would sit on the sidelines for a considerable period after rupturing her ACL. 

Abbey Lemon came in to replace her, joining Tori Tumeth, American Jordan Thompson, and three-time premiership winners Charlotte McLean and Whyman.

Each player has shown off their strengths this season, with McLean recording 3.4 clearances on average, the most out of all the defenders.

Her centre-back partner, Thompson, makes 29.1 passes, Lemon makes 2.7 tackles, whilst the left-back Tumeth makes 60.8 touches and 6.1 balls recovered per game.

Mackenzie Hawkesby explained that “we have some heads that have won the Premiership, so we know what to do”, and McLean and Whyman have reached this stage in previous seasons.

Sydney FC’s goalkeeper has also had a great couple of weeks, making impressive saves, most notably against Adelaide last week when she tipped the ball over the bar from a fiery Sarah Morgan shot.  

Jada Whyman against Canberra United in January

All five players have demonstrated their strengths this season, and they’ll need to do it again to secure the Premier’s Plate.

Nickoletta Flannery and Michelle Heyman 

Flannery’s slick cross into Heyman ended up being the match-winner for Canberra on Sunday, and it’s been a familiar scene for United fans.

In every game since early November, either Flannery or Heyman contributed a goal if Canberra scored that day.

Heyman is known for her height and slick finishing skills, making her a danger in the box with both her head and feet. 

But Flannery’s crosses expose gaps in teams’ defences to which forwards capitalise on.

In fact, during the last outing with Canberra, Flannery and Heyman linked up, as they’ve done all season, and Heyman slotted the equalising goal.

2023/2024 Compare the Pair:

4-6-10CAN – RECORD – SYD3-6-11
3-2-5H2H – LAST 10 GAMES5-2-3
6-3-3H2H IN CANBERRA3-3-6
11.5SHOTS PG17
5.5SAVES PG2.8
6.9FOULS PG9.9

Team News: 

Sydney FC is to expect a similar line-up that played against Adelaide. Kirsty Fenton, Nat Tobin, Lucy Johnson and Fiona Worts will all be out due to injuries they have sustained throughout the season.

For Canberra, Maria Rojas, Hayley Taylor-Young and Maia Cameron are expected to be unavailable as they also suffer from injuries.

Last Time Out:

In February, Canberra and Sydney FC only played for 37 minutes in a disjointed fixture at McKellar Park. Drizzly weather and poor lighting abandoned the match after an initial 45-minute stoppage 13 minutes in.

Cortnee Vine against Canberra last time out

But the last time these two teams played a full 90 minutes was when the Sky Blues took on United at Leichhardt Oval in January. After a fiery opening 20 minutes by the Sky Blues, Aideen Keane slotted the ball in the back of the net after Hawkesby danced around the left side of the Canberra defence. 

However, ten minutes later, United wrestled back an equaliser when Heyman found the end of a Flannery cross. The second half remained stagnant, seeing the game finish 1-1. 

Since then, the Sky Blues have only lost once in their past eleven fixtures.

What They Said:

Mackenzie Hawkesby: 

“It’s another game, and we have to focus on getting the three points. 

“We’re pretty experienced. 

“In our team, we have some heads that have won the Premiership, so we know what we got to do.”

Match Details:

Canberra United v Sydney FC Liberty A-League Round 17 (Replay after match abandoned 17/2) Wednesday 27th March, 2024 McKellar Park, Canberra, ACT Kick-off: 4:00PM Broadcast Live: Paramount+ and 10Play Tickets: Click Here