Canberra United’s winless start not a reflection of their valiant performances

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Canberra United are currently staring down the prospect of the 2021/22 season being the worst in their history, but has it really been that bad?

Nearing the midway point of the A-League Women season for Canberra, they currently find themselves in second-last position on the ladder with just two competition points to their name.

But despite staring down the barrel of their lowest league placement in history, their worst being their eighth-position finish in the 2018/19 season, there has still been plenty to admire from Canberra’s first six games.

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With the exception of last week’s demoralising 3-1 defeat to Adelaide United, single-goal losses to the same opponents and to Melbourne City in the first two rounds were followed by a gutsy come-from-behind draw against Brisbane Roar, as well as a scoreless draw against Perth Glory which yielded 16 attempts on goal from the Canberrans.

But it wasn’t until Saturday’s game against league leaders Sydney FC in which Canberra’s inexperienced defence truly came undone in a heavy 6-0 defeat.

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Fielding a drastically different starting 11 in comparison to last week, three players who came off the bench against Adelaide; Hayley Taylor-Young, Laura Hughes and club legend Ashleigh Sykes all took up starting positions against the Sky Blues on Saturday.

However, it was the former whose clumsy challenge brought down Maria Rojas inside the first half-hour, ultimately gifting the Sky Blues their first goal from the subsequent spot-kick.

Despite finding themselves two goals down at half-time, the Canberra team of promising youngsters showed plenty of grit in the first half with veterans Sykes and Michelle Heyman leading from the front, albeit lacking the execution in the final third and struggling to find a way past a resolute Sydney defence.

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But as the chances dried up for Canberra in the second half, so did the chances that Sydney let go to waste as the league leaders piled on one chance after another, with Paige Satchell and hat-trick hero Rojas successfully filling the void left by Matildas Cortnee Vine and Remy Siemsen in the Sky Blues’ attack.

Thanks to a miraculous long-distance finish from Ally Green as well as Princess Ibini and Rachel Lowe netting one goal apiece inside the final 10 minutes, Sydney put six on the Canberrans as the league’s all-time top goalscorer Heyman was left to vent her frustration at the end of the match.

“It’s a bit disappointing. We really wanted to come up here and give it to Sydney,” she said.

In the aftermath of the biggest loss in the club’s history, the 33-year-old also expressed disbelief at her side’s winless start in the wake of their positive performances from previous games.

“It’s just something that’s really hard to get used to,” she said.

“Canberra is a really good quality team and this year we’re just not finding our feet.

“Last week’s game we played really good football but we didn’t bring that into this game.”

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In returning home to the nation’s capital, the Canberrans will be left to eagerly await their next fixture against a third-placed Melbourne Victory as they continue searching for their first win of the season.

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Jimmy Alexander
Covering Sydney FC for the 2021/22 A-League season. Studying a Bachelor of Sports Media (Journalism) at Charles Sturt University.

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