Ashleigh Sykes celebrates her match-winning brace against Brisbane Roar. Photo: Stefan Postles Ashleigh Sykes celebrates a goal in the first half at the Canberra United vs Brisbane Roar match at McKellar Park. Photo: Rohan Thomson
Canberra United winger Ashleigh Sykes says taking on “world-class” keeper Lydia Williams at training “is horrible for confidence”, but the pair combined to produce a brace of brilliance at opposite ends of the ground.
Sykes’ two goals and two brilliant Williams saves earned United a 2-0 victory over the Brisbane Roar at McKellar Park on Saturday to shore up the reigning W-League champions’ grip on second spot.
It moves them within five points of runaway ladder leaders Melbourne City, who play Melbourne Victory on Sunday, and United coach Rae Dower said the “pressure is on” City to maintain their performances.
Canberra started brightly and would have opened the scoring but for Katrina Gorry clearing Kendall Fletcher’s header off the line in the sixth minute.
But Brisbane then got on top and Gorry had a couple of chances – one just over the crossbar and the other just wide of the post – to give the visitors the lead as the United midfield kept coughing up the ball.
Then Williams showed why she’s one of the best goalies in the world with a couple of brilliant saves – consigning her costly error against Brisbane the last time the teams met to the past.
The crossbar initially saved her blushes after Tameka Butt’s chip caught her off her line, but then she produced a brilliant save when the ball fell to an unmarked Gorry’s feet.
Williams, who played with an illness, repeated the dose to stop Ruth Blackburn’s shot from point blank range with just minutes remaining in the first half.
Sykes said while it was great to have Williams behind her in a game, it wasn’t so great being in front of her at training.
“I’d say she’s one of the best keepers in the world easily and one mistake doesn’t make a career,” Sykes said. “She’s more than proven herself over the years for us and for the national team, which is great. It’s horrible for confidence [at training though].”
After Williams’ heroics, the ball went straight down the other end and United striker Michelle Heyman found a sliding Sykes at the back post to open the scoring.
Canberra forward Jenna McCormick should have doubled that lead 10 minutes into the second half, but she put Perez’s free kick wide with only the keeper to beat.
Sykes put the result beyond doubt when she latched onto a Caitlin Munoz through ball, dashed into the box and calmly slotted past helpless Roar keeper Carrie Simpson in the 60th minute.
The Roar were reduced to 10 women when midfielder Kirsty Yallop was sent off for her second bookable offence with 15 minutes remaining.
Dower was happy with the effort, but said they were “still a work in progress” and they would continue to put the pressure on City.
“Our job is to win every game from here on in. If we do that then we make finals. If we do that in the finals then we give ourselves the opportunity to retain our championship,” Dower said.
“While it’s mathematically possible, we’re not ruling anything out. The pressure is on them to keep up their performances now.”
United have their second of three straight home games next Saturday, when they face Adelaide at McKellar Park.
AT A GLANCE
Canberra United 2 (Ashleigh Sykes 45, 60) bt Brisbane Roar 0 at McKellar Park. Crowd: 925.
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