Perth Glory’s Westfield W-League finals hopes appear to be over after a thrilling 4-4 draw against Canberra United in front of a bumper crowd at Hay Park in Bunbury on Saturday.
Despite a first-half hat-trick from superstar striker Sam Kerr, Glory were foiled by a spirited Canberra fightback and must now win their final game against Western Sydney next Sunday and hope several results elsewhere go their way to qualify for next month’s final series.
Kerr and fellow-striker Rachel Hill combined to give Glory what seemed an insurmountable 3-0 lead after just 22 minutes, but the Ashleigh Sykes-inspired Canberra overcame the warm conditions and the majority of a boisterous crowd of 1,369 to steal a crucial point for their own finals bid.
Glory midfielders Nikki Stanton and Raquel Rodriguez were highly influential for the home side, while Canberra defender Ellie Carpenter completed an amazing shutdown job on Kerr when the match was back on the line.
Hill played Kerr through for the opening goal, with the Matildas star catching Canberra goalkeeper Haley Kopmeyer off her line and chipping in easily from the top of the box.
Kerr doubled Glory’s advantage four minutes later when she blocked Kopmeyer’s attempted clearance from a goal-line scramble before knocking the loose ball into the back of the net.
Kopmeyer’s outstretched hands prevented Hill from converting a fine Kerr cross in the 20th minute, however, the American didn’t have to wait long to add her name to the scoresheet.
Kerr, seeking her third goal, mistimed a header towards the goalmouth only for it to fall short of the target, with Hill beating Kopmeyer to the ball and hammering it home from close range.
Sykes pulled one back for the visitors in the 24th minute when she was played through against the run of play and although Hill and Kerr continued to challenge the Canberra defence, United's goalscorer and the impressive Michelle Heyman were also causing headaches for Glory’s back four at the other end.
Heyman should have scored Canberra’s second in the 35th minute when she charged through a gap in Perth’s defence, but a miraculous save by Melissa Maizels maintained the home team’s two-goal buffer.
However, an unmarked Sykes netted her second two minutes later when she flicked the ball in at the back post from a Laura Bassett corner.
Kerr completed her hat-trick in the 44th minute when she was again played through by Hill before burning off the chasing Canberra defenders and curling the ball around the approaching Kopmeyer.
Grace Maher, however, reduced Canberra’s deficit to one on the stroke of half timewhen her free kick was spilled over the goal-line by Maizels.
After a fast-paced opening 45 minutes, both teams began to show the effects of the burning Bunbury sun early in the second half, with no player able to seriously threaten the opposing goalkeeper.
Yet on the hour mark, Elise Thorsnes pounced on Glory’s failure to again clear another dangerous free kick from Bassett, with the Canberra striker showing great delight at putting the match back on even terms.
Hill was then played through and looked set to restore Glory’s lead, only to be denied by the charging Kopmeyer as she lined up for her shot.
Thorsnes has a similar opportunity moments later to put Canberra in front for the first time, but Maizels saved bravely at the midfielder's feet and was heavily winded in the process.
Rodriguez and substitute Patricia Charalombous both had chances in the dying minutes, but Glory ultimately had to settle for a heart-breaking draw.
Glory coach Bobby Despotovski was full of praise for his side, particularly in the oppressive heat, but was again left to rue missed chances.
“We knew that we had to win and we just fell short,” he said. “As was the same last week, a few individual mistakes cost us the game, but we gave everything we had.
“Scoring four goals in a game of this importance and not coming away with all three points is a little bit disappointing. Eighteen years ago I played in a game where we went 3-0 up and we lost the game, so I know how the girls feel right now.
“I told the girls at the start of the game to give everything you have because there are no second chances. Unfortunately we didn’t get the three points, but they gave everything they had. There is nothing more I can ask.”
Glory’s final W-League game of the season against the Wanderers next Sunday will be played at nib Stadium after the Hyundai A-League clash between both clubs.
Perth Glory 4 (Sam Kerr 12’, 16’, 44’, Rachel Hill 22’)
Canberra United 4 (Ashleigh Sykes 24’, 37’, Grace Maher 45’+5, Elise Thorsnes 60’)
Attendance: 1,369 at Hay Park, Bunbury
Referee: Katie Patterson
Assistants: Arvin Shanmugnathan, Adrien Lietchi
Fourth Official: Josh Mannella
PERTH GLORY: 3. Kim CARROLL (C), 4. Natasha RIGBY, 7. Nicole STANTON, 8. Shawn BILLAM (13. Jaymee GIBBONS 74’), 9. Rachel HILL, 10. Raquel RODRIGUEZ, 12. Shannon MAY, 16. Amanda FRISBIE, 17. Marianna TABAIN (5. Patricia CHARALAMBOUS 46’), 18. Melissa MAIZELS (GK), 20. Samantha KERR
Subs not used: 15. Alexia MORENO, 24. Morgan AQUINO (GK)
Yellow cards: Sam Kerr 77’, Raquel Rodriguez 85’, Kim Carroll 87’
Red cards: Nil
CANBERRA UNITED: 3. Clare HUNT, 4. Tony PRESSLEY, 8. Liana DANASKOS (16. Karly ROESTBAKKEN 79’), 10. Grace MAHER, 11. Elise THORSNES, 14. Ashleigh SYKES (C), 20. Amy SAYER (6. Caitlin MUNOZ 53’), 21. Ellie CARPENTER, 23. Michelle HEYMAN, 34. Laura Bassett
Substitutes not used: 18. Taren KING, 36. Georgia BORIC (GK)
Yellow cards: Caitlin Munoz 63’
Red cards: Nil