Matildas star poised for Golden Boot & within touching distance of history after equalling record

Catch the highlights as Canberra United hosted Wellington Phoenix in the Liberty A-League.

Record-equalling A-Leagues legend Michelle Heyman took a giant step towards claiming the Liberty A-League Golden Boot after leading Canberra United past Wellington Phoenix 1-0.

Matildas forward and two-time Golden Boot winner Heyman scored her 15th goal of the season – a 78th-minute header, as Canberra snapped a five-match winless streak on Sunday.

It also saw Heyman (21 – 15 goals and six assists) equal Sam Kerr (21 – 17 goals and four assists in 2018-19) for the most goal contributions (goals and assists) in Liberty A-League history.

Her 2023-24 tally, which has her three goals ahead in the Golden Boot race through 21 rounds, is second-highest in Liberty A-League history, equalling her own mark from 2011-12, while Kerr owns the record with 17 gals in 2018-19.

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Canberra – who kept their first clean sheet since March last year – moved off the bottom of the standings, albeit before Adelaide United’s clash with Sydney FC. Meanwhile, Wellington – who were eliminated from the finals race on Saturday, remain eighth through 21 matches.

Entering the contest, Canberra (35 goals, +8.3) had exceeded their Expected Goals (xG) by more than any other team this season, while Wellington had exceeded their Expected Goals Against by more than any other team in the campaign (32 goals conceded, +6.4).

Both sides had their chances in the opening half in the nation’s capital, where the Phoenix came within a whisker of breaking the deadlock in the 13th minute but a teasing free-kick into the box bounced wide of the far post.

Vesna Milivojevic tried her luck from the edge of the area nine minutes later and the Canberra star’s attempt deflected narrowly wide.

At the other end, Phoenix’s leading goalscorer Mariana Speckmaier had a golden chance after a delightful cross from Emma Main. However, she could not steer her header on target from the six-yard box.

Michelle Heyman continued to work hard for the home side, with some clever flick-ons and touches helping to link the play for Canberra, while teammate Nikki Flannery saw her 44th-minute striker fizz agonisingly wide of the post.

The Phoenix had another great chance to take the lead, this time 10 minutes into the second half, but Main’s shot was saved by Chloe Lincoln.

Somehow Lincoln kept Canberra on level terms in the 64th minute – Isabel Cox’s shot appeared to be trickling slowly towards goal. However, the Young Matildas keeper somehow scrambled to prevent a goal being scored.

The deadlock was finally broken 12 minutes from the end when Heyman rose highest to head home Flannery’s cross.

While the Phoenix lost, there was a special moment for Wellington and Olivia Ingham.

The 18-year-old made her long-awaited A-Leagues debut for the Phoenix after coming off the bench for the visitors.

It was a debut three years in the making for Ingham, who was the first female player to join Wellington’s academy in 2021, having come through the ranks at North Wellington FC.

She was the academy’s Women’s Player of the Year and featured for New Zealand at the 2022 FIFA Under-17 Women’s World Cup before rupturing her anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) in the last game of the 2022 campaign.

Ingham was forced to miss the entire 2023 season but she has returned and was one of four scholarship players announced by the Phoenix heading into 2023-24, penning a three-year contract.

“It’s really exciting to have signed my first pro contract,” she said at the time. “I’ve been working hard for the past few seasons trying to strive towards the A-League.

“I’m really grateful for the opportunity and it’s cool for all of the girls at the academy that there is a pathway into the first team. It’s really beneficial for them to see that it is possible if you believe in yourself, take in what the coaches are saying and enjoy your football.”