City stay perfect thanks to Pollicina brace, despite Heyman moving closer to century milestone

Catch the highlights as Melbourne City defeated Canberra United in the Liberty A-League.

Melbourne City preserved their perfect start to the Liberty A-League season with a 2-1 win over Canberra United on Saturday.

Rhianna Pollicina was the star of the show for City in Round 2, scoring twice in either half to make it two wins from two matches for the title hopefuls.

In the first match of a Liberty A-League-Isuzu UTE A-League double-header at AAMI Park, Pollicina opened the scoring in the 26th minute before doubling the lead two minutes into the second half.

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The most-capped player in A-League Women history, Michelle Heyman reduced the deficit just past the hour mark with her 96th career goal but City held on to snap Canberra’s seven-game unbeaten streak, dating back to last season.

After a cagey start to proceedings, City – 1-0 winners away to Wellington Phoenix in Round 1 – soon took control and dominated the first half.

Holly McNamara and Hannah Wilkinson both went agonisingly close to breaking the deadlock for the home side, while Pollicina’s goal-bound effort was blocked in the 22nd minute after Canberra’s defence was exposed.

Pollicina and City, though, did get their goal four minutes later – Daniela Galic’s deflected cross looped over Canberra’s defence and fell the feet of the former who finished powerfully on the half-volley.

Vesna Milivojevic entered the contest in the midst of an unprecedented hot streak that saw her score a brace in each of her last three matches and a total of seven goals in her last five games, while Canberra great Heyman was looking to move closer to the 100-goal mark.

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However, to highlight City’s dominance, they had 109 passes in the final third, compared to Canberra’s 19 at the 43rd-minute mark as the visitors were forced on the back foot.

City nearly doubled their lead on the stroke of half-time, when Wilkinson forced a point-blank save from Chloe Lincoln before Galic struck the post.

But within 30 seconds of the second half getting underway, City were awarded a penalty after McNamara was brought down by Alex McKenzie and Pollicina converted emphatically.

Lincoln thwarted Wilkinson again in the 55th minute, the Canberra goalkeeper quick off her line to make the save after a sublime pass from McNamara released the club’s all-time leading scorer in A-League Women.

City appeared to be cruising until a moment of confusion offered Canberra a way back into the contest – Heyman’s header looping over Lysianne Proulx in the 63rd minute.

Some silky footwork from Galic nearly teed up Pollicina for her hat-trick moments later, but Lincoln produced a stunning save to push her thunderous effort onto the crossbar.

The Talking Point

Canberra came into the game on the back of a breath-taking 4-4 draw away to Adelaide United in the opening round. The capital club had also not tasted defeated in seven straight A-League Women matches.

But they fell short after a slow start away to four-time champions City in Melbourne.

Their rally in the second half came too late as a Pollicina-inspired City – who have only lost one of their past eight games against Canberra – proved too strong.

The Star

Pollicina will grab the headlines with her two-goal haul – her first A-Leagues brace since last season’s Elimination Final loss to rivals Melbourne Victory, but McNamara was at it again.

Player of the Match last week, the three-time Matilda was a constant threat throughout the second-round clash.

Whether it was testing Canberra’s goalkeeper or creating chances for her team-mates, McNamara was tough to deal with.

What they said

There was an interesting discussion on the Paramount+/10Play commentary, centred on City star Julia Grosso.

A defender, she was again deployed as an inverted full-back, moving into midfield when in posession.

It is something often seen in Ange Postecoglou teams, which Network 10 commentator Taryn Heddo referenced during the second half as Grosso surged forward into midfield.

“A lot has been made of Ange Postecoglou recently and how his side’s play with full-backs that tuck in,” she began by saying. “It’s really interesting to see Julia Grosso playing centrally.

“Maybe a new trend for Australian coaches?”

Co-commentator and A-Leagues legend Teresa Polias replied: “Maybe Dario Vidosic has taken inspiration from Postecoglou.

“Grosso is such an engine. She is everywhere.”

What it means

Dario Vidosic’s City are yet to taste defeat this season as they look to win their first Championship since 2020.

After the international break, they will visit last season’s Grand Finalists and Victorian rivals Western United on November 5.

As for Canberra – who narrowly missed out on the 2022-23 Finals on goal difference, they have one point from two matches

They are next in action at home to Perth Glory on November 4.