Liberty A-League R13 Talking Points: Golden Boot race sums up 11th-placed Canberra’s unusual season

Catch all the goals from an action-packed round 13 of the Isuzu UTE A-League.

These are the key talking points from Round 13 in the Liberty A-League.

Young stars rescued Sydney FC in a dramatic comeback win over Newcastle Jets, while league-leaders Melbourne City enhanced their status as Premiership favourites with a slender win over Wellington Phoenix.

Perth Glory were held to a goalless draw against Brisbane Roar on Saturday night, while Western Sydney Wanderers climbed into the top four with a road win over Central Coast.

Melbourne Victory stole three points from Canberra United with Emily Gielnik’s stunning stoppage time goal the difference in a five-goal thriller, while Western United ensured Adelaide remained planted to the foot of the table, defeating the Reds 1-0 on Sunday.

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These are the key talking points from Round 13 in the Liberty A-League.

Bizarre Golden Boot race highlights Canberra’s defensive woes

Thirteen rounds into the Liberty A-League season, Canberra United duo Michelle Heyman and Vesna Milivojevic sit level atop the Golden Boot leaderboard with nine goals apiece.

They’ve combined for 18 of Canberra’s 25 goals this season – the second-highest tally of any team in the league, behind leaders Melbourne City (30).

But yet, after 13 rounds, Canberra sit 11th on the Liberty A-League table, just two points above Adelaide at the foot of the standings.

The bewildering statistics begin to make more sense when you look at Canberra’s defensive line, which has conceded 28 goals in 13 games – just two less than Adelaide’s league-worst figure of 30.

Canberra have clicked in the final third, with Heyman and Milivojevic leading an attack supported by New Zealand striker Deven Jackson and electric winger Nickoletta Flannery, who has two goals and three assists on the board and is enjoying her own productive season in attack.

A defeat to Melbourne Victory in Round 13 was representative of a frustrating season for a Canberra side that just cannot get off the ground.

They led early through Heyman but trailed 2-1 by half-time; another Heyman goal was needed to get back on level terms in the second half and Njegosh Popovich’s side looked certain to take a share of the spoils away from McKellar Park until Victory forward Emily Gielnik stole all three points in the 94th minute with a mesmerising long-range strike.

Heyman has six goals and one assist in her last five games; once Heyman gets on a roll in the Liberty A-League she rarely slows down, and is likely to add to her scoring tally with consistency through the last nine rounds of the regular season. Should Canberra manage to tighten up at the back, they could make an unlikely charge up the table toward the top six and the finals.

Teenage duo rescues three points for Sky Blues with special debut goal

Down 1-0 against Newcastle Jets, Sydney FC needed a hero – and in the end they found two: 16-year-old Maddie Caspers, and 17-year-old Zara Kruger.

Amid a mounting injury crisis at the Sky Blues, head coach Ante Juric has trusted in youth to fill the gaps. And on Sunday night, his faith was rewarded as Caspers and Kruger came to the fore to turn defeat into victory and send their side flying into second spot on the table.

Defeat to the Jets would have left Sydney in fifth spot by the end of Round 13.

Post-game, an elated Caspers praised teammate and Matildas star Cortnee Vine for her pinpoint cross to set up her equalising goal, before Kruger’s last-gasp match-winner.

“It’s such an unreal feeling, scoring,” Caspers said.

“Cortnee did such a good delivery and it was easy on my behalf but overall it was so amazing,” Caspers said.

“It was the best feeling ever.”

“The girls and Ante are so supportive. Everyone here is,” Caspers added.

“The environment is just so good to be a part of, especially as a young player and I feel so welcome here.

“I’m so proud of everyone and winning that game is the best feeling ever.”

Tightening table sets up exciting fight for finals spots

Melbourne City are pulling clear at the top of the Liberty A-League table – but beneath the league leaders, an intriguing battle is shaping up for the remaining five slots in the top six.

Sydney FC’s win over Newcastle Jets in Round 13 saw Ante Juric’s side jump Perth Glory into second spot; the Sky Blues have 22 points, as do Perth – but there’s just two wins separating Sydney and Glory from Wellington Phoenix in ninth.

Just six points separate the eight teams below City in the race to the finals, and with nine rounds remaining in the regular season, expect the unexpected when it comes to the layout of the Liberty A-League table.

Sydney and Perth are locked on 22 points apiece, Western Sydney and Western United are close behind, both on 20 points, then come Melbourne Victory in sixth and the seventh-placed Mariners (18 points).

Brisbane Roar are 10th, and after a draw with Glory in Round 13, sit just four points outside the top six.

Wanderers soaring up the table as unprecedented campaign rolls on

The Western Sydney Wanderers of 2023-24 are on course to make history as head coach Robbie Hooker pieces together a campaign that could trump all others in the club’s history.

A win over Central Coast Mariners on the road on Sunday evening extended Western Sydney’s winning run to four straight games; it’s the best current form line in the competition, and the latest result ensured Hooker’s side held onto fourth spot heading into Round 14.

Western Sydney has never finished higher than fourth on the Liberty A-League ladder, and have reached the finals just once in club history (2019-20).

That season, the Wanderers reached the finals off the back of Kristen Hamilton’s previous club-record seven goal season; Sophie Harding has already eclipsed that individual figure this season, and is leading the club toward the finals in a similar fashion to Hamilton three seasons ago.