Adelaide United earned a dramatic 4-4 draw with Canberra United in their Liberty A-League opener thanks to substitute Emilia Murray’s equaliser in the fifth minute of stoppage time.
Vesna Milivojevic’s double and Michelle Heyman’s 95th career A-League Women goal had Canberra on track for a winning start to the 2023-24 season in a breath-taking contest.
But Murray’s deflected 95th-minute strike denied the capital club and rescued a draw for Adelaide at Coopers Stadium, where there were also three penalties on Sunday.
CITY WIN: Wilkinson settles season opener as ‘Nix GK makes inspirational return
HISTORY: Single-round Liberty A-League attendance record smashed in Round 1… after just two games!
STATEMENT MADE: On a night of history for the Liberty A-League, Sydney FC laid down the gauntlet
Adelaide entered the contest on the back of consecutive defeats to Canberra, having
won three in a row against the capital club between February 2021 and January 2022.
But the Reds took the lead inside nine minutes thanks to Alana Jancevski’s successful penalty on her Adelaide debut after Tegan Bertolissio was penalised for a foul on Hannah Blake.
After Heyman – who broke the record for the most all-time league appearances – sent a shot just wide of the post in the 15th minute, Canberra teammate Milivojevic restored parity a minute later.
Milivojevic chased down Analee Grove and blocked the Adelaide keeper’s attempted clearance. The ball fell to the feet of the Serbia international and she coolly slotted home into an empty net.
Adelaide came close to equalising just after the half-hour when new signing Mariah Lee surged cleared and got herself in a one-on-one situation but Chloe Lincoln got down low to thwart the American.
Canberra hit the front two minutes before half-time as Heyman capitalised on another Grove error.
Grove – outside of her penalty area – failed to deal with a long ball as she allowed it bounce past her and Heyman pounced to run into an empty net.
The Reds did respond eight minutes into the second half and it came via another penalty.
Bertolissio conceded another spot-kick, this time bringing down Jenna Holtz and Lee’s thunderous penalty ensured parity only for Adelaide’s Emily Hodgson to give away a penalty of her own 10 minutes later, with Nickoletta Flannery converting.
But Canberra’s lead was short-lived as a sublime strike from Blake meant the match was level once more.
The end-to-end nature of the contest continued as Milivojevic restored Canberra’s advantage within three minutes.
But with time running out, Murray came off the bench and found the back of the net in dramatic style.
The Talking Point
Where to begin? There were penalties and goals, and lots of them!
In total, the referee awarded three penalties throughout the 90 minutes – two to Adelaide and one to Canberra, with all three converted.
This fixture once again delivered goals – the most goals in the history of this rivalry. In March, Canberra emerged 4-2 winners, while they were also 4-3 victors in another wild battle in 2020. Only once in the past nine fixtures have there been less than two goals scored.
Step forward Milivojevic. The Serb enjoyed a stellar first season in Canberra, where the club cruelly missed out on finals football on goal difference, scoring eight goals and supplying three assists.
On Sunday, Milivojevic continued her goalscoring form while providing plenty of creativity in the absence of former teammate Grace Maher.
Her double against Adelaide means she has now scored in three consecutive matches, finding the back of the net six times. She has also scored in four out of her last five games.
She did find the back of the net at the death, but it was ruled out for offside.
What it means
Canberra are now nine games unbeaten in the A-League Women. In their last three matches, they have scored 10 goals.
They are looming as another finals contender ahead of their trip to Melbourne City on Saturday, October 21.
Adelaide, meanwhile, showed plenty of promise. Despite their winless streak extending to four matches dating back to last season, their new recruits provided encouraging signs.
The Reds host Central Coast Mariners on Friday, October 20.