Legend’s 98th goal not enough to inspire Canberra win as late strike salvages point for Western

Check out the highlights from the Liberty A-League with Canberra United hosting Western United in both team's final match for 2023.

A late goal from Adriana Taranto has ensured Western United are all but set to finish the year inside the top six, salvaging a point in their 1-1 draw with Canberra United at McKellar Park.

Legendary striker Michelle Heyman tapped home the opener on the half-hour mark, firing home her 98th Liberty A-League goal, before Taranto fired in a second-half equaliser on Saturday evening.

Last season’s Grand Finalists Western continued to push for an equaliser and came agonisingly close to a winner, but were unable to find the breakthrough.

Kat Smith’s Western are still yet to string consecutive wins together this season, but the draw keeps them three points and a sizeable goal difference clear of seventh-placed Central Coast Mariners.

Meanwhile, Canberra remain bottom of the table and nine points behind sixth-placed Western, but have two games in hand, including their upcoming clash with Sydney FC on Wednesday night, meaning their finals hopes still have a flicker heading into 2024.

UNITE ROUND TICKETS ON SALE NOW: Get your tickets for the ultimate away day here

Canberra started the stronger of the two sides, and could have easily led within minutes when Vesna Milivojevic’s cross was caught under Nicki Flannery at the back post, with the winger unable to fashion a shot on goal.

The home side continued to press and find plenty of freedom down the right-flank. Sasha Grove broke free from the back and cut the ball back to Deven Jackson, who took a nice touch, skipped around one defender and fired an effort straight at Hillary Beall.

Western really struggled to break through Canberra’s organised set-up in the early going, with their best chance of the half coming when former Canberra star Grace Maher played a telling ball to Chloe Logarzo – who skipped around the returning Chloe Lincoln in her 100th A-Leagues appearance – but had the ball taken away from her just before she got a shot away.

Back the other way, Canberra continued to threaten and it was once again Grove causing issues down the flank, this time playing the ball across to goal to Heyman who tapped it in off the back post.

Initially, there were doubts about whether the goal would be Heyman’s or go down as an Alana Cerne own-goal. However, the word from the ground is that it was officially awarded it to the former.

Canberra started the second-half strongly as they looked to build a buffer on their opponents, and they almost had a goal from an unlikely source as Cannon Clough’s long range shot was well saved by Beall.

Western finally found their way into the contest as the second-half progressed, and came agonisingly close to an equaliser twice in the space of seconds.

First, Adriana Taranto broke in behind and had her effort parried over the bar by Lincoln. In the resulting corner, Canberra had to defend for their lives as a goalmouth scramble forced another stop from Lincoln, before Hannah Keane put her effort wide of the mark from the top of the six-yard box.

Keane continued to pose a threat for the Canberra defence and minutes later, she came within inches of an equaliser once more. The reigning Golden Boot winner was played through one-on-one with Lincoln, but instead of firing back across the Canberra shot-stopper, she opted to go near post and had her effort pushed aside for a corner.

Lincoln was called into action again, this time reacting well to deny Jaclyn Sawicki from close range, but Canberra’s resistance would eventually be broken.

TJ Vlajnic’s long ball found its way to the back post and to Taranto, who cooly slotted the ball past Lincoln to bring the scores level.

But Western weren’t satisfied with just a point as they chased a winner in the final few moments. Sawicki continued to cause headaches in attack, first, smashing an effort from range against the post, with the ball bundled home by Hieda, but she was deemed offside.

Western continued to pile numbers forward, with Keane playing through Sawicki again, but the Philippines international just put her effort wide of the post, as the visitors fell just short of a winner.

The talking point

Michelle Heyman is edging ever closer to history.

The A-Leagues legend is now only two goals away from becoming the first player in the Liberty A-League to score 100 goals, after scoring her 98th career goal on Saturday evening.

Should she reach the feat, she will also be the fourth in A-Leagues history to do so after Melbourne City star Jamie Maclaren (151 goals), A-Leagues legend Besart Berisha (142 goals) and Melbourne Victory gun Bruno Fornaroli (101 goals).

It was also her fourth goal of the season and first since the end of November after a quiet patch this month.

But if she wasn’t already, she’s now firmly within touching distance of achieving the feat, adding yet another impressive milestone to an already brilliant career.

Meanwhile, her Matildas counterpart Chloe Logarzo was also recognised post-game after playing her 100th A-Leagues game against Canberra. Logarzo started her career in 2011 with Sydney FC, wedging a spell at Newcastle Jets between two stints at the Sky Blues, where she spent the majority of her career.

The midfielder joined Western United on loan last season, before returning on a permanent deal in March and has since become an integral part of their engine room since shurgging off her injury concerns.

The star

Jaclyn Sawicki was doing it all at McKellar Park.

The Western United midfielder was sensational in the engine room against Canberra on Saturday evening, putting together one of her best performances since arriving at the club last season.

Sawicki is best known for her work as a defensive-minded midfielder, but the Philippines international was most threatening getting forward, coming close to scoring three times in a frantic second-half.

The 31-year-old is still waiting for her first goal in Green and Black but Saturday’s performance was a good start in her push to end the drought.

What this means

Canberra missed a great chance to get back into the finals hunt heading into the new year.

Njegosh Popovich’s side were just over 10 minutes away from a much-needed victory before squandering their one-goal advantage, and they could have easily fallen behind had it not been for Chloe Lincoln.

The side from the capital sit bottom, nine points behind sixth-placed Western, but still have two games in hand, including this Wednesday’s clash against Sydney FC. It’s not entirely ‘must win’ territory yet, but the pressure is building with each point dropped as we enter 2024.

Meanwhile, Western would also be kicking themselves that they didn’t claim all three points after a much-improved second-half showing.

Kat Smith’s side is still looking for back-to-back wins for the first time this season and could have risen as high as fourth with a win, sitting only goal difference behind third placed Wellington Phoenix.

Up next is a blockbuster clash against local rivals Melbourne Victory – who sit on equal points with Western – next Saturday at the Home of the Matildas.