Toby’s bullet header cancels out Mulaudzi opener

Canberra United have thrown away an early lead to draw 1-1 with Brisbane Roar at a stiflingly hot McKellar Park on Thursday night.

Mulaudzi lit the spark just as the clock ticked over two minutes, pouncing on Clare Polkinghorne’s bad touch and rounding Mackenzie Arnold to open the scoring.

Canberra couldn’t close out the half though, surrendering their lead on 38 minutes when Allira Toby headed home for her third goal in as many games.

The result does no favours for Canberra’s finals hopes, putting them three points away from Adelaide United who are three points ahead with a game to play.

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Canberra started the better of the two sides — so much so in fact that just over two minutes into proceedings they were ahead thanks to some quick-thinking by Mulaudzi. 

Polkinghorne’s touch was an inch too heavy, giving the diminutive forward the opportunity to run in on goal. Mulaudzi obliged, rounding an onrushing Arnold and slotting home into an empty net. 

Lightning almost struck twice as Arnold’s clearance found none other than Mulaudzi, but the South African was unable to make Brisbane Roar pay. 

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After Mel Andreatta’s side weathered the storm, they appeared to grow in stature and confidence. 

They were rewarded for their composure on 38 minutes when Carson Pickett received the ball wide on the left flank. 

The 25-year-old summed up the situation perfectly, whipping in a delicious cross which was met by Allira Toby. 

Just over eight yards out and in some fine form of her own, Toby was never going to miss, heading into the bottom left corner past Sham Khamis who was rooted to the spot. 

With that Toby’s third goal in as many games, Brisbane’s forward is finding some serious form at a crucial time of the Westfield W-League 2018/19 Season.

The second half saw a familiar face return for Canberra United as Ashleigh Sykes took to the field in an effort to salvage all three points. 

Sykes retired from football at the end of last season but was back to add to her all-time leading appearances for Canberra.

Despite these change, neither player could affect the play as the game lurched towards full-time. Yuki Nagasato had a chance on 67 minutes to play in Toby, but it was collected by Khamis. 

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Three minutes later, Karly Roestbakken tried to emulate her strike against Sydney FC in Round 5, driving through the heart of Brisbane Roar’s midfield and letting fly from 20 metres out. 

Plenty of venom accompanied the strike but it fizzed straight into the grasp of Arnold.

Canberra fans were on the verge of celebrating a Nikki Flannery strike, only to be denied by Polkinghorne who stood tall and thwarted the goal-bound effort.

Sykes wasn’t the only familiar face to take to the field when, on 85 minutes, Maria ‘Cote’ Rojas returned for her second coming after the cessation of her injury replacement contract earlier in the season. 

First it was Sykes who would provide the spark as she found herself with acres of space on the right wing.

The 27-year-old delivered a delicious cross into the path of Flannery, whose volley could only strike the outside of the left upright. 

Then it was Rojas’s turn in injury time. She received a late cross and skied her shot from just inside the box, given the last chance of the match.

That was as good as things got, both sides settling for a point apiece in a result which helps neither side’s respective aspirations.

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