Canberra United falls short of A-League Women finals after 3-3 draw with Melbourne City

Holly McNamara had a star turn in Melbourne City's 3-3 ALW draw with Canberra on Sunday. <i>Photo: AAP</i>

Holly McNamara had a star turn in Melbourne City's 3-3 ALW draw with Canberra on Sunday. Photo: AAP

Canberra United has agonisingly missed out on an A-League Women finals spot to Melbourne Victory on goal difference despite a 3-3 comeback draw against Melbourne City.

United had to beat City to leapfrog fourth-placed Melbourne Victory into the finals places and for much of Sunday night, appeared set for defeat courtesy of a Holly McNamara masterclass.

Matildas young gun McNamara delivered assists for Hannah Wilkinson and Rhianna Pollicina in the 12th and 34th minutes before rounding out her night with a chipped goal in the 59th minute before being substituted.

But Vesna Milivojevic had a hand in Grace Jale’s opener in the 14th minute, scored herself in the 80th then lashed home a belter in the 88th minute to make for a heart-stopping finish.

Victory finished fourth on 29 points with a goal difference of +7, just two goals ahead of a heartbroken Canberra (29 points, +5), which missed out despite a run of eight unbeaten games.

“I reiterated that I was very, very proud of them and I couldn’t fault anyone’s work rate today. Everyone worked hard,” coach Njegosh Popovich told reporters, paying tribute to retiring Canberra great Ellie Brush.

“Just disappointed we don’t get a result.

“But there’s bigger things in life that are more important, I guess than football. They won’t know that at this present time but they’ll all be better for it and I think they’ll all be stronger players moving forward.

“They’re still young and they’ve got a long way to go.”

City (30 points) sealed third place and will face Victory in an elimination final after the international break.

“We want to go out to win and we help out our neighbours,” Vidosic said.

“So it sets up a good game – a derby for a semi.”

Premiers Sydney FC will host second-placed Western United in their semi-final.

McNamara’s star turn caps off a remarkable return from last year’s ACL tear, with the winger about to join the Matildas in England for two friendlies.

“She’s jumping on a flight tonight at 2.30 in the morning, going to London,” City coach Dario Vidosic said.

“She was probably one I considered (substituting) at half-time but then she said ‘don’t take me off.’ So we had to come to an agreement.

“She’s been excellent. She’s probably given us more than whatever anyone could hope for, for someone that’s been out for that long.”


Semi-final: Sydney FC (1) v Western United (2)

Elimination final: Melbourne City (3) v Melbourne Victory (4)


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