Kyra Cooney-Cross' dramatic late winner gave Western Sydney Wanderers a dream start to the Westfield W-League season in a 2-1 win against Adelaide United.
Teen sensation Mary Fowler lit the touch paper on her budding Westfield W-League career when she won and scored a 39th-minute penalty for Adelaide after causing a constant threat to the Wanderers’ defence in the first half.
The 16-year-old prodigy’s goal was quickly cancelled out by another Westfield W-League debutant, United States international Kirsten Hamilton, on the stroke of half-time at Marconi Stadium.
The former North Carolina Courage striker buried a bullet header to pick up where she left off after starring for the 2019 National Women’s Soccer League champions, scoring nine goals in 17 games.
Former Newcastle Jet, Cortnee Vine, struck the woodwork in each half as the Red and Black pushed for a winner, which eventually arrived in the 92nd minute when Cooney-Cross' free-kick sailed into the corner of the Lady Reds' net to seal Western Sydney's first ever Round 1 victory in season 12 of the Westfield W-League.
Fowler announced her arrival 90 seconds into her Westfield W-League career when she tested Wanderers new goalkeeper Abby Smith, the American signed from Utah Royals, from outside of the penalty area.
The home side almost broke the deadlock on five minutes when Courtney Vine’s header cannoned back off the post and Reds defender Julia Ashley hacked the ball off the goal-line under pressure from Western Sydney captain Erica Halloway.
Fowler came to life on 27 minutes but she was denied at close range by Smith, before the Westfield Young Matildas’ quick feet proved too tricky for Alex Huynh on 38 minutes and the 16-year-old was sent tumbling in the box.
The Cairns-born striker picked herself up to convert from the spot, but Hamilton levelled on 44 minutes with a well-executed header after the United States international found Alix Roberts and the right-back returned the favour with a pin-point cross.
Goalkeeper Sarah Willacy kept the Reds in the game five minutes after the break with an outstanding fingertip save from Hamilton’s volley, before Vine rattled the crossbar from the American’s cut-back.
Fowler and Kahlia Hogg drew excellent, full-length parries from Wanderers’ keeper Smith as Adelaide responded positively, but Hamilton kept the visitors alert with a stinging strike over the crossbar.
Mallory Weber almost snatched a late win for Adelaide but Smith made a crucial save, before ex-Melbourne Victory starlet Cooney-Cross made the decisive play on her Western Sydney debut to complete the comeback.
The Westfield Young Matilda, who came on as a 51st-minute substitute, watched her long-distance free-kick skim all the way through in the 92nd minute to clinch a historic win in head coach Dean Heffernan’s first game in charge.
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