'We cannot give up' was the message from Leena Khamis after the experienced striker fired Western Sydney Wanderers back into Final Series contention against Melbourne City.
Khamis scored the decider six minutes after coming off the bench to boost the Red and Black's post-season ambitions and net her first goal of the campaign, and first since rejoining the club after spending a season at Canberra United in 2019/20.
During her year away, Dean Heffernan led Western Sydney to their first ever post-season appearance, where they were outclassed by City, 5-1 in the Semi-Final, but hopes of vanquishing that heartache appeared to be hanging by a thread after Wanderers won only one of their first seven games of this campaign.
A 1-0 triumph over Perth Glory last week kept the embers burning and, on Thursday at the Wanderers Centre of Football, Khamis' strike lit the touch paper. Another 1-0 win takes Wanderers within three points of the top four – albeit having played an extra game.
"It feels good, I’m just happy we won and we got the three points. We needed these three points and we got them," Khamis said.
"We know we cannot give up. Football is a funny game. Results are going our way at the moment and you never know what can happen."
"We’ve just got to try and win each game and we might be up there."
Melbourne City defender Samantha Johnson cut a dejected figure after their sixth loss in eight games all but closed the book on the reigning Premiers and Champions' title defence.
The American right-back almost drilled the away side into a half-time lead but saw her effort headed off the line by Nikola Orgill with the Wanderers goal otherwise unguarded.
The Victorian outfit showed their spirit as they pushed to keep their own season alive but ultimately fell short once again in a story all too familiar for Rado Vidosic's team.
"It’s really disappointing. We really worked, really hard the last couple of weeks," Johnson said.
"Obviously there was a lot of adversity to deal with, with the schedule changes.
"We’ve had some of our own battles to work through and I think we are getting better.
"We’re working on the intangibles, the mentality and the fight, so we’re hoping that the football starts coming together very soon."
Ways to watch
Melbourne Victory v Western Sydney Wanderers
Thursday, 4 March 2021
Venue: Lakeside Stadium
Kick-off: 7.05pm AEDT
Melbourne City v Western Sydney Wanderers
Thursday, 11 March 2021
Kick-off: 7.05pm AEDT