Leena Khamis came off the bench to ignite Western Sydney Wanderers’ hopes of a Finals Series return following a hard-fought 1-0 win over Melbourne City.
The 34-year-old, who played in the inaugural Westfield W-League season in 2008-09, was sent on by Wanderers coach Dean Heffernan in the 66th minute with the game deadlocked and the experienced poacher seized her moment to pierce City’s armour in the 72nd minute.
Khamis added a composed and clinical strike after Teigan Collister's pass had capped a swift counter-attack, netting a goal that could prove vital to the Red and Black’s ambitions for a second ever trip to the post-season, having claimed back-to-back wins to close within three points of the top four.
A scrappy, midfield battle at the Wanderers Centre of Football seemed destined to be decided by a single moment as Olivia Price rattled the City crossbar with a volley, before Samantha Johnson saw her strike headed off the Wanderers line by Nikola Orgill with goalkeeper Sarah Willacy stranded.
Westfield Matildas shot-stopper Teagan Micah had ensured Rado Vidosic’s side stayed in the contest with some assured handling, while Japanese livewire Chinatsu Kira and Alex Chidiac saw opportunities to keep the embers of City’s fading season flickering.
The reigning Premiers had already watched their title slip away during a dismal run of results, now any chance of mounting a Championship defence is all but over after a fourth straight defeat leaves them nine points adrift of fourth place.