Heroic Moments: Willacy concludes standout campaign with Nagasato penalty save
Last chance saloons are often where heroes are made and Round 14 of the Westfield W-League certainly didn’t disappoint as hopes went on the line.
Heading into the final round of action before finals, four clubs were in contention for the Premiership while Melbourne City were making an unlikely bid to qualify for a tilt at a fourth successive Championship.
Read on for our Heroic Moments of Round 14!
SEMI-FINALS: Finals Series fixtures confirmed
ADELAIDE: Willacy the hero as Reds beat Roar
PREMIERS: Victory claim Premiership Glory
HOPKINS: 'We've played some great football'
JETS: Bright future in the Hunter
Willacy keeps her cool
While Adelaide United were unable to make the finals heading into their clash against Brisbane Roar they still had pride left to play for.
The Reds turned on one of their performances of the season at Marden Sports Complex to see off the Premiership-chasing visitors 1-0.
It wouldn’t have been such a good send-off however if not for some heroics from goalkeeper Sarah Willacy.
The Reds custodian was solid throughout but had to step up with minutes remaining when the Roar were awarded a penalty after Allira Toby was felled.
Up stepped Yuki Nagasato but Willacy guessed the right way to deny the FIFA Women's World Cup winner and force Brisbane's challenge to a grinding halt.
The Westfield W-League title race was predicted to be wide open at the start of the season but few would have backed Melbourne Victory to finish on top of the pile.
However, Jeff Hopkins’ side defied expectations by doing the double over rivals Melbourne City for the first time and only losing twice on their way to a maiden Premiership.
Despite leading for most of the regular season, Victory still had to travel west to face a Perth Glory side that could jump ahead of the Navy Blues with a win.
The visitors held firm however with goals to Christine Nairn and Emily Gielnik cancelling out a Sam Kerr header to ensure the Premiers Plate would be gracing their trophy cabinet for the next 12 months.
It also marked a return to the Westfield W-League finals for the first time since 2014, the same year they last claimed the Championship.
Sam Kerr’s header against the Victory may not have influenced the final result but it all but wrapped up the Westfield W-League’s Golden Boot race.
Now sitting on 13 goals, Kerr’s only remaining challenger is Victory’s Natasha Dowie on nine.
With Victory’s rescheduled game against Canberra United set to take place on Tuesday night, it would require a Herculean effort from Dowie to catch the Westfield Matildas striker.
Jets youth shine through
There hasn’t been a whole lot for Newcastle Jets fans to cheer about this season.
Having made the finals last year, much was expected of the Novocastrians and despite a promising start, injuries and a dip in form conspired to send them down the ladder.
Coming up against fellow strugglers Western Sydney Wanderers, Craig Dean’s side turned it on, belting the Red and Blacks 4-1 to end their season on a high.
Most impressively were the performances of the young brigade with goals to Teigan Collister, Cortnee Vine and a debut strike for Tess Tamplin.
Although they end the season in seventh position the future looks bright, especially if they can keep some experience on the pitch.
End of an era
Melbourne City have been the benchmark for excellence since joining the Westfield W-League in 2015.
The past two seasons they have left their run to the finals late and still managed to make it to the big day and come up trumps.
That remarkable run ended on Friday night as, despite their 2-0 over Sydney FC on Thursday, Perth only lost by a goal, leaving them in arrears via goal difference of fourth place.
Their failure to make the top four was thanks in no small part to the closeness of both the top four and Premiership races this campaign. Will we ever see another season like it?