Super sub Khamis keeps Wanderers' finals dream alive and leaves City shattered
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.
Back from an three-week break due to the Victoria state lockdown, City looked the sharper side in the opening exchanges but it was the away side that threatened first when Teigan Collister picked out Bryleeh Flo Henry and the teenage striker sent a shot flying across the face of City’s goal.
Sarah Willacy had to race out and clear on the quarter hour mark under pressure from Chinatsu Kira and the Wanderers keeper was called into action again to make a fine reaction save after Samantha Johnson’s cross was superbly flicked goalward by Westfield Matildas forward Alex Chidiac.
The momentum swung in Wanderers' favour when Henry climbed to win an aerial duel and Oliver Price’s volley crashed back off the City crossbar, before Jenna McCormick was forced to race across her penalty area to block Collister’s close-range effort after the ex-Newcastle Jet turned over possession in away territory.
With City getting pushed back deeper as the half progressed, Price found space in the channels but Westfield Matildas goalkeeper Teagan Micah was equal to her 33rd-minute effort. The visitors could have snatched a half-time lead when Willacy tried to cut out Kira's smart touch but slipped, allowing Johnson a sight on goal, but the American’s strike was headed off the line by Nikola Orgill.
McCormick wriggled free at the far post to head the first attempt of the second half straight at Willacy, before lively attacker Kira burst through the lines and jabbed a shot wide. Then Chidiac fired wide from McCormick’s cross with the tension mounting. With seasons on the line, the game seemed destined to be decided by one moment and Leena Khamis made that moment count.
Khamis headed another chance wide and saw her late strike parried wide by City’s excellent shot-stopper Micah as Western Sydney searched for some insurance. City made a last desperate push but Chidiac’s left-footed strike was not firm enough to bring an equaliser as Wanderers claimed what may prove to be a crucial three points come the end of the season.
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