The moments that mattered in Victory's Grand Final triumph
Melbourne Victory's 2020/21 Westfield W-League Championship was one season in the making, but as is often the case the difference between glory and despair hung on the balance of a series of key moments throughout a cagey title decider.
The 120-minute encounter between Victory and Premiers Sydney FC went goalless until the final minute of extra time, when Kyra Cooney-Cross vanquished the Sky Blues with a goal scored directly from a corner kick, preventing a penalty shootout to hand her side an upset Grand Final win.
But before the teenage Victory star could decide an unforgettable Big Blue at the death a series of key moments presented down either end. These were the moments on which the result hinged, and should these moments have played out differently, who knows what the final outcome may have been?
It's the magnificence of any Grand Final contest: the moments which turn teams into Champions, which produce pure elation and heartbreak, and turn players into heroes.
In this Westfield W-League Grand Final, here were the moments that mattered.
The crossbar shakes after early Polias corner
Coming into a record-equalling seventh Westfield W-League Grand Final, Sydney FC midfielder Teresa Polias instantly set out to try and put her side into the lead.
With the sunlight beating down on Netstrata Jubilee Stadium, Polias placed the ball on the exact same spot Cooney-Cross would under lights in the dying embers of extra time. She swung her corner kick into the danger area and Victory 'keeper Gabriela Garton was concerned, but the ball struck the crossbar and repelled out for a goal kick.
This may have been the moment Cooney-Cross saw the danger Polias' early attempt had caused her own side, and pinned the idea in the back of her mind to give it a try herself later in the piece.
Victory rattle the woodwork twice in quick succession
Not long after Polias hit the bar, Cooney-Cross delivered a powerful shot toward goal down the other end, only to see her own attempt thunder off the crossbar as well.
Cooney-Cross collected the ball on the left flank in the 12th minute, cut past Natasha Prior and Charlotte Mclean to smash her shot toward goal. The ball evaded Jada Whyman's glove, but couldn't dip under the bar.
It was the first of two Victory chances to strike the woodwork in the first half.
Next it was Lisa De Vanna's turn to get involved - the 36-year-old won her fifth Westfield W-League Championship on Sunday night, and could have got the opening goal of the contest if not for her minor miscue from a headed attempt.
Cooney-Cross had swung the ball to the back post from the right wing to find De Vanna, and the Westfield Matildas legend planted her feet in preparation for the header.
Whyman could only stand and watch as the ball sailed toward goal, but it hit the meeting point between the crossbar and the left-hand goalpost instead of nestling into the top corner.
De Vanna can't pounce on Whyman's misplaced punch
Darkness fell in the second half, and as the goalless affair headed into its last 20 minutes the chances began to flow.
De Vanna failed to benefit from Whyman's misjudged clearing punch in the 79th minute of play. The Sydney stopper prodded Amy Jackson's cross into her path, unmarked at the back post. An open goal presented to De Vanna but the Victory forward lost her balance, falling to the ground as the danger cleared.
Toby can't emphasise her impact off the bench
Allira Toby had replaced Princess Ibini on the hour mark, and the Sky Blues substitute received the chance to become the hero on the night when receiving the ball from a Polias lofted pass in acres of space on the left flank.
Toby controlled, drove toward the tip of the box and cut past Polly Doran onto her right foot to shoot, similarly to Cooney-Cross in the first 45.
Dorran got a crucial toe on the ball as it sailed toward goal, stumping Garton but curling just over the crossbar. A corner kick was awarded as the Sky Blues looked to build the pressure.
Whyman comes to the fore
As the clock ticked into the final 10 minutes of regular time, Whyman stepped up for her side. Victory would go on to carve out a series of chances, which called the Sydney 'keeper into a number of simply outstanding saves, ultimately resulting in Whyman being awarded Player of the Game honours at full-time.
Her first piece of brilliance came from an unbelievable block from a Cooney-Cross header at he back post, who had attacked a Catherine Zimmerman cross with intent unmarked in the goal mouth.
Whyman leapt bravely toward the far post and wore the ball as it crashed toward goal, diverting it away from the back of the net and keeping the chance alive for Victory. Cooney-Cross collected once more, danced around Sydney defenders in tight space and sent a second attempt toward goal, but this one faded past the post from close range as Whyman sprawled in its path.
A chance at the death squandered by Bunge
It looked for a moment as if the game would be settled by a Bunge finish from a Whyman spill off a Cooney-Cross corner.
The Victory midfielder dropped the ball into the danger zone and it spilled through Whyman's gloves. The ball dropped into Bunge's path in the six-yard box but the defender couldn't get a touch on it, as Prior got to the drop to clear.
Twice Longo shoots, and twice Whyman saves
As 30 minutes of additional time got underway Victory's Annalie Longo increased her attacking intent, lashing two long-range strikes toward goal which had Whyman in a world of danger on both occasions.
But the Sky Blues goalkeeper was up to the challenge of keeping her sheet clean, producing two saves to match.
Twice Whyman saved with an outstretched right arm as Longo dispatched one off the deck and one on the volley.
Cooney-Cross breaks Sky Blue hearts
A penalty shootout was looming large as Cooney-Cross ventured across to place the ball on the corner to swing into the danger zone. Just seconds before the 120th minute of play ran out the ball left the boot of Cooney-Cross, evaded Whyman's right glove and dropped over the line.
The Victory players engulfed Cooney-Cross, sending the teenager to the ground in scenes of jubilant celebration. In one unbelievable moment, Victory had stunned the Premiers to spark Navy Blue and White confetti showers in the post-match celebrations.