Super subs 98th-minute strike seals Wanderers a point in dramatic fightback

A 98th-minute goal from Maliah Morris has secured what could be a vital point for Western Sydney Wanderers as they snatched a dramatic 1-1 draw against Canberra United.

Both sides had chances to take the lead in the nation’s capital but it was the home side who eventually broke the deadlock in the sweltering conditions.

A clever free-kick from Mary Stanic-Flood picked out Michelle Heyman, who in turn headed the ball back across the goal for Nickoletta Flannery to fire home the opening goal of the game in the 57th minute.

The Wanderers had several chances to pull themselves level but they finally found the equaliser in the eighth minute of time added on as forward Maliah Morris raced clear of the Canberra backline before cooly slotting the ball beyond Coco Majstorovic to seal a point.

The result leaves Njegosh Popovich’s side stuck at the foot of the ladder and still without a clean sheet all season while Morris’ goal keeps the Wanderers in the fight for a finals place with just four games to play this season.

Posing a consistent threat on the break, the Wanderers began to threaten more regularly as the first half wore on and came close in the 33rd minute, however Amy Chessari’s curling effort from the edge of the box sailed narrowly over the bar.

CANBERRA, AUSTRALIA – MARCH 09: Amy Chessari of the Wanderers in action during the A-League Women round 19 match between Canberra United and Western Sydney Wanderers at McKellar Park, on March 09, 2024, in Canberra, Australia. (Photo by Mark Nolan/Getty Images)

Soon after Canberra keeper Majstorovic then produced a fabulous save, sprinting off her line to close the space before diving low to thwart debutant Ella Buchanan from close range after she was picked out by Amy Harrison.

Golden Boot leader Heyman then had Canberra’s best effort of the first half, racing clear down the left hand side in the 42nd minute but the striker could only find the side netting as she tried to beat Wanderers keeper Sham Khamis from a tight angle.

Chessari almost then broke the deadlock in the third minute of first half stoppage time but the midfielder fired her shot across the keeper and wide of the far post after some good work by Sophie Harding.

The away side had a scare just five minutes into the second half when Harding fell awkwardly whilst challenging for the ball and was visibly in a lot of pain after appearing to roll her ankle however the Wanderers number nine opted to try and run off the injury.

The deadlock was eventually broken in the 57th minute and it came from the boot of Flannery, who steered the ball home from close range after latching on to Heyman’s clever header across the box from a free-kick.

Having shaken off her ankle knock, Harding then came close to levelling the scores but her left footed effort from the edge of the box was brilliantly saved by Majstorovic in the Canberra goal.

CANBERRA, AUSTRALIA – MARCH 09: Alex McKenzie of Canberra United in action during the A-League Women round 19 match between Canberra United and Western Sydney Wanderers at McKellar Park, on March 09, 2024, in Canberra, Australia. (Photo by Mark Nolan/Getty Images)

Wanderers defender Lauren Keir couldn’t convert from a Harrison free-kick in the 66th minute, steering her effort over the bar before Harding then tried her luck from distance soon after but didn’t trouble the keeper.

Harding threatened again in the 73rd minute, this time peeling off her marker inside the box before firing a left footed effort straight into the gloves of Majstorovic.

The Canberra shotstopper then produced what looked to be a match-winning save deep into stoppage time, tipping Wanderers sub India Breier’s fierce shot over the bar however the home fans wouldn’t ultimately leave the ground in frustration.

A long ball forward found Harding on the half-way line and the striker produced a moment of absolute class, beautifully controlling the ball before releasing a first time pass into the path of Morris who raced beyond the last defender and slotted the ball home to seal a crucial point for the away side.