Western United played out a thrilling 2-2 draw against Melbourne City in the Liberty A-League Women with goals and drama galore.
Hannah Keane put United in front six minutes in with her first goal of the season but Melbourne City hit back with two goals after half-time to take the lead.
Spurred on by the home crowd, Western United found an equaliser with a stunning Kahli Johnson strike before Avaani Prakash thought she won it with a seemingly legitimate goal, but an offside flag meant both sides left with a point each.
Mark Torcaso made three changes to the starting XI with Kahli Johnson, Jaclyn Sawicki and Tyla Jay Vlajnic dropping out after their respective international commitments.
Johnson was fit for the bench and Keiwa Hieda replaced her for her first professional start, while Emma Robers came into midfield and Julia Sardo slotted in at right back for her first start of the season.
Western United got off to a dream start, moving straight on the front foot and finding the opener in just the sixth minute.
Hieda did brilliantly to work down the left-hand side and even after losing the ball, she persisted to win it back and square it for Keane to thump into an empty net.
The Green and Black’s fast start lifted the crowd, but it also lifted Melbourne City and the visitors began to creep further forward in search of a prompt equaliser.
City had a succession of corners that United were just able to clear in the nick of time before Alyssa Dall’Oste made a brilliant double save, first from Kaitlyn Torpey and then from Rhianna Pollicina as she quickly adjusted to block the follow-up on the goal line.
United’s No.1 made an even better save just past the half hour mark with an athletic stop, flinging her right-hand in the air after a header came at her in a flash.
City dominated possession throughout the first half but United had a couple of big chances on the break late on with Hieda involved in much of the Green and Black’s good forward work.
Melissa Taranto picked up a knock and was forced off early, allowing new signing Prakash to come off the bench for her professional debut.
The 16-year-old immediately got in on the action with a number of silky touches to ensure United ended the first half on the front foot and held onto its lead in the break.
City were out to get back into the game in the second half and just like United in the first half, they were able to find an early goal to shift the momentum.
It was a spectacular effort as Holly McNamara picked up the ball on the left wing and, amidst a number of Western United defenders, unleashed a stunning strike into the top corner.
City didn’t quite enjoy as much possession as they did in the first half as both sides exchanged forays forward until the visitors took the lead.
It was unfortunate for United after a giveaway in midfield and a fortuitous bounce that allowed McNamara through on goal. After Dall’Oste’s initial parry, Hannah Wilkinson followed in on the goal line to square the ledger despite a hint of offside.
The Green and Black, as it so often has in the Liberty A-League, failed to back down and got right back on the offensive in search of an equaliser.
Not to be outdone by McNamara’s earlier effort, Kahli Johnson stepped in-field and sent a rocket into the roof of the net, kissing the underside of the crossbar before nestling in the net.
That was with less than five minutes to go and there was still time for more late drama in the closing stages. Johnson was a whisker away from putting United in front when her deflected strike brushed the side netting, and the resultant corner should have seen United win the game.
Grace Maher lifted a brilliant ball in towards the back post and Prakash was there to finish with a lovely side-footed volley, but the offside flag halted celebrations despite Prakash appearing to be well onside.
Nonetheless, the goal did not stand and the teams ultimately shared the spoils in an enthralling game, ensuring that United remains unbeaten against Melbourne City in the Liberty A-League.