Special moment for three-game forward who picks perfect time to score first A-Leagues goal

Central Coast Mariners v Western United - Highlights | Liberty A-League 2023-24 | Round 22

Kiara De Domizio came off the bench to score her very first Liberty A-League goal and rescue a crucial point for Western United in a 1-1 draw with Central Coast Mariners on Thursday night.

The Mariners kicked off the final round of the regular season needing a win to lock in their spot inside the top four and it looked as thought they would take all three points when Annalise Rasmussen came off the bench to fire the hosts into the lead.

But De Domizio answered back with her maiden Liberty A-League strike in the 83rd minute, earning Western a share of the spoils at Industree Group Stadium.

The result kept Western in third spot and took their season points tally to 36, with the Mariners close behind on 35. The Mariners are now at risk of dropping out of the top four by the end of the round, with both Western Sydney Wanderers and Melbourne Victory just three points behind in fifth and sixth respectively.

Western’s top-four finish however is secured; should both Wanderers and Victory draw level on 36 points with Western, Kat Smith’s side will keep their spot due to a superior number of wins to Victory (11 to nine prior to Victory’s final game).

Thursday’s draw also confirmed both Sydney FC and Melbourne City as the top-two finishers this season, and a path straight to the Semi Finals for both clubs.

The Mariners almost went ahead inside five minutes when Kyah Simon latched onto an inviting cross off the right wing; the Matildas star’s header was on target but Alyssa Dall’Oste got a crucial glove on the ball to push it off the crossbar.

The frame of Western’s goal was next to rattle and it was Faye Bryson who came close to an unfortunate own goal as her attempted clearance from Kahli Johnson’s free-kick skewed off her right foot, onto the crossbar and away.

Two more chances presented to Simon to break the deadlock before the half-hour mark, but the Mariners striker failed to latch onto a dangerous Peta Trimis delivery before a shot on the turn put Dall’Oste to the test once again.

Rola Badawiya put a long-distance strike on goal soon after Simon’s third attempt of the half, but Dall’Oste tracked back to gather.

A cagey second half almost burst into life when Tyla-Jay Vlajnic received the ball in space on the left side of the penalty area. Aimee Medwin created the chance with a driving run down the wing and picked out Vlajnic with a cross but the full-back’s shot was just too high, flicking the bar on its way out for a goal kick.

The Mariners launched an attack from the resulting goal kick and Wurigumula found Annelise Rasmussen on the edge of the box to shoot, but the substitute couldn’t keep the ball down as it floated high and wide.

Then came the breakthrough for the hosts – and with so little to split the two sides through 70 minutes, it was a mistake at the back by Stacey Papadopoulos that gifted Rasmussen the chance to break the deadlock.

Papdopoulos had done well to track Badawiya down the left wing but her back pass opened the door for Rasmussen to pounce on possession and slot the ball past Dall’Oste.

Rasmussen came off the bench to put the Mariners in front, but it was Western substitute Kiara De Domizio who made her impact as a Western substitute, latching onto a Jaclyn Sawicki through ball to bring her side back level in the 82nd minute.

De Domizio had the chance to seal all three points with a second late in the game but her shot from the edge of the box drifted wide as both sides settled for a point apiece.

Attention now turns to the remaining five games of the regular season to see where both teams land on the table heading into the finals.

De Domizio signed her first professional contract in the off-season; the 22-year-old from Sydney picked the perfect opportunity to score her maiden A-Leagues goal with a strong contingent of family watching on in Gosford.

Her special moment led to an emotional response in the stands captured on the Paramount+ telecast as her family celebrated a goal that not only got De Domizio off the mark in the Liberty A-League, but rescued Western the point they needed to secure a place in the top four.