Melbourne Victory have survived a scare to get their Liberty A-League campaign back on track with a 1-0 away victory over the Western Sydney Wanderers.
Maja Markovski’s second-half penalty proved the difference on Sunday after Rosie Galea handled a Francesca Iermano cross in the Wanderers box.
The win keeps Jeff Hopkins’ third-placed Victory side in touch with front runners Melbourne City and Sydney FC after two straight defeats had allowed them to open up a gap.
“It was a really hard-fought win and the girls dug in after the last few results,” Hopkins said.
“There was some resilience and character as well as some good football.
“It was hot and quite oppressive at times and we had a few girls coming from isolation and they were struggling in terms of fitness.
“We asked the players to show something and they did and worked really hard for each other.
“That must have been the toughest game I’ve been involved in with the club.”
In hot and humid conditions at Sydney’s Commbank Stadium, Victory struggled to find a breakthrough and their sole chance of real promise in the first half came when Catherine Zimmerman drifted a ball perfectly across the six-yard box.
The delivery almost took Markovski by surprise and she was just a metre or two shy from bundling in an opener.
Western Sydney’s best opportunity came when a poorly-cleared ball found its way to Caitlin Cooper, but the defender’s 25-yard effort was directed straight into the arms of Victory No.1 Casey Dumont.
After the break, the Wanderers began brightly with Erica Halloway bursting down the right but she was unable to find Bryleeh Henry with the cross.
Victory’s Alex Chidiac was denied by the woodwork on her return from COVID-19 just after the hour mark, before Galea’s handball presented Markovski with the chance to score the game’s opener in the 74th minute.
Initially referee Rachel Mitchenson didn’t seem interested but, after a lengthy consultation with touchline assistant Amber Morris, she pointed to the spot.
Markovski fired home the winner with ease and despite a late assault by the Wanderers they did enough to hold on.
“I’m gutted and that one is really hard to take,” said Wanderers coach Catherine Cannuli.
“To me it didn’t look like a penalty but I’ve yet to watch it back.
“I thought we had the majority of the ball and we really took it to them.
“But we didn’t take our chances when we had them. I think for us it’s a confidence thing.
“We are being progressive and playing good football, it’s just about the ball falling for us and getting the goals.”