Wanderers come from behind to put one foot in the finals as Western star suffers injury blow

Western Sydney Wanderers FC v Western United FC - Extended Highlights | Liberty A-League 2023-24 | Round 21

Western Sydney Wanderers responded to major pressure in the hunt for finals by coming from behind to beat Premiership hopefuls Western United 3-1 on Saturday night.

Hannah Keane opened the scoring for United but Ella Buchanan’s equaliser before the break set the scene for Sophie Harding to bag a second-half brace and send the home side three points clear of Newcastle Jets on the Liberty A-League table – the only club now capable of breaking into the top six by the end of the season.

United could have taken top spot on the table with a win on the road on Saturday night but remain in third spot, three points off leaders Melbourne City.

Making matters worse for Western was an injury to star striker Keane in the second half; the American went down in agony in the second half and received treatment for more than 10 minutes before being stretchered off the pitch.

The nature of the injury is still unclear at full-time – but Western United eased concerns for Keane’s immediate well-being, confirming the 30-year-old had been taken to hospital, and was in a stable condition.

Western Sydney’s win over United put an end to Wellington Phoenix’s hopes of a finals berth; the New Zealand outfit now sit eight points outside of the top six with two games to play.

The Wanderers face Wellington Phoenix in the final round of the season as United prepare for another challenging task against fourth-placed Western United away from home.

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Keane scored her 10th goal of the season in the first half but not before an excellent piece of glovework from Shamiran Khamis to deny the United striker in a one-on-one in the 13th minute.

Keane bagged the opening goal with a simple tap-in just four minutes later after a scrappy passage of play in the box to put the away side on top.

It was Keane against Khamis for much of the first half and the Wanderers keeper did well to deny the striker a second just five minutes after the opening goal, closing down the space in the six-yard box as Keane diverted Tyla-Jay Vlajnic’s cross on target, but off the face of Khamis whose unconventional save kept Western Sydney in the game.

Khamis’ superb goalkeeping helped the hosts get a foothold in the game, and go on to draw level in the 39th minute.

Ella Buchanan scored the equaliser, finding herself in the right place at the right time to divert Harding’s miscued shot back on target.

United were adamant Buchanan had scored from an offside position but replays showed Alana Cerne had likely kept her onside.

Wanderers head coach Robbie Hooker brought Cushla Rue off his bench and the substitution paid dividends just beyond the hour mark when the rapid forward picked out Harding to score her 11th of the season in a blistering counter attack.

The hosts almost doubled their lead soon after when Amy Harrison picked out the head of Vicky Bruce to score from a free-kick but the offside flag was raised to deny the Wanderers a thid.

Disaster struck for United when Keane went down in agony after challenging Wanderers defender Alexia Apostolakis for possession deep in the away side’s attack.

Play stopped for more than 10 minutes as Keane received treatment and was eventually stretchered off the pitch.

Shortly after the resumption of play, the Wanderers had three as Rue and Harding combined once again to ice the game and put her team within touching distance of the finals.