Matildas goalkeeper Lydia Williams hopes the ACT government reconsiders its decision to withdraw from Australia's World Cup bid after she returned to Canberra to break hearts on Sunday.
Williams and Melbourne City snatched a win against Canberra United at McKellar Park, the visitors converting a 93rd minute penalty in a 2-1 triumph.
More than 1200 fans packed into the stands on a hot afternoon to watch a gritty Canberra go within inches of upsetting the star-studded Melbourne roster.
But the same fans won't get a chance to see the Matildas in action at the 2023 World Cup if Australia's bid is successful.
The government says the cost of hosting up to six games and a potential schedule clash at Canberra Stadium prompted officials to withdraw from the FFA's proposal.
Williams, who grew up in Canberra and started her W-League career at United, said not being a part of the growing tournament would be a missed chance.
"I think the [South Australian] government was out, but they got back in. Anything is possible," Williams said.
"The support we had at Canberra United, or when the Matildas play here, it's a great city to show off women's sport. And especially for a World Cup. If we get the World Cup, I think it's a lost opportunity."
Melbourne needed Williams at her best in the W-League, with Canberra chasing a big round-two scalp. Melbourne boasts plenty of Matildas firepower, including former Canberra players Williams, Ellie Carpenter, Emily Van Egmond, Emma Checker and Yukari Kinga, but they found it tough to crack a determined home side.
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The first half was a goal-less arm wrestle, with both sides failing to take chances as defensive lines held strong.
But Canberra blew the game open after the break, with three international recruits combining to score the opener.
Simone Charley, who was outstanding for the entire game, forced a turnover and the ball fell to Brazilian star Camila Pereira. Pereira's long-range shot caught Williams off guard and hit the top corner of the post and crossbar.
The rebound fell to American Katie Stengel, who hammered home the goal despite a diving Williams' attempted stop.
It gave Canberra the upperhand, but Milica Mijatovic scored an equaliser eight minutes later and then the heartbreaker came at the end of regular time.
Canberra was denied a penalty chance for a clear handball in their attacking box. Melbourne took advantage, racing to the other end and winning a penalty when Kinga was taken down. Canberra goalkeeper Sham Khamis got a hand to Van Egmond's shot, but the ball cannoned into the side of the net.
Canberra coach Heather Garriock conceded Jessie Rasschaert's challenge on Kinga was a penalty.
"We all believe in each other, we all know what we want and we're so disappointed not to get the three points. Even a draw wouldn't have been good enough," Garriock said.
"We've come a long way, and that's credit to the players buying into what we want to do ... With the stars they've got, [Melbourne] should be winning. We've got no stars, and that's what I love. We're underdogs and we'll fight until the end."
Canberra did miss a chance to take the lead in the final minutes, with Ashlie Crofts missing a close-range volley.
"I would have put my house on it that she scores that nine times out of 10 because she's prolific in front of goals," Garriock said. "I'm more pleased with the second half because we created opportunities."
Canberra skipper Karly Roestbakken had the task of keeping Matildas star Carpenter quiet in her return to the capital.
"How proud can you be of that kid? Seriously, how far she's come," Garriock said of Roestbakken.
"She was marking an Olympian and one of the best players in the world and did not miss a beat. Ellie was quiet today and didn't threaten us. Karly Roestbakken ... just unbelievable."
Canberra and Melbourne now both have one win each from the opening two rounds. Canberra moves their focus to Newcastle this weekend, while Melbourne is preparing for a clash against Adelaide.
"That was certainly difficult," Williams said. "We got the win, there's more to build on for us. But obviously we want to keep a clean sheet. We've definitely got some momentum now.
"[Having a strong roster] makes us more accountable. We know what we can do ... we have really high standards in training and games. When we don't reach that, we get frustrated. It is pressure, but pressure because we want to be perfect."]
AT A GLANCE
MELBOURNE CITY 2 (Milica Mijatovic 66', Emily Van Egmond pen 90+3') bt CANBERRA UNITED 1 (Katie Stengel 58') at McKellar Park on Sunday. Crowd: 1293