It was one of the unlikeliest ways any game could be won, let alone a grand final in the dying embers of extra-time.
A blustery day in Kogarah meant that Melbourne Victory forward Kyra Cooney-Cross was able to score from the corner flag and seal the title for the Victorian side who had been peppering the Sydney goal throughout the previous 119 minutes.
The goal capped off a breakout season for the 19-year-old who, having already represented Australia at junior level, looks set for a Matildas debut sooner rather than later.
Sydney FC captain Teresa Polias tried her hand at scoring from a corner earlier in the first half and came extremely close but for Cooney-Cross, she knew it was going in as soon as it left her boot.
“It looked like it was in a good spot and lucky it went in,” she said.
“I thought this was an opportunity for us to score a goal and luckily it worked out for us.”
Reflecting on her goal, Cooney-Cross admitted that some of the motivation came from wanting to avoid what would’ve been an historic penalty shootout.
“In that moment I was actually thinking about how I didn’t want it to go to penalties, I was shaky about that,” she said.
“100 per-cent, I thought it was going to penalties, for sure.”
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Since the inception of the W-League, a grand final has never been decided from the spot but Sydney and Melbourne still managed to make history with the 2021 final the first to be taken to extra-time.
It was a tough 120 minute slog for both sides with Sydney stuck on the back foot for the majority of the game but Cooney-Cross stayed true to her regular season form to break the deadlock.
She was influential throughout the campaign, scoring or assisting 10 goals including the finals series and coach Jeff Hopkins is fully aware of how important her contribution has been, particularly at such a young age.
“She’s been in our top two or three players this year and for a girl of her age who’s still developing she’s been amazing,” he said.
“She’s got better and better as the season’s gone on and she could be anything.
“I think she’s the best talent in Australian football and it’s scary how good she is, that’s all I can say about her.”
With the FIFA Women’s World Cup being held in Australia and New Zealand in 2023, Cooney-Cross looks sure to have the attention of football fans around the world sooner rather than later.
Her rise this season has been tremendous and pundits have been calling for a Matildas debut for months now but due to COVID restrictions, the national team currently only has European based players to select from.
At such a young age, though, there is no rush and for now, Kyra is lapping up the spoils of a successful season and lauded her team’s effort throughout what was a tough year.
“I’m so proud of these girls, we’ve had a good season,” she said.
“We’ve been through a lot because of COVID and I think we toughed it out and we did well.”
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