Canberra looked lively from the first whistle but couldn't break the deadlock in a stalemate first half, with both defences ran ragged in a tactical match.

United did eventually make the breakthrough however, taking the lead in phenomenal circumstances after neat play from Simone Charley found Camila in space, the Brazilian rifling an incredible strike on goal from well outside the area that cannoned off the post.

It was no surprise to see the infamous poaching skills of Katie Stengel at work as she calmly tucked the rebound home.

But despite Canberra's prowess, City's world-class experience showed as they slowly became more dominant, pushing the influential Yukari Kinga further afield as the match wore on.

They soon struck back through Milica Mijatovic after Kinga's perfectly-weighted through-ball cut Canberra's defence, allowing Mijatovic to clinically finish on an acute angle.

The goal seemed to dash Canberra's spirits and bouy City, who pressed hard into the 90th minute and eventually reaped their rewards in controversial circumstances.

Steph Catley challenged a ball in the penalty area and the resulting rebound drifted past Kinga, who appeared to be brought down from goal-side Jessie Rasschaert. It was a tight-call - although seemingly the right choice - from a scrappy period of play.

Shamiran Khamis, who has been in excellent form, came within centimetres of saving Van Egmond's resulting spot-kick and actually laid a solid palm on the ball, but could only push the strike into her own net.

Khamis' gutwrenching exclamations said it all; City win their first match of the season, but Canberra will be left to ponder how much mentality, rather than talent, will eventually decide their season.