Prior to the game on Friday evening, Melbourne City and Brisbane Roar were at fifth and sixth on the ladder respectively.
Both sides needed a win to boost them into the coveted top four, yet history suggested a draw.
However, a shot of brilliance from Chioma Ubogagu in the second half saw Roar steal the lead 0-1 and, ultimately, the game.
City put out a strong starting eleven, with Helen Caceres earning another start and Jasmyne Spencer returning. Brisbane set up with the usual suspects, rotating in youngsters Hollie Palmer and Anna Margraf.
The game started – and continued – in City’s favour, as they claimed plenty of possession and pressed high. Early shots came from Theresa Nielsen and Tameka Butt – the latter having four shots in the first twenty minutes. Nielsen and Rhali Dobson were fluid on the right flank, with Steph Catley and Caceres mirroring this on the left.
Roar also attempted to maintain a passing game, however, their defence sat so deep that their transitions became rushed.
They blocked shots and cleared often. However, City gave them little breathing room, recapturing and reapplying pressure after hasty clearances.
International midfielders Celeste Boureille and Yuki Nagasato tried to find the pockets upfront, but the final play was often an unsuccessful long lob or a frantic pass back to the opposition. Furthermore, their attackers were called offside more times than not.
There were two key moments that saw City clumsily miss the win for the taking.
The first was in the 23rd minute. Clare Polkinghorne knocked over Spencer in a tackle, moments later herself tumbling. Catley stole the remains, dribbling towards goal and pulling Mackenzie Arnold off her line before making the smart back-post pass.
On its way through the ball clipped Celeste Boureille and Carson Pickett (who, via a miscommunication, fell over each other.) It drifted to Dobson, the goal was open… and she volleyed it off the crossbar.
The second moment happened after Jenna McCormick pushed Spencer in the back, resulting in a penalty for City. Elise Kellond-Knight took the penalty and missed, sending the ball outside the left post.
City dominated, yet lacked the clinical finishes required to see the game out. Roar’s narrative was the inverse – they (or rather, Ubogagu) seized upon one golden chance.
In the 74th minute, Ubogagu ran half the park, turned Yukari Kinga on the 18-yard and popped the ball bottom right corner, bringing the score to 0-1.
This gave fresh confidence to Roar, however City continued to seek the equaliser into injury time.
Whilst Ubogagu undeniably shaped the match, credit must go to Arnold. The keeper’s last ditch off-the-line efforts to be an obstacle between the striker and goal invariably played off, sending the shot ricocheting away from the goal mouth.
Next week, City will play once again at home, hosting Newcastle Jets at C. B. Smith on Sunday, January 20 at 7.30pm while Brisbane will also host, looking to cement their spot in the top four with Sydney FC at Lions Stadium on Saturday, January 19 at 5pm.