A Holly McNamara stunner netted Melbourne City a 1-0 victory in their A-League Women season-opener on Friday night.
Cutting in from the left wing on the 80-minute mark, the City forward curled the ball around Canberra United goalkeeper Keeley Richards from just inside the penalty area, the goal proving the difference in a 1-0 win at Viking Park.
Until that point it had looked as if City might be denied a deserved victory after producing a string of chances in a dominant performance.
In a 10-minute second-half blitz, Kiwi international Hannah Wilkinson had demanded three quality saves from Richards, notably a leaping effort to tip a long shot over the bar before another blast from close range again needed to be parried away.
United could have opened their account as Margot Robinne put Grace Maher into space before her left-footed shot failed to stretch City custodian Melissa Barbieri on 73 minutes.
After McNamara's goal, City looked to have found a second but Richards emerged from a goal-mouth scramble holding the ball.
Late drama was avoided when United substitute Alexia Karrys-Stahl jumped high but could only head the ball to Barbieri.
City coach Rado Vidosic said he began to fear the goal wasn't coming before McNamara stepped up to the plate.
"You always think like that, but we know that we will have a few goal-scorers this season," he said.
"Holly, she's only 18 years old, a great talent - and what a strike. Their goalkeeper made some fantastic saves and she kept them in the game."
Earlier, each side wasted a gilt-edged chance to open their accounts for the season in the first 11 minutes.
A divine Rebekah Stott through-ball put Rhianna Pollicina one-on-one with Richards but her shot lacked any power, while United forward Ashleigh Sykes blasted over from mere yards down the other end of the field.
Neither team would find a better scoring chance in the first half, although a speculative lob from Kaitlyn Torpey on 35 minutes threatened to find the net before falling into Richards' arms.
United champion Michelle Heyman and Sykes showed glimpses of what could make them one of the league's most problematic forward partnerships, although they never really tested Barbieri.
The win helped mark Stott's return after battling Hodgkin's lymphoma, having not played professionally in nearly a year.
In what could be a further blow for United, Heyman came off limping late in the second half.
Vidosic said there was more to come from his side.
"I'm very happy, this is our first meaningful game ... I think with games we will get better and better in how we progress," he said.
Australian Associated Press