(Reuters) - Six months ago Hayley Raso lay in a hospital bed wondering if she would ever walk again but the Australia winger completed a dramatic turnaround when she struck a goal to seal a 2-0 victory over New Zealand in the Cup of Nations.
Raso broke three vertebrae while playing for Portland Thorns in the Women's Soccer League in the United States after colliding with Washington Spirit goalkeeper Aubrey Bledsoe.
Within three minutes of her introduction from the bench on Thursday, Raso skipped past a Kiwi defender before firing a clinical low-finish into the net.
The 24-year-old's 75th minute strike along with Emily Gielnik's opener just before the break ensured the Matildas collected their first victory under interim coach Ante Milicic.
"I think it was just overwhelming for me," Raso told reporters.
"I just wanted to come out, I just wanted to keep getting minutes under my belt, so to score is just so exciting and I’m so grateful to be back.
"Ante just told me to come out, enjoy myself and follow the game plan. But he's a fantastic coach and he's doing really well."
With Raso's sights firmly set on representing Australia at the World Cup in France in June, pressure will be on Milicic to ensure her a spot in a competitive forward line.
"It was a good finish. It's been well documented her injuries, but that's in the past," Milicic said.
"She has to move forward and she's done that — she’s been great at training and I think that will do a lot for her confidence because she deserved it."
Australia continue their Cup of Nations campaign in Brisbane on Sunday against South Korea, who thrashed Argentina 5-0 on Thursday.
(Reporting by Hardik Vyas in Bengaluru; Editing by Amlan Chakraborty)