(Reuters) – A goal nine minutes into extra time from Debinha sent Carolina Courage on their way to a hard-fought 4-1 win over Reign FC on Sunday and ensured them a place in the final of next weekend’s National Women’s Soccer League (NWSL).
The Brazilian midfielder, on what was her 28th birthday, curled a right-footed free kick into the corner of the net to break a 1-1 deadlock in Cary, North Carolina.
Reigning champions Courage will face the Chicago Red Stars in the final at their home stadium on Oct. 27.
The Red Stars beat Portland Thorns FC 1-0 in the other semi-final thanks to a goal from striker Sam Kerr eight minutes into the match.
Heather O’Reilly had given the Courage the lead with a penalty kick in the 88th minute before Feoma Onumonu equalised for the visitors three minutes into stoppage time.
But the next three goals belonged to the Courage with Debinha’s free kick followed by an own goal from Reign FC’s Lauren Barnes and another from Carolina forward Crystal Dunn.
“When you give up a late goal like that, it can affect the psyche of a team,” Courage head coach Paul Riley said of the equaliser conceded in injury time.
“It was kind of a hole we put ourselves in, but you only get better by being in those types of holes. They showed a lot of character in overtime.”
(Reporting by Gene Cherry in Raleigh, North Carolina; Editing by Stephen Coates)