Bruno Fornaroli was emotional on his return to action for Melbourne City, after six months on the sidelines.
The Uruguayan striker could have little effect on the game, as City slipped to a 4-0 defeat to leaders Sydney FC.
But his presence on the pitch could be huge for coach Warren Joyce, who has seen leading scorer Ross McCormack return to Aston Villa following his loan spell.
Fornaroli topped City's scoring charts in both the previous two seasons, and they will need him to quickly return to his old form if they're to challenge for the championship.
It's not only the fans, there are so many things in my head because I really pushed myself a lot every day to come back, and I waited a lot of time for this moment.Bruno Fornaroli
The home loss to the Sky Blues ended a six-game unbeaten spell that had yielded 14 points.
They are four points behind second-placed Newcastle Jets, who have a game in hand.
Fornaroli admitted he was close to tears on the touchline as he prepared to come on as a second-half substitute at AAMI Park.
The club captain broke his ankle in a pre-season FFA Cup tie in August, and admits there were times when he despaired of ever recovering properly and playing again.
"I am very disappointed about the result, but at the same time it's a great feeling for me to play again after six months," said Fornaroli. "It's amazing to come back at AAMI Park, because I can feel the fans close to me, it's very important to push me up."
The striker was introduced on 64 minutes as Joyce tried to chase the game.
He said: "I wanted to cry in this moment. It's not only the fans, there are so many things in my head because I really pushed myself a lot every day to come back, and I waited a lot of time for this moment."
Now he has 10 days to prepare and get fit for the trip to Perth on 24th February.
He played in a friendly last week against Chinese Super League club Guangzhou R & F but admits there's still a fair way to go before he's feeling 100 per cent.
"I feel good, but at the same time it's not my level," said Fornaroli. "Sometimes I can't turn quickly, or my mind thinks something and my legs don't respond, they take another second. I want to catch up, I want to feel 110 per cent again."
Melbourne City are 12121/1 to win the Grand Final.
City are 8/5 to be in the Grand Final along with Sydney FC.
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