An emotional Tony Gustavsson has applauded the determination shown by Elise Kellond-Knight to make her Matildas comeback after two-and-a-half years of injury struggles.
The midfielder tore her ACL in July 2020 playing for Swedish side Kristianstads and did not recover in time for the Tokyo Olympics, instead watching from home and later booking in for more knee surgery.
Having not played for Australia since February 2020, Kellond-Knight was named in the squad for the Matildas' last two matches of the year but missed out on game time against Sweden last Saturday.
Kellond-Knight's initial injury pre-dated Gustavsson's Matildas tenure but the coach was quick to rally the Gosford crowd when the 32-year-old came on against Thailand in the last 10 minutes of Tuesday night's 2-0 win.
"I am emotional when I talk about that because I know what she's been through," Gustavsson said.
"Her being out there tonight, again I get emotional, because you can't explain how big it is for her and for the team.
"I'm so happy for 'KK' to get those minutes on the pitch because she deserves it."
Gustavsson said an injury as serious as an ACL tear could have forced Kellond-Knight into retirement but for her fighting spirit.
"She's been through a crossroad moment in her career that could have been a career-ending moment," he said.
"But with her personality, her professionalism, her experience, she has fought her way back, and also with the help of the support system around her."
The playing group was pleased to have the veteran Matilda back on deck for her 114th cap.
"She's worked so hard and it's been a number of years (without her)," said forward Hayley Raso, who scored the Matildas' second goal against Thailand.
"She's such a staple of this team, she's so important and it's really nice to have her back on the pitch with us."