The Wellington Phoenix have snapped their winless run in the 2022-23 Liberty A-League in resounding style.
The Phoenix have outclassed Canberra United 5-0 at Sky Stadium in Wellington, after producing their best half of the season to take a deserved 2-0 lead at the break.
Football Ferns midfielder Betsy Hassett bagged a brace of goals for the Nix, while New Zealand under-20 internationals Milly Clegg and Ava Pritchard, and popular Wellington forward Michaela Robertson also got on the score sheet.
It is the women’s first win since March last year and comes after seven defeats and a draw to open the new season.
Phoenix head coach Natalie Lawrence told media post-game that the “pressure was piling on” to get a result.
“We knew that this win had to happen,” Lawrence said. “We knew that we wanted to do it how we wanted to do it.
“I’ve said to the players all along it’s been coming, that 90-minute performance where just everything clicked. I said the goals were coming and today it poured goals.
“For me personally this is a day that I’ll remember forever. To do it how we did it is exactly everything I wanted to promise at the start of the season and thanks for the players for believing in that and sticking to our processes because the outcome happened today.”
Lawrence was especially proud of how her players performed with a two goal halftime lead.
“Credit to them. That could have been the most excitable changing room where they’re losing their heads because they’re like ‘oh my god it’s 2-nil’.
“But they’re like ‘no we’re professionals there’s 45 minutes left let’s get more goals. Betsy’s goal was our first goal from open play let’s build on that’.
“We knew there was going to be a game where everything came together, everything we’ve been working on came together and I’m just really, really happy for the players that it was today.
“They stepped up their professionalism today I think.
“We don’t want to get carried away and get ahead of ourselves. This is the start, and this should be the real turning point in our season.”
Paige Satchell, Grace Wisnewski and Mackenzie Barry backed-up for the Nix less than 24 hours after playing for the Football Ferns at Eden Park.
Natalie Lawrence made two changes to the XI which started last Sunday’s match against the Glory in Perth, with Hassett returning from international duty to replace the suspended Emma Rolston in midfield, while Clegg took Robertson’s place on the wing.
It took a while for the Phoenix to reap the rewards for their stellar first half performance.
Michaela Foster struck the crossbar from a corner in the seventh minute and Marisa van der Meer came close to bundling the ball over the line from another Foster set piece shortly after the quarter of the hour mark.
Clegg was a constant threat down Wellington’s right flank, beating defenders one-on-one, linking well with van der Meer and delivering crosses into the visitors’ box.
She forced Canberra ‘keeper Chloe Lincoln to make her first save midway through the first half and put Pritchard through on goal 10 minutes later, but her strike partner was unable to finish after rounding Lincoln.
Brianna Edwards was relatively unemployed down the other end of the pitch, but was sharp when she was required.
The breakthrough finally came in the 43rd minute from a corner. Clegg volleyed home from six yards out after a Canberra defender cleared Satchell’s initial header off the line.
The Phoenix doubled their advantage shortly before halftime with Milly Clegg this time turning provider. The 17-year-old burst on to a well-timed through ball from Pritchard and then unleashed a powerful first-time shot that Lincoln could only parry to the back post, where Hassett taped home for their second.
The crowd had barely taken their seats for the second-half before the Nix made it 3-0. Foster delivered an inch-perfect cross from the left flank that Pritchard volleyed past the ‘keeper from six yards out.
The second-half was a more even contest and Canberra thought they had earned themselves a way back into the game when they were awarded a penalty little over a quarter of an hour into the half.
But Edwards denied Vesna Milivojevic from the penalty spot, with a strong save down to her right.
Both sides had goalscoring opportunities for the next 20 minutes but it was the Phoenix who again found the back of the net. Substitute Isabel Gomez slipped Hassett through on goal with a beautiful reverse pass in the 83rd minute and the Ferns midfield took one touch and then finished past Lincoln.
Robertson completed the scoring three minutes from fulltime, bundling home a Foster corner at the expense of the Canberra defender on the near post.
The Wellington Phoenix remain bottom of the Liberty A-League ladder, but will be buoyed as they prepare to head over the Tasman next weekend to visit the Brisbane Roar.
Wellington Phoenix: 12. Brianna EDWARDS (gk), 3. Kate TAYLOR, 4. Mackenzie BARRY (2. Saskia VOSPER 71st), 5. Marisa VAN DER MEER, 7. Chloe KNOTT (c), 8. Grace WISNEWSKI (6. Isabel GOMEZ 58th), 9. Ava PRITCHARD, 11. Betsy HASSETT, 13. Paige SATCHELL (14. Michaela ROBERTSON 51st), 20. Milly CLEGG (19. Charlotte LANCASTER 72nd), 21. Michaela FOSTER.
Unused substitutes: 22. Georgia CANDY (gk).
Canberra United: 18. Chloe LINCOLN (gk), 6. Laura HUGHES, 7. Ellie BRUSH, 8. Sasha GROVE, 9. Chengshu WU (4. Holly MURRAY 83rd), 11. Grace JALE, 12. Hayley TAYLOR-YOUNG (5. Emma ILIJOSKI 46th), 17. Vesna MILIVOJEVIC, 19. Nickoletta FLANNERY (16. Kennedy FAULKNOR 56th), 23. Michelle HEYMAN (c), 24. Ellen GETT (13. Sofia CHRISTOPHERSON 67th).
Unused substitutes: 22. Keely SEGAVCIC (gk),.
20. Milly CLEGG (Wellington Phoenix) – 43rd
11. Betsy HASSETT (Wellington Phoenix) – 45th
9. Ava PRITCHARD (Wellington Phoenix) – 47th
11. Betsy HASSETT (Wellington Phoenix) – 83rd
14. Michaela ROBERTSON (Wellington Phoenix) – 87th