The Wellington Phoenix have produced a remarkable comeback to secure their first point on the road this Liberty A-League season.
The Phoenix have drawn 3-3 with the Brisbane Roar at A.J. Kelly Park in Brisbane, despite being two goals and a player down inside the opening half an hour.
The Roar took a 2-0 lead moments after Wellington defender Kate Taylor was sent off in the 27th minute.
Despite playing with just 10 players for more than an hour in stifling heat, the Nix fought back and incredibly led 3-2 after stunning strikes from Michaela Foster, Milly Clegg and Grace Wisnewski.
Brisbane drew level five minutes from fulltime, but the Phoenix thought they had won it in time added on when substitute Michaela Robertson slotted home, only for her goal to be ruled out for offside.
“Three points was probably on the cards for us today,” Phoenix head coach Natalie Lawrence said post-game. “But I think if you said to me you’d finish 3-3 when you’re two-nil down after 30 minutes with 10 players I’d probably rip your hand off.”
Lawrence “couldn’t be prouder of all of the players”.
“The heart, determination and fight of this group was shown.
“The fact we were two-nil down and then we took it to 3-2. When you look at the character, I can’t be anything but proud of the whole group.
“Huge, huge credit to the players for how hard they worked in pretty brutal heat.”
As well as the stifling temperature the Nix shook off the best part of 24 hours of travel to get to Brisbane, via Christchurch.
“We could use all of these things as an excuse, and we didn’t today.
“That just shows the character of everyone and how we don’t let this stuff get to us. We control what we can and that’s how we play on the field.”
Natalie Lawrence named the same XI which started last Sunday’s 5-0 win over Canberra United. The only change came on the bench, where Claudia Cicco replaced Charlotte Lancaster.
The Phoenix got off to a sluggish start and found themselves a goal down inside quarter of an hour. Roar forward Shea Connors scored a fine individual goal, getting the better of her defender to burst in the box before calmly finishing past Brianna Edwards.
The Nix responded well to going behind and started putting together more passes inside the Brisbane half.
But the Roar caught Wellington on the break before the half an hour mark. Taylor was red-carded for denying Connors what the referee deemed to be a clear and obvious goal scoring opportunity, before Katrina Gorry expertly finished the resulting free-kick from 19 yards out.
A drinks break followed giving Lawrence an opportunity to make a substitution or change formation. She opted against bringing on an extra defender, remaining positive and deciding to play three at the back in Taylor’s absence.
Foster spectacularly pulled a goal back shortly after the match resumed. The fullback beat Brisbane ‘keeper Hensley Hancuff with a sensational free-kick from at least 30 yards out.
The Phoenix continued to play positively, despite being a player down and Paige Satchell almost created something out of nothing at the end of the first half. Satchell won possession high up the pitch and drove into the box but sliced her shot wide of goal.
Grace Wisnewski ensured the Nix only trailed by a goal at halftime, producing a great goal-line clearance to deny Roar forward Larissa Crummer in time added on.
Wellington kept attacking at the start of the second-half and Foster came close to scoring an equaliser from another long-range free-kick in the 61st minute. This time Hancuff was able to tip her shot from distance around the post.
Clegg drew the Phoenix level a handful of minutes later with a superb solo effort. After receiving the ball on the edge of the area, the 17-year-old cut inside the box and unleashed a strong right-footed shot that the Brisbane ‘keeper could do nothing to stop.
Gorry came within inches of restoring the Roar’s lead in the 71st minute when she rattled the crossbar from a free-kick.
The Nix were able to regroup at the resulting drinks break and Wisnewski sensationally put them in front soon after, beating Hancuff with a powerful shot from the edge of the area.
Edwards’ goal led a charmed life for the next half a dozen minutes with Roar midfielders Hollie Palmer and Ayesha Gorrie both seeing long-range shots bounce off the crossbar.
Larissa Crummer drew Brisbane level moments later, producing a pinpoint curling effort that beat Wellington’s ‘keeper and nestled well inside the far post.
Robertson thought she had won it for the Phoenix in the third minute of stoppage time, when she got on the end of a cross from fellow substitute Claudia Cicco and steered a shot Hancuff.
But after some deliberation between the officials, the goal was ruled out with Robertson deemed to be offside.
The Nix could have won it with the final kick of the game too, but Clegg blazed over the Brisbane goal after being given space to shoot on the edge of the area.
The Phoenix remain bottom of the table, but are now just two points behind the Newcastle Jets.
After five matches in January the Wellington Phoenix women have a week off before returning to Liberty A-League action against Western Sydney Wanderers in a fortnight.
Wellington Phoenix: 12. Brianna EDWARDS (gk), 3. Kate TAYLOR, 4. Mackenzie BARRY, 5. Marisa VAN DER MEER (2. Saskia VOSPER 80th), 7. Chloe KNOTT (c) (6. Isabel GOMEZ 88th), 8. Grace WISNEWSKI, 9. Ava PRITCHARD (17. Claudia CICCO 80th), 11. Betsy HASSETT, 13. Paige SATCHELL (14. Michaela ROBERTSON 62nd), 20. Milly CLEGG, 21. Michaela FOSTER.
Unused substitutes: 22. Georgia CANDY (gk).
Brisbane Roar: 51. Hensley HANCUFF (gk), 3. Jessie RASSCHAERT, 5. Jamilia RANKIN, 7. Ayesha NORRIE (c), 9. Larissa CRUMMER, 10. Katrina GORRY (13. Tamar LEVIN 88th), 12. Shea CONNORS, 17. Talitha KRAMER, 19. Hollie PALMER, 23. Kajsa LIND, 27. Indiah-Paige RILEY (11. Sharn FREIER 70th).
Unused substitutes: 1. Isabella SHUTTLEWORTH (gk), 6. Holly MCQUEEN, 16. Zara KRUGER.
12. Shea CONNORS (Brisbane Roar) – 15th
10. Katrina GORRY (Brisbane Roar) – 28th
21. Michaela FOSTER (Wellington Phoenix) – 33rd
20. Milly CLEGG (Wellington Phoenix) – 66th
8. Grace WISNEWSKI (Wellington Phoenix) – 78th
9. Larissa CRUMMER (Brisbane Roar) – 86th
3. Kate TAYLOR (Wellington Phoenix) – red – 27th
13. Paige SATCHELL (Wellington Phoenix) – yellow – 55th
9. Larissa CRUMMER (Brisbane Roar) – yellow – 66th
7. Ayesha NORRIE (Brisbane Roar) – yellow – 67th
51. Hensley HANCUFF (Brisbane Roar) – yellow – 90+3