Western Sydney Wanderers have handed the Wellington Phoenix women their first defeat in four weeks.
Western Sydney have beaten the Phoenix 1-0 in their round 14 Liberty A-League match at Wanderers Football Park, scoring what was ultimately the match-winning goal late in the first half.
The Nix dominated the second-half but weren’t able to find a way past American ‘keeper Jordyn Bloomer.
It is Wellington’s fourth 1-0 defeat of the season and leaves the Phoenix bottom of the A-League with seven matches remaining.
Phoenix head coach Natalie Lawrence is frustrated her side has again finished on the wrong side of a 1-0 scoreline.
“Where it should have and could have been more. We could have got something out of that game,” Lawrence said after the match.
“Right at the death we could have drawn or won that game so there’s frustration amongst the players for sure.
“Losing 1-nil to a corner, which we’ve worked really hard on our set pieces so that that doesn’t happen, that’s a bit heart-breaking for the players.”
It was “another brutal Sydney day”, with the temperature approaching 30 degrees and the match paused twice for drinks breaks.
“It was pretty hot, especially that first half,” Lawrence said. “I thought the girls managed themselves well through that first half. We couldn’t really press as much in this heat.
“Very, very different to the weather New Zealand is currently experiencing, but no excuses.
“We’ll keep working and you can see from that second-half performance that we’re heading in the right direction, and we’ll keep heading that way.”
Natalie Lawrence made one enforced change to the XI which started last month’s remarkable 3-3 draw with Brisbane Roar, with young Australian defender Claudia Cicco replacing the suspended Kate Taylor. Cicco started at right back, with Marisa van der Meer shifting in to partner Mackenzie Barry at the heart of the Phoenix defence.
Western Sydney had the better of the opening exchanges, dominating possession and pinning the Phoenix in their half.
Wanderers had little to show for their dominance, with their best chance falling to captain Clare Hunt, who headed narrowly wide of goal from their first corner of the match in the seventh minute.
The Nix grew into the game and Bloomer was the first of the goalkeepers to be called into action. She had to be quick of her line to deny Milly Clegg a goalscoring opportunity midway through the half.
Wellington ‘keeper Brianna Edwards made her first save in the 39th minute, getting sharply down to her right to push a long-range Amy Harrison shot around the post.
Western Sydney scored with their second shot on target, breaking the deadlock from the resulting set piece, with Sophie Harding nodding a pinpoint Harrison delivery into the far corner of Edwards’ goal.
The Phoenix finished the half with a flurry and came close to equalising in the sixth minute of time added on when Bloomer was unable to deal with a dangerous corner from Michaela Foster. Marisa van der Meer headed the loose ball on goal, but it was cleared off the line by Wanderers defender Danika Matos.
The Nix started the second half as they finished the first and were dangerous going forward.
Clegg produced a great mazy run coming in from the left wing in the 48th minute, but her shot was deflected wide of goal for a corner.
Moments later Grace Wisnewski blasted a long-range shot which drifted narrowly wide of Bloomer’s left-hand post.
Edwards ensured the deficit remained at one goal, producing a couple of sharp saves after the 50 minute mark to deny Sheridan Gallagher and Harrison from close and long range.
Wellington dominated the next quarter of an hour, but were unable to find an equaliser.
Bloomer was quick off her line to deny Ava Pritchard a goalscoring opportunity after Clegg put Pritchard through on goal.
The Phoenix’s best chance fell to Paige Satchell on the hour. Foster delivered another dangerous corner, but Satchell was unable to get on top of the cross and keep her header from going over the bar.
Lawrence brought experienced forwards Michaela Robertson and Rolston off the bench for the final half an hour, but they were largely frustrated by a well-organised Western Sydney defence.
The Nix came closest to threatening Wanderers’ goal in stoppage time. Betsy Hassett and substitute Saskia Vosper produced a couple of dangerous crosses in the 95th minute, but unfortunately for Wellington nothing came of them.
Clegg had one final opportunity with virtually the last kick of the game. She beat a couple of defenders in the Western Sydney box but was unable to beat Bloomer, who got down well to her right to deny the Phoenix youngster a dramatic late, late leveller.
The Wellington Phoenix will return home tomorrow and start turning their attentions to their round 15 match against Sydney FC on Sunday, February 26; after the international break.
Wellington Phoenix: 12. Brianna EDWARDS (gk), Mackenzie BARRY, 5. Marisa VAN DER MEER, 7. Chloe KNOTT (c) (16. Emma ROLSTON 71st), 8. Grace WISNEWSKI, 9. Ava PRITCHARD (14. Michaela ROBERTSON 61st), 11. Betsy HASSETT, 13. Paige SATCHELL (6. Isabel GOMEZ 71st), 17. Claudia CICCO (2. Saskia VOSPER 79th), 20. Milly CLEGG, 21. Michaela FOSTER.
Unused substitutes: 22. Georgia CANDY (gk).
Western Sydney Wanderers: 1. Jordyn BLOOMER (gk), 3. Gemma FERRIS, 7. Amy HARRISON (6. Amy CHESSARI 75th), 8. Olivia PRICE (10. Sienna SAVESKA 90+1), 9. Sophie HARDING, 11. Danika MATOS, 14. Clare HUNT (c), 16. Malia STEINMETZ, 17. Sheridan GALLAGHER (25. Holly CASPERS 75th), 21. Alexia APOSTOLAKIS (23. Ella ABDUL MASSIH 68th), 32. Bethany GORDON.
Unused substitutes: 20. Shamiran KHAMIS (gk).
9. Sophie HARDING (Western Sydney Wanderers) – 40th
8. Grace WISNEWSKI (Wellington Phoenix) – yellow – 35th
10. Sienna SAVESKA (Western Sydney Wanderers) – yellow – 90+3