The Wellington Phoenix have been forced to share the spoils with Brisbane Roar, despite producing arguably their best performance in the Liberty A-League.
The Phoenix have conceded a late equaliser to draw 1-1 with the Roar at Sky Stadium in Wellington, after leading 1-0 at halftime.
Centre back Marisa van der Meer put the Nix in front midway through the first-half and they were the dominant side for the majority of the contest, with 61% of possession and 20 shots to Brisbane’s 13.
But Wellington couldn’t find a second goal, and Roar forward Shea Connors punished the Phoenix by levelling the scores in the 80th minute.
Head coach Natalie Lawrence was at a loss to explain how they didn’t walk away with all three points.
“We’ve said it a few times this season that we deserve something out of the game but we deserved to win the game,” Lawrence told media post-match.
“I don’t think we’ve been that dominant in a game yet in our history, where we’ve had so many chances.
“Some of the stuff there was actually described to me as scintillating, which I thought was quite a nice way to describe it.”
The Nix remain bottom of the table, but are now four points behind the Newcastle Jets.
“We are still in reach of them,” Lawrence said. “We play them and we have two games in hand, so I feel like destiny is in our hands to achieve our goal of not only beating the points tally of last season but getting off the bottom of the league.
“This game has meant that we’ve got points out of four games this season, which is one more than last season. There are huge, huge positives.”
The match was not without controversy, with the Wellington coaching staff upset Roar captain Ayesha Norrie wasn’t send-off for pushing Phoenix midfielder Betsy Hassett in the face early in the second half.
“For me you can’t push somebody’s face against the turf. I don’t know how that’s not a red card.
“I don’t know what the referee saw there but if that’s not a red card I don’t know what is. Once again, we leave a little bit frustrated with the officiating.
“If they’re down to 10 players, we’re 1-nil up and we’re as dominant as we are then the game probably looks a little bit different.”
Natalie Lawrence made one change to the XI which started last Sunday’s defeat to Sydney FC, with Hassett returning from concussion to replace Australian defender Claudia Cicco, who is away with the Young Matildas. Kate Taylor returned to centre back, with Mackenzie Barry shifting to right fullback in place of Cicco.
The Phoenix dominated possession and looked the more threatening of the two sides from the opening whistle, with Milly Clegg and Michaela Robertson dangerous down both flanks.
Van der Meer gave the Nix a deserved lead in the 26th minute, nodding home another pinpoint free-kick from Michaela Foster.
Clegg came close to doubling Wellington’s lead before halftime when she cut in from the left and unleashed a strong right-footed shot. Brisbane goalkeeper Hensley Hancuff produced a quality save to deny the teenager.
Foster and Grace Wisnewski both shot over the bar early in the second-half, with Wisnewski’s effort coming after Hancuff punched clear a dangerous Robertson cross that just missed Ava Pritchard’s head.
Wisnewski had a couple more opportunities midway through the second-half, with the midfielder’s volley in the 65th minute the best of them. The Roar ‘keeper was relieved to see that fizz narrowly wide of her left-hand post.
Connors then delivered the Phoenix a sucker punch in the 80th minute, getting on the end of a perfectly weighted pass from her captain and beating Brianna Edwards, who had been up until then untested in the Wellington goal.
Lawrence responded to the equaliser by putting an extra player up front with playmaker Alyssa Whinham replacing centre back Kate Taylor.
The Nix continued to throw numbers forward and get into promising positions but they were unable to test Hancuff before fulltime.
Their best chance came early into time added on when Hassett made a great run down the left flank and delivered a dangerous ball into the box. Unfortunately for the Nix it evaded substitute Emma Rolston and Robertson at the back post.
The match pushed past the 100 minute mark but Brisbane held on to earn a share of the spoils.
The Wellington Phoenix face Sydney FC for the second time in a fortnight next weekend, this time in Sydney.
Wellington Phoenix: 12. Brianna EDWARDS (gk), 3. Kate TAYLOR (10. Alyssa WHINHAM 85th), 4. Mackenzie BARRY, 5. Marisa VAN DER MEER, 7. Chloe KNOTT (c), 8. Grace WISNEWSKI, 9. Ava PRITCHARD (16. Emma ROLSTON 61st), 11. Betsy HASSETT, 14. Michaela ROBERTSON, 20. Milly CLEGG (13. Paige SATCHELL 69th), 21. Michaela FOSTER.
Unused substitutes: 50. Corina BROWN (gk), 2. Saskia VOSPER.
Brisbane Roar: 51. Hensley HANCUFF (gk), 3. Jessie RASSCHAERT (13. Tamar LEVIN 88th), 5. Jamilla RANKIN, 7. Ayesha NORRIE (c), 11. Sharn FREIER (78. Margot ROBINNE 67th), 12. Shea CONNORS, 17. Talitha KRAMER, 19. Hollie PALMER, 23. Kajsa LIND, 27. Indiah-Paige RILEY (4. Kijah STEPHENSON 88th), 31. Alleeah DAVERN (6. Holly MCQUEEN 58th).
Unused substitutes: 1. Isabella SHUTTLEWORTH (gk).
5. Marisa VAN DER MEER (Wellington Phoenix) – 26th.
12. Shea CONNORS (Brisbane Roar) – 80th
27. Indiah-Paige RILEY (Brisbane Roar) – yellow 26th
7. Ayesha NORRIE (Brisbane Roar) – yellow – 53rd