Three of the Wellington Phoenix’s new signings have helped the team to their first win of the 2023-24 Liberty A-League season.
Venezuela international Mariana Speckmaier and Phoenix academy graduates Macey Fraser and Manaia Elliott have scored second half goals as the Nix have beaten Western Sydney Wanderers 3-0 in their second round match at CommBank Stadium in Sydney.
Elliott, fellow substitute Chloe Knott and Kate Taylor came close to adding to the scoreline in time added on as Wellington ran away with the three points.
It is seven weeks earlier than the Phoenix women took to register their maiden win last season and nine rounds earlier than their inaugural campaign.
As well as a valuable three points, Paul Temple’s side has claimed the ‘Sister City Cup’, which is played for between the two sides.
“It’s obviously a great feeling to win [and] win away from home with a clean sheet as well,” Temple said post-match.
“Off the back of a good performance last week I think we needed to back it up and get the result that we wanted.
“It was a tough game for 65/70 minutes. It wasn’t pretty at times, and it was a bit of a war of attrition, but eventually we got the breakthrough and from when we scored the first goal then we really relaxed, and it was a little bit of pressure lifted off the players.
“You could see them way more relaxed in possession, we kept the ball really well and we absolutely dominated the last 20 minutes in terms of chances and deservedly scored a few more goals.
“In the end it was a really good night for all of us and proof that if we play the style of football we want to, with the energy that we need, then good things can happen. It’s going to be good for our confidence.”
Temple has praised the impact of his substitutes Elliott, Knott, Kelli Brown and Rebecca Lake, after a “sloppy and lethargic” first half.
“The subs were phenomenal. They really helped us changed the game, changed the momentum.
“We’ve spoken about that a lot as a group that our squad is strong and competition for places is high and that enables you to have that impact that we had today.
“Without that impact it was kind of edging towards a nil-nil draw, so we really needed that boost of energy and quality off the bench and we got that from the four of them which was awesome.”
Paul Temple made two changes to the XI which started the opening round defeat to Melbourne City, with midfielder Grace Wisnewski and Speckmaier replacing Knott and Elliott respectively. He made a further change on the bench, with Brown coming in for Alyssa Whinham.
There were few goalscoring opportunities for either side in the first half an hour. Emma Main, who moved out to the right wing to accommodate Speckmaier’s inclusion up top, produced a threatening cross in the 11th minute but Hope Breslin was unable to get on the end of it at the back post.
Breslin produced a clever turn shortly before halftime that was one of the highlights of the half at that stage.
The Phoenix finished the first half with a flurry.
Speckmaier went down in the Wanderers’ box in the 40th minute, but her penalty claim was waved away by the referee.
Three minutes later Fraser produced a mazy run, beating three defenders, to get to the edge of the Western Sydney area, but her shot was straight into arms of Wanderers goalkeeper Kaylie Collins.
Moments later Fraser rattled the cross bar with another shot, this time from 20 odd yards out.
Shortly before the halftime whistle Main was narrowly off target with her own effort from distance.
Western Sydney looked more likely to find the breakthrough early in the second half, but Mackenzie Barry and Marisa van der Meer marshalled the defence well and Rylee Foster wasn’t tested in the Phoenix goal.
Speckmaier gave the Nix the lead in the 69th minute when she headed home a Breslin corner. The Venezuela international showed great strength at the back post to rise in between two Western Sydney defenders and nod past Collins in Wanderers’ goal.
Barry produced a great last-ditch block a handful of minutes later to keep Wellington in front before Foster made a sharp save to deny Danika Matos at her near post.
The Phoenix then took command. Macey Fraser doubled their lead in the 84th minute after Manaia Elliott won possession high up the pitch, found Fraser, who took a touch, beat a defender and then beat Collins to her right.
Elliott made it 3-0 four minutes later when she thumped home from close-range after Wanderers were unable to clear her first effort.
Chloe Knott, Kate Taylor and Elliott all came close to scoring in time added on. Knott had a powerful left-footed shot from the edge of the area turned around the post by Collins, Taylor headed the resulting corner narrowly wide of the far post and Western Sydney’s ‘keeper managed to tip Elliott’s near post shot onto her crossbar and away from danger.
The Wellington Phoenix will return to action after the international break when they play host to the Brisbane Roar at Sky Stadium on Saturday, November 4.
Wellington Phoenix: 1. Rylee FOSTER (gk), 3. Kate TAYLOR, 4. Mackenzie BARRY, 5. Marisa van der MEER, 6. Macey FRASER, 8. Grace WISNEWSKI (23. Rebecca LAKE 85th), 11. Hope BRESLIN (9. Kelli BROWN 85th), 13. Michaela FOSTER (c) (7. Chloe KNOTT 65th), 17. Mariana SPECKMAIER, 18. Hailey DAVIDSON, 20. Emma MAIN (21. Manaia ELLIOTT 61st).
Unused substitutes: 12. Brianna EDWARDS (gk).
Western Sydney Wanderers: 1. Kaylie COLLINS (gk), 2. Victoria BRUCE, 4. Madison MCCOMASKY, 6. Amy CHESSARI, 7. Amy HARRISON (c), 9. Sophie HARDING (25. Holly CASPERS 69th), 10. Melissa CACERES (19. Talia YOUNIS 54th), 11. Danika MATOS, 18. Maliah MORRIS, 21. Alexia APOSTOLAKIS, 32. Bethany GORDON.
Unused substitutes: 20. Shamiran KHAMIS (gk), 3. Gemma FERRIS, 8. Olivia PRICE.
17. Mariana SPECKMAIER (Wellington Phoenix) – 69th
6. Macey FRASER (Wellington Phoenix) – 84th
21. Manaia ELLIOTT (Wellington Phoenix) – 88th
10. Melissa CACERES (Western Sydney Wanderers) – yellow – 34th