A “moment of magic” from Wellington Phoenix captain Annalie Longo has helped the women’s team to their first back-to-back wins of their history.
Longo’s spectacular 85th minute goal, in her long-awaited club debut, has secured the Phoenix a 2-1 win over the Brisbane Roar in their third round Liberty A-League match at Sky Stadium in Wellington.
The Nix had led from the sixth minute when Mariana Speckmaier scored her second header in as many matches.
Longo’s goal doubled Wellington’s lead, with the Roar scoring what was ultimately a consolation goal deep in second half stoppage time.
Phoenix head coach Paul Temple has lauded Longo’s match-winner.
“[It was a] spectacular goal,” Temple said post-match. “We had a lot of chances in the game, and we were not clinical.
“We could have been very comfortable in the game based on chances but that one was taken fantastically. Her ability to beat players in the box, give the ‘keeper the eyes a little bit and put it in the top corner.
“A moment of magic that I know she’s been waiting a long, long time to have so I’m really pleased for her and a great way to start her Phoenix career.
“To win two on the trot’s brilliant for us. It’s not been done before so we’re getting into new territory which is exciting and it’s building momentum.”
The match was soured by a serious-looking injury to Nix midfielder Grace Wisnewski, who went down in the opening seconds.
Temple is hoping for the best.
“We’re not sure. It’s really hard to say straight away. It was obviously bad enough for her to come off.
“She’s walking around a little bit in the dressing room, but we’re taking precautions at this stage.
“It’s going to take us a few days to get all of the information we need. We’ve got good people looking after her now so we’ll just have to wait and see what the news is.”
Paul Temple made two changes to the XI which started the second round win over Western Sydney Wanderers prior to the international break, with goalkeeper Brianna Edwards and winger Manaia Elliott coming into the side in place of the injured Rylee Foster and Hope Breslin. Breslin was named amongst the substitutes, along with Longo.
Temple was forced to go to his bench within the first five minutes, after Wisnewski injured her knee making a tackle just 19 seconds after kick-off. Chloe Knott took Wisnewski’s place in the Phoenix midfield.
Moments later the Nix took the lead when Speckmaier expertly nodded a Michaela Foster free-kick inside the far post.
Chances were few and far between for the remainder of the first half, but Wellington came closest to scoring the second goal of the game.
In the 27th minute Foster sliced her shot wide of goal after being slipped into the Roar box by Speckmaier, while the Venezuela international rattled Brisbane’s crossbar shortly before halftime when she pounced on an under-hit back pass.
Matilda Tameka Yallop had the best chance for the Roar in the 41st minute, when she whizzed a shot narrowly wide of Edwards’ right-hand post.
The Phoenix made a bright start to the second half. Speckmaier shot straight at Brisbane ‘keeper Jordin Silkowitz after a defence-splitting pass from Macey Fraser and then Fraser struck the far stanchion with a shot of her own from the edge of the Roar box.
The chances started to dry up for both sides and Temple went to his bench in the 63rd minute, bring on Longo and Breslin in place of Foster and Emma Main.
Longo almost made a dream start to her long-awaited Phoenix debut when she was given the chance to shoot from distance a couple of minutes after coming on to the field. Unfortunately for her and the Nix her effort sailed narrowly over the top left corner of Brisbane’s goal.
The Phoenix’s next goalscoring opportunity came half a dozen minutes later when they had a three and two break. Elliott wasn’t able to capitalise on her chance, striking her shot straight at Silkowitz.
The Roar came within inches of equalising in the 74th minute, when Edwards tipped Mia Corbin’s shot on to her crossbar.
Longo gave the Brisbane ‘keeper no chance 11 minute later when she found space in the Roar box, cut on to her right foot and smashed her shot inside Silkowitz’s near post.
Corbin’s shot in the fifth minute of time added on was also unstoppable, but it was little too late for the visitors as the Phoenix held on for their first back-to-back wins in team history and moved to the top of the table, at least momentarily.
The Wellington Phoenix will head to their new second home for the first time on Sunday week when they host Western United at Porirua Park.
Wellington Phoenix: 12. Brianna EDWARDS (gk), 3. Kate TAYLOR, 4. Mackenzie BARRY, 5. Marisa van der MEER, 6. Macey FRASER (23. Rebecca LAKE 84th), 8. Grace WISNEWSKI (7. Chloe KNOTT 5th), 13. Michaela FOSTER (c) (16. Annalie LONGO 63rd), 17. Mariana SPECKMAIER, 18. Hailey DAVIDSON, 20. Emma MAIN (11. Hope BRESLIN 63rd), 21. Manaia ELLIOTT.
Unused substitutes: 22. Aimee DANIELI.
Brisbane Roar: 29. Jordan SILKOWITZ (gk), 4. Kijah STEPHENSON (15. Hannah HOLGERSEN 68th), 5. Jenna MCCORMICK (c), 6. Holly MCQUEEN (22. Ruby CUTHBERT 83rd), 9. Mia CORBIN, 11. Sharn FREIER, 13. Tameka YALLOP (7. Ayesha NORRIE 58th), 16. Chelsea BLISSETT, 17. Leah SCARPELLI, 18. Teagan THOMPSON (12. Tamar LEVIN 68th), 19. Hollie PALMER.
Unused substitutes: 1. Keeley RICHARDS.
17. Mariana SPECKMAIER (Wellington Phoenix) – 6th
16. Annalie LONGO (Wellington Phoenix) – 85th
9. Mia CORBIN (Brisbane Roar) – 90+5
7. Ayesha NORRIE (Brisbane Roar) – yellow – after the final whistle