An unfortunate own goal has denied the Wellington Phoenix their first point of the 2022-23 Liberty A-League season.
The Phoenix have been beaten 1-0 by table-topping Adelaide United in their fifth round match at Sky Stadium in Wellington.
Centre back Mackenzie Barry was the unlucky player, deflecting a cross into the back of her own net midway through the first-half.
Adelaide otherwise rarely threatened the Wellington goal and the Nix created the better chances, turning in a vastly improved showing from their 3-0 defeat to Canberra United seven days ago.
Phoenix head coach Natalie Lawrence says the players are gutted.
“You cans see from the girls it was a difference from last week,” Lawrence told media post-match. “Last week we knew we didn’t play well, we knew that wasn’t us and we knew we deserved to lose the game.
“The feeling this week was completely different. We competed, we had more shots on target than they did [and] we had the same amount of final third entries as they did. Credit to their goalkeeper. I thought she pulled off some fabulous saves.
“If we play like that against what is the joint top team in the league we can compete against anyone.”
Barry was noticeably distressed after the match for conceding the own goal, but Lawrence felt her centre back “was outstanding today”.
“Mack just wears her heart on her sleeve. She loves the club, she loves these girls [and] she has incredibly high standards.
“We can talk about the own goal, but look at how many blocks she makes, look at how many times she throws herself into tackles. She’s a proper defender.”
“I thought Mack was outstanding today.
Natalie Lawrence made two changes to the XI which started the 3-0 defeat to Canberra United last Saturday. Midfielder Grace Wisnewski and fullback Saskia Vosper were named to make their first starts of the season in place of Alyssa Whinham and Claudio Cicco.
It was Wisnewski’s first appearance for the Nix since February, when she took a break from football for mental health reasons.
The Junior Football Fern was at the heart of a bright start from the hosts and came close to scoring the team’s first goal from open play this season.
Wisnewski unleashed a powerful shot from just inside the Adelaide box on the quarter hour mark, but Reds goalkeeper Annalee Grove was up to the task and was able to parry the shot away to safety.
It wasn’t the first time Grove was called into action. She was forced to make a sharp save at her near post in the seven minute as Chloe Knott struck a shot from a dangerous Michaela Foster long-throw.
Adelaide took the lead against the run of play midway through the first-half. Forward Chelsie Dawber drove a dangerous ball across the six yard box and unfortunately for the Nix Barry toed the ball past Brianna Edwards in the Wellington goal.
Other than a few nervy moments from corners, Edwards was largely untroubled, while Grove was called upon again to ensure the Reds led at halftime.
She made a super reflex save to deny Emma Rolston from a Phoenix corner in the 26th minute.
The Nix continued to press for an equaliser at the start of the second-half, but were frustrated by an organised Adelaide defence.
The visitors were able to create more shots but none of the few that were on target troubled Edwards.
Grove had a much quieter second-half, with the Phoenix struggling to create the same opportunities they had in the first 45.
But she had to be quick off her line to dive at the feet of Wellington forward Charlotte Lancaster in the 82nd minute as Lancaster burst into the box.
Fellow substitute Michaela Robertson made a great impact of the bench and the Nix never gave up, but they weren’t able to produce the final telling pass to create an equaliser.
The Wellington Phoenix women will return to action after Christmas, when they will renew acquaintances with Adelaide United in South Australia on Tuesday, December 27.
Wellington Phoenix: 12. Brianna EDWARDS (gk), 2. Saskia VOSPER (17. Claudia CICCO 90th), 4. Mackenzie BARRY, 5. Marisa VAN DER MEER, 7. Chloe KNOTT (c) (19. Charlotte LANCASTER 78th), 8. Grace WISNEWSKI (18. Te Reremoana WALKER 78th), 9. Ava PRITCHARD, 11. Betsy HASSETT,13. Paige SATCHELL (14. Michaela ROBERTSON 66th), 16. Emma ROLSTON, 21. Michaela FOSTER.
Unused substitutes: 22. Georgia CANDY (gk).
Adelaide United: 1. Annalee GROVE (gk), 2. Emily HODGSON, 6. Jenna MCCORMICK (c), 7. Melindaj BARBIERI (14. Meisha WESTLAND 88th), 8. Emily CONDON (12. Nanako SASAKI 90+1), 9. Paige HAYWARD, 10. Chelsie DAWBER, 16. Dylan HOLMES, 19. Maruschka WALDUS, 22. Emilia MURRAY (17. Zoe TOLLAND 78th), 23. Fiona WORTS.
Unused substitutes: 26. Grace WILSON (gk).
4. Mackenzie BARRY (Wellington Phoenix) – 22nd og
21. Michaela FOSTER (Wellington Phoenix) – yellow – 9th
11. Betsy HASSETT (Wellington Phoenix) – yellow – 65th
7. Melindaj BARBIERI (Adelaide United) – yellow – 81st
18. Te Reremoana WALKER (Wellington Phoenix) – yellow – 90+5