The Wellington Phoenix have fallen to just their second defeat of the new Liberty A-League season.
The Central Coast Mariners have snapped the Phoenix’s winning run at three matches, beating the Nix 1-0 at Industree Group Stadium in Gosford.
The Mariners scored the match-winner 14 minutes from fulltime after a scoreless first half.
Wellington came close to scoring an equaliser in time added on, but ultimately weren’t able to snatch a point from their second road match of the season.
Head coach Paul Temple didn’t hide his disappointment with the team’s performance.
“It was a pretty scrappy game, lacking a lot of quality all over the pitch really,” Temple said post-match. “We found it quite tough to get into a flow, a rhythm and pass our way through.
“The Mariners set up to stop us and did a really good job. We had to raise the quality to beat the pressure they were putting us under, and we weren’t able to do that enough times.
“There were a few occasions but not enough to create the goalscoring opportunities that we needed to win the game.
“We’re certainly not happy with the way that we played. We can be better and I think we’re all a bit disappointed in that, but I can’t fault the attitude and the spirit of this team.
“They’re a strong group so we have to learn from it and move forward.”
He was also disappointed the Phoenix weren’t awarded a penalty a little over half an hour into the game when Mariana Speckmaier looked to be fouled in the Central Coast box.
“I looked at it quickly on the iPad on the bench and I felt like that was a penalty live and I felt like it was a penalty when I watched it back.
“She’s through on goal and that was a huge, huge moment which didn’t go our way.
“Those things sometimes they go for you and sometimes they don’t, and today they didn’t see to go for us. That was a real momentum killer.”
Nix winger Hope Breslin was forced from the field late in the match after a nasty head clash left her with significant swelling above her right eye.
But Temple is optimistic about Breslin’s wellbeing after chatting to her post-game.
“She’s in reasonably good spirits considering…it was a pretty nasty knock.
“We’ll have to reassess that and see how she is through the week. Not looking too nice in terms of the injury, but she seems to be okay which is good.”
Paul Temple named the same starting XI and bench from Sunday’s 3-1 win over Western United, with captain Annalie Longo again included amongst the substitutes.
The Mariners made life difficult for the Phoenix in the first half an hour, with Temple’s side struggling to get out of their own half and only managing 12 passes in the attacking third.
Despite a lot of the match being played in Wellington’s half, Central Coast were unable to create any clear cut goal scoring opportunities.
The Nix looked more threatening for the remaining quarter of an hour before halftime. They thought they had earned a penalty in the 31st minute when Speckmaier went down in the Mariners’ box as a result of contact from their captain Taren King, but the penalty appeals were waved away by referee Azusa Sugino.
Midfielder Bianca Galic came closest to breaking the deadlock for the hosts in the first half. She shot straight at Rylee Foster after turning in the Phoenix box in the 38th minute and a handful of minutes later flashed a long-range shot narrowly wide of Foster’s left-hand post.
Wellington’s ‘keeper was otherwise untested in the first 45, while her opposite Courtney Newbon produced a top drawer save shortly before halftime. Newbon acrobatically tipped a Emma Main shot from the right side of the box over her bar.
Speckmaier and Macey Fraser called the Central Coast goalkeeper into action again in the final minutes of the half with shots from outside the box, but they required more straightforward saves.
The Mariners continued to make it difficult for the Phoenix to implement their passing game in the second half and started to create a few more opportunities themselves.
Galic again called Rylee Foster into action in the 60th minute, this time with a left-footed shot, before Chinese international Wurigumula came within inches of scoring the opening goal nine minutes later when she fizzed a left-footed shot of her own that looked to kiss the Wellington crossbar.
Wurigumula set-up what was ultimately the match-winner in the 76th minute when she picked out Central Coast substitute Annalise Rasmussen in the Nix box and Rasmussen stroked home a first-time finish from eight yards out to cap a fine counter-attack.
Other than a few long-range efforts the closest the Phoenix came to finding the back of the net in the second half was in time added on.
Substitute Manaia Elliott forced Courtney Newbon into a sharp save down low to her right in the fourth minute of stoppage time, moments before Kate Taylor pulled a shot from the top of the D narrowly wide of goal.
The Wellington Phoenix will return home tomorrow and will quickly turn their attentions to Saturday night’s match against Perth Glory at Go Media Stadium Mt Smart. Tickets for the Macca’s Festival of Football, also featuring the Phoenix men against Melbourne City, are available now.
Wellington Phoenix: 1. Rylee FOSTER, 3. Kate TAYLOR, 4. Mackenzie BARRY, 5. Marisa van der MEER, 6. Macey FRASER, 7. Chloe KNOTT (16. Annalie LONGO 59th), 11. Hope BRESLIN (9. Kelli BROWN 81st), 13. Michaela FOSTER (c), 17. Mariana SPECKMAIER, 18. Hailey DAVIDSON (23. Rebecca LAKE 81st), 20. Emma MAIN (21. Manaia ELLIOTT 59th).
Unused substitutes: 12. Brianna EDWARDS (gk).
Central Coast Mariners: 30. Courtney NEWBON (gk), 3. Ashley IRWIN, 4. Paige HAYWARD, 5. Annabel MARTIN (2. Faye BRYSON 65th), 6. Isabel GOMEZ (27. Maya LOBO 88th), 8. Bianca GALIC, 9. WURIGUMULA, 10. Rola BADAWIYA (11. Annalise RASMUSSEN 65th), 12. Jazmin WARDLOW (13. Alexia KARRYS-STAHL 90+2), 18. Taren KING (c), 22. Peta TRIMIS.
Unused substitutes: 20. Chloe CARMICHAEL (gk).
11. Annalise RASMUSSEN (Central Coast Mariners) – 76th
8. Bianca GALIC (Central Coast Mariners) – yellow – 38th
2. Faye BRYSON (Central Coast Mariners) – yellow – 74th
18. Taren KING (Central Coast Mariners) – yellow – 90+1