Liberty A-League Round 7 Match Review

The Wellington Phoenix have strengthened their grip on third place in the Liberty A-League.

The Phoenix have drawn 2-2 with three-time champions Melbourne Victory at Porirua Park to now be three points off the top of the ladder and two points clear of fourth-placed Victory.

All four goals came in the first half, with opportunities drying up in the second half as both sides noticeably tired.

Phoenix head coach Paul Temple was content to finish with a share of the points.

“You always want to win the game and I thought we could have won the game, but overall all the balance of play and the chances I think a draw is probably a fair result,” Temple told media after the match.

“Given we had to start with a new back four and play with three number 10s in midfield the game didn’t have a huge amount of tactical structure and it was very end-to-end.

“All things considered with Ferns coming back in I think a draw is a fair result and we’ll take that.”

Mariana Speckmaier, who set up Wellington’s first goal, had the Nix’s best chance to win the match in the 85th minute, but she blazed her shot over the bar.

“She’s really disappointed,” Temple said. “She knows that she should be scoring those, and she wants to be scoring those.

“I think she did so much running it caught up with her.

“65 minutes on I think both teams looked tired. The transitions were there but there was kind of that legginess to the game and not much quality and structure in that last 25 minutes.”

Paul Temple made five changes to the XI which started the sixth-round match against Perth Glory before the international break, with Kate Taylor the only member of the Football Ferns’ touring party included in the starting line-up. Mackenzie Barry, Michaela Foster, Manaia Elliott and Brianna Edwards were named amongst the substitutes.

“We had those tough decisions to make yesterday. It was do we put those Ferns straight in and it was decided we should do the right thing.

“If someone had said to me they can all play and there wouldn’t be any injuries I would have bitten their hand off.

“I’m really pleased they’ve all come through it okay and we can rest them up and get ready for next week.”

WELLINGTON, NEW ZEALAND – DECEMBER 10: Rebecca Lake (L) and Emma Main of the Phoenix take the field to warm up during the A-League Women round seven match between Wellington Phoenix and Melbourne Victory at Porirua Park, on December 10, 2023, in Wellington, New Zealand. (Photo by Hagen Hopkins/Getty Images)

Zoe McMeeken, Kelli Brown and Rebecca Lake were named to make their first starts of the season, while Macey Fraser and Emma Main also returned to the starting XI.

Victory settled the quicker of the two sides and fired a couple of warning shots across the Phoenix goal inside the opening 10 minutes. Rylee Foster was also called into action, making a comfortable save after Kurea Okino shot from the left-hand side of the Wellington box.

Melbourne took the lead inside a quarter of an hour when their captain Kayla Morrison expertly headed a near-post corner inside the far post.

Their advantage was short-lived however, with the Nix levelling from a corner of their own moments later. Speckmaier did well to keep a deep corner in play and nod back across goal where Kate Taylor rose above the Victory defenders to head home.

WELLINGTON, NEW ZEALAND – DECEMBER 10: Emma Main of the Phoenix celebrates with teammates after scoring a goal during the A-League Women round seven match between Wellington Phoenix and Melbourne Victory at Porirua Park, on December 10, 2023, in Wellington, New Zealand. (Photo by Hagen Hopkins/Getty Images)

The Phoenix went ahead little over five minutes later. Main nodded home from inside the six-yard box after Brown had struck the corner of the far post and crossbar with a thunderous strike from outside the box.

The visitors equalised eight minutes out from halftime when Okino got in behind the Wellington back four, rounded Foster and finished expertly from an acute angle.

The Nix came closest to taking the halftime lead. An audacious 40-odd yard free-kick from Fraser sailed narrowly over the Melbourne goal, while Lydia Williams made a sharp save with virtually the last kick of the first half to deny Main her second.

The Phoenix carried that late momentum into the second half with Williams having to dive at full-stretch to her left to keep out a speculative long-range effort from Speckmaier seconds after the restart.

The Venezuela international also went down in the Victory box in the 55th minute but the referee waved away her claim for a penalty.

The goalscoring opportunities became few and far between for both sides, with most of the play in the midfield.

Elliott and Barry entered the match an hour into the match, with Foster and Alyssa Whinham coming off the bench 10 minutes later.

WELLINGTON, NEW ZEALAND – DECEMBER 10: Mariana Speckmaier of the Phoenix reacts after a missed opportunity on goal during the A-League Women round seven match between Wellington Phoenix and Melbourne Victory at Porirua Park, on December 10, 2023, in Wellington, New Zealand. (Photo by Hagen Hopkins/Getty Images)

It was Whinham who created the opportunity for Mariana Speckmaier in the 85th minute, putting the hard-running forward one-on-one with Victory ‘keeper Lydia Williams. Unfortunately for Speckmaier and the Nix she was not able to keep her shot on target.

It meant the Phoenix were forced to settle for a share of the points for the first time this season.

The Wellington Phoenix are back on the road next weekend with a match against Adelaide United in Adelaide on Saturday night.

They will return home on December 23 for a Nixmas double-header.

Wellington Phoenix: 
1. Rylee FOSTER, 2. Zoe MCMEEKEN, 3. Kate TAYLOR (13. Michaela FOSTER 72nd), 6. Macey FRASER, 9. Kelli BROWN (4. Mackenzie BARRY 61st), 11. Hope BRESLIN, 16. Annalie LONGO (c) (10. Alyssa WHINHAM 72nd), 17. Mariana SPECKMAIER, 18. Hailey DAVIDSON, 20. Emma MAIN (21. Manaia ELLIOTT 60th), 23. Rebecca LAKE.
Unused substitutes: 12. Brianna EDWARDS (gk).

Melbourne Victory: 1. Lydia WILLIAMS (gk), 2. Jamilla RANKIN, 3. Tori HANSEN, 5. Jessika NASH (16. Paige ZOIS 63rd), 6. Beattie GOAD, 8. Alana MURPHY (15. Emma CHECKER 90+2), 11. McKenzie WEINERT, 13. Kurea OKINO (7. Ella O’GRADY 63rd), 18. Kayla MORRISON (c), 21. Elise KELLOND-KNIGHT, 23. Rachel LOWE (4. Sara D’AAPOLONIA 82nd).
Unused substitutes: 20. Miranda TEMPLEMAN (gk).

18. Kayla MORRISON (Melbourne Victory) – 15th
3. Kate TAYLOR (Wellington Phoenix) – 17th
20. Emma MAIN (Wellington Phoenix) – 24th
13. Kurea OKINO (Melbourne Victory) – 37th

18. Hailey DAVIDSON (Wellington Phoenix) – yellow – 35th
11. McKenzie WEINERT (Melbourne Victory) – yellow – 58th