Women’s Match Preview: Wellington Phoenix vs. Sydney FC

A testing turnaround for the Wellington Phoenix in the Liberty A-League women’s competition.

The Phoenix face top of the table Sydney FC at WIN Stadium in Wollongong tomorrow evening, less than 72 hours after their gut-wrenching defeat to the Newcastle Jets in Gosford.

Head coach Gemma Lewis has had to deal with tight turnarounds at international tournaments, but says it’s not conducive to getting the best out of players in a league.

“You get it in a World Cup, it’s kind of what you have to do but you’re prepared for that,” Lewis told media on the eve of the match.

“In this situation of a full season it’s really hard to turn around in two days and back it up when you’re used to seven, eight day turnarounds.

“It’s not ideal. I don’t think it necessarily leads to us being able to put our best performance out, which we’re trying to progress.

“That’s a bit niggly for us but at the same time Sydney have the exact same challenge. I think that’s the only silver lining, we’ve both got the exact same turnaround so neither one of us can really use the excuse because we’re both in the same boat.”

Lewis says the players have pulled up reasonably well following the 1-0 defeat to Newcastle, with “some sore bodies” but “nothing too drastic to worry about”.

However she may rest a couple of players with their wellbeing and the rest of the season in mind.

“It’s a bit of a catch 22. We’re trying to figure out the best case scenario for the team but also for the individuals looking further ahead as well.

“We’re dealing with young girls that have had a really big increase in their spike of loading and it’s just being able to pick moments where we can rest.

“It’s different when your body’s more matured, you’re physically used to this stuff.

“We’re trying to not get to the point where we have injuries and we’re reactive. We’re trying to be a bit more proactive and manage symptoms and signs and make sure we’re not overloading these girls at this younger age and then seeing things like stress reactions and stress fractures.”

As a result, Gemma Lewis plans to “look to the squad a little bit more”.

“We still want to compete, we still want to get something out of the game, but also trust in the players that we have around us and the depth of the squad.

“You take these opportunities now, we’ll give some players a rest and see if we can still compete.”

Sydney FC were held to a scoreless draw by Western Sydney on Monday, dropping points for the first time this season.

Lewis expects Sydney will be annoyed by the draw and will “come out firing”, but believes the Wanderers provided the blueprint to playing the competition leaders.

“If we can keep Sydney at bay for longer periods, what I noticed in the Western Sydney game they started to get a little bit impatient, they started to get a little bit frustrated, they started to get a little bit desperate at times. I think that lends to what we’re good at.

“If we can draw that game out and we can put pressure on them further up the field, get them turning over the ball a little bit higher, getting a little bit desperate with their passes that’ll help us a lot.

“But they’ve got threats all over the field so we know we’re going to have to weather the storm and deal with it the best way we can.”  

Two of Sydney’s major threats are their wingers, Princess Ibini and Cortnee Vine. Ibini set-up two goals in the first meeting with Wellington before Christmas, while Vine scored the other.

However Lewis believes her side showed against Newcastle they can limit the effectiveness of wide players.

“Our fullbacks were a lot more aggressive, they were a lot more on the front foot…and that caused a lot of problems because it stopped their threats at the source.

“So we feel if we can be a bit more aggressive in those moments, not give the wingers so much time,  not give them so much room in behind [and] not get in a foot race.”

The Wellington Phoenix’s round five Liberty A-League match against Sydney FC is scheduled to kick-off at WIN Stadium in Wollongong at 5:05pm AEDT (7:05pm NZT) with the game broadcast LIVE on Sky Sport 4.

Most recent meeting:
19 December 2021 – Sydney FC 3 Wellington Phoenix 0

All-time head-to-head: Phoenix 0W, Sydney 1W & 0D.

Wellington Phoenix squad: 1. Lily ALFELD (gk) (c), 2. Saskia VOSPER, 3. Kate TAYLOR, 4. Mackenzie BARRY, 5. Jordan JASNOS, 6. Isabel GOMEZ, 7. Chloe KNOTT, 8. Grace WISNEWSKI, 9. Ava PRITCHARD, 10. Grace JALE, 11. Kelli BROWN, 12. Brianna EDWARDS (gk), 13. Te Reremoana WALKER, 14. Cushla RUE, 15. Zoe MCMEEKEN, 16. Hannah JONES, 17. Talitha KRAMER, 18. Annabel MARTIN, 19. Charlotte LANCASTER, 20. Alyssa WHINHAM.