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

The Wellington Phoenix are seeking a bounce back performance in Sunday’s Liberty A-League women’s match against Sydney FC at Netstrata Jubilee Stadium in Sydney.

The Phoenix experienced a reality check in their second round match, losing 5-1 to the Jets in Newcastle, a week after earning a point in their historic opening game against Western Sydney.

Phoenix head coach Gemma Lewis says after a couple days of soul-searching “everyone is in a really positive headspace”.

“As much as we need to move forward, we also need to still remember what that feels like and try and stay away from that as much as we can,” Lewis told media on Friday afternoon.

“Recognise that we don’t want to be in those situations which is why we need to stick a little bit more to the game plan and be a little bit more disciplined.”

Discipline and improving their possession game have been major focuses this week.

“I want to get back to a little bit more defensive security within the game, like we had against Western Sydney where we were a lot harder to break down.

“Whereas against Newcastle I felt like we gave them too much space, we got pulled apart too much and the gaps between lines got really stretched at times through the game.”

And Lewis wants her players to be brave in possession.

“I know we got punished quite a bit for some of our in possession mistakes and some sloppiness in possession in the game against Newcastle so I just want to see them bounce back from that a little bit.

“I don’t want players to hide and not try and get on the ball. We know they’re going to make mistakes and yes we’re playing against great players so sometimes we’re going to be punished for those mistakes, but I don’t want them to stop playing because they’re young.

“They need to see those moments, make those decisions and get used to playing under that pressure.”

Sydney FC enter round three as one of only three unbeaten teams, alongside Perth Glory and Melbourne Victory, but the Phoenix players know what to expect, having played them in pre-season.

“They know that Sydney is going to be really tough but I think having played them in a pre-season game is also helping because there’s an element of familiarity there.

“They know that even though they were a tough opposition then, we lost to them and they controlled quite a lot of the game, they also recognise that they’ve played those players before.”

Having fielded the same starting XI in the first round two rounds, Gemma Lewis will be making a few tweaks to her line-up.  

“There will be a couple of changes this week, some because players are back fit again from injury, others because there’s a couple of niggly ones at the moment that won’t be ready for the game.”

Forward Kelli Brown is “back in the frame” after suffering an ankle injury two days out from their opening match.

“She will be in the squad in some shape or form this game and we’re actually potentially even looking at if she can start.

“She was already ready last week, but we just wanted to make sure we had her back fully training this week.

“She’s been getting through all the trainings this week fully. She’s been in contact, has been in game situations, is comfortable so we’re pretty confident to throw her straight back in now.”

Alyssa Whinham and Talitha Kramer are also pushing for a place in the starting XI, after impressing off the bench, but forward Grace Jale may miss the match as a precaution after picking up a minor hamstring injury.

The third round A-League women’s match between the Wellington Phoenix and Sydney will kick-off at Netstrata Jubilee Stadium in Sydney at 4:05pm AEDT (6:05pm NZT) on Sunday, with the game LIVE on Sky Sport 2.

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.