Women’s Match Review: Wellington Phoenix vs. Canberra United

The Wellington Phoenix have won their first match in the Liberty A-League and they have done it in style.

The Phoenix have beaten Canberra United 3-0 at Viking Park in Canberra, after leading 1-0 at halftime, to pull level on points with the three-time premiership winners.

Chloe Knott put the Nix ahead shortly before the break, Grace Jale doubled the lead five minutes into the second-half and a Canberra own goal completed the scoring with half an hour remaining.

There were joyous scenes as soon as the final whistle blew, with the Phoenix substitutes and coaching staff running on to the field to join in celebrations.

“I think you could see from the reaction from the girls at the final whistle it means a lot,” head coach Gemma Lewis told media after the match.

“There’s a couple of tears even and it seems silly, it’s just one game in a league [and] we’re still bottom of the table.

“But the sacrifices that these girls have made and they’re doing it tough and they’re struggling.

“Some of them are on countdown until when they’ll be able to get home and they’re still trying to put in a performance day in day out…so it really means a lot then when they get this reinforcement of why they’re doing it and feeling like they’re making progress.”

It was the third time this season Wellington led at halftime, with the other two finishing in agonising defeats.

“We were like 85 minutes and I still thought we were going to lose it maybe…especially watching Canberra at 80 minutes they come alive and start putting away goals so I still wasn’t comfortable.

“The difference in this game was we took our chances, which we haven’t in previous games, and also we were disciplined at the back.”

Lewis made just one change to the XI which started the 2-0 defeat to Melbourne Victory last Friday night, with Grace Wisnewski returning in the heart of midfield in place of Hannah Jones.

Wisnewski had the first opportunity of the match after the ever-impressive Alyssa Whinham won possession on the edge of the Canberra box in the third minute. Unfortunately Wisnewski wasn’t able to get a clean shot on goal and it went straight into the arms of the hosts’ 17-year-old goalkeeper Chloe Lincoln.

Canberra were first to find the back of the net when Ashleigh Sykes slotted a shot past Lily Alfeld in the ninth minute but the goal was ruled out for offside.

The Wellington captain was relatively unemployed in goal in the first-half although Alfeld and vice-captain Kate Taylor had to keep their wits about them to deny Canberra skipper Michelle Heyman at the near post in the 19th minute.

Taylor also produced a desperate sliding tackle in the Phoenix box a few minutes later to dispossess Chelsee Washington.

At the other end of the park Whinham was becoming increasingly influential in the game and it was no surprise the young women’s footballer of the year nominee had a role in the lead-up to Wellington’s breakthrough four minutes from halftime.

After Whinham found a way a way into the Canberra box, the ball fell to Knott who blasted a shot through Lincoln’s hands.

Mackenzie Barry ensured the Phoenix led at the break when she cut-out a threatening Canberra cross in the fourth minute of stoppage time, when her centre back partner Taylor was off the field receiving attention for an injury.

Kate Taylor attempted to play on after halftime but only lasted a couple of minutes before she had to be replaced by Te Reremoana Walker.

Canberra made a bright start to the second-half and Allyson Haran forced a top drawer save from Alfeld in the 49th minute.

But just seconds later Wellington doubled their lead, with Jale getting on the end of a great slide rule pass from Knott and slotting the ball past Canberra’s rookie ‘keeper.

Talitha Kramer produced an important headed clearance to prevent Canberra from pulling a goal back in the 54th minute and shortly after created the Phoenix’s third.

Kramer produced a pinpoint cross from the left flank that Ava Pritchard volleyed off Haran and into the back of the Canberra net.

The hosts continued to throw everything at the Nix for the final half an hour and Allira Toby should have pulled a goal back in the 73rd minute after a great run from fellow substitute Holly Caspers.

Grace Maher also rattled Alfeld’s cross-bar a quarter of an hour out from the final whistle.

But Wellington held on to not only claim their first win but also their first clean sheet since they secured an historic draw against Western Sydney Wanderers on debut.

The Wellington Phoenix return ‘home’ to Wollongong on Saturday to prepare for their round 12 Liberty A-League match against Adelaide United at WIN Stadium on Thursday night.

Wellington Phoenix:
1. Lily ALFELD (gk) (c), 3. Kate TAYLOR (13. Te Reremoana WALKER 48th), 4. Mackenzie BARRY, 6. Isabel GOMEZ (16. Hannah JONES 46th), 7. Chloe KNOTT, 8. Grace WISNEWSKI, 9. Ava PRITCHARD (2. Saskia VOSPER 79th), 10. Grace JALE, 15. Zoe MCMEEKEN, 17. Talitha KRAMER, 20. Alyssa WHINHAM (19 Charlotte LANCASTER 90+3)
Unused substitutes: 12. Brianna EDWARDS (gk)

Canberra United: 18. Chloe LINCOLN (gk), 2. Emma ILIJOSKI, 3. Mikayla VIDMAR, 5. Lauren KEIR, 7. Chelsee WASHINGTON (12. Allira TOBY 70th), 10. Grace MAHER (13. Alexis KARRYS-STAHL 85th), 11. Chloe MIDDLETON (8. Margot ROBINNE 46th), 14. Ashleigh SYKES (9. Holly CASPERS 70th), 17. Sasha GROVE, 23. Michelle HEYMAN (c), 25. Allyson HARAN
Unused substitutes: 22. Cristina ESPOSITO (gk)

7. Chloe KNOTT (Wellington Phoenix) – 41st
10. Grace JALE (Wellington Phoenix) – 51st
25. Allyson HARAN (Canberra United) – own goal – 62nd

6. Isabel GOMEZ (Wellington Phoenix) – yellow – 16th
16. Hannah JONES (Wellington Phoenix) – yellow – 56th
8. Grace WISNEWSKI (Wellington Phoenix) – yellow – 58th