Women’s Match Review: Wellington Phoenix vs. Western Sydney Wanderers

The Wellington Phoenix have posted the second win of their maiden Liberty A-League season to give themselves a chance of moving off the bottom of the ladder.

The Phoenix have beaten Western Sydney Wanderers 3-2 in their rescheduled match at Wanderers Football Park in Sydney to draw level on points with their opponents with one round remaining.

After falling behind in just the second minute, fit-again centre back Kate Taylor drew the Nix level shortly before halftime.

Ava Pritchard gave Wellington the lead in the 74th minute with a quality first-time strike, before fellow forward Grace Jale scored her fifth goal of the season in second-half stoppage time to secure the three points.

Western Sydney scored from virtually the last kick of the game to complete the scoring.

“It was good to finally get the game underway to be honest. There were a lot of postponements and a lot of things changing,” Phoenix head coach Gemma Lewis told media after the match.

“It took us a bit to warm into the game and we probably conceded the last goal because we were pushing for another one for goal difference,” Lewis said.

“That just shows how hungry the girls are to want to try to get off the bottom of the table that even when they’re 3-1 up straight away they were saying ‘let’s get another one, let’s get the three goal difference to try and take us off the bottom’.

“The positive mentality from them is quite cool to see.”

Lewis made three changes to the XI which started Wellington’s last match against Adelaide United, with club captain Lily Alfeld and Taylor back from international duty and injury respectively.

Alfeld returned in goal in place of Brianna Edwards, while Te Reremoana Walker made way for Taylor at the heart of the Phoenix defence.

Hannah Jones was also reinstated in midfield in place of Grace Wisnewski, who has returned to New Zealand for mental health reasons.   

Forward Kelli Brown was named on the bench, included in the matchday squad for the first time since the middle of January after being forced to sit out their last six games with concussion.

The Wanderers grabbed the early lead, with Ashlie Crofts nodding a near post cross past Alfeld in just the second minute.

The Phoenix had an opportunity to level the scores moments later from a Chloe Knott free-kick but Hannah Jones skied her shot over Western Sydney’s goal.

Knott was dangerous at set piece time and continued to lead the Nix press. She was unfortunate to not pick out  Jale at the back post in the 19th minute after bursting down the right flank.
Alyssa Whinham came closest to equalising in the first half an hour when she fizzed a shot narrowly wide of the Wanderers’ goal in the 27th minute after Pritchard whipped in a cross from the right corner.

Former Western Sydney midfielder Isabel Gomez was increasingly influential for Wellington in the middle of the park.

She produced a perfectly timed slide tackle to deny Wanderers midfielder Bianca Galic in the Phoenix box in the 29th minute and then eight minutes later created the equaliser.

Gomez delivered a tidy ball over the top to Taylor, who beat the ‘keeper and passed the ball into the empty net.

Alfeld wasn’t tested at the other end of the pitch as the Nix ensured they would go into halftime level.

Neither side was able to create an opening in the first 15 minutes of the second-half, but the game came to life as both teams pushed for the three points.

Wanderers captain Erica Halloway produced a crucial block to deny Jale a shot on goal midway through the half and Alfeld had to tip a Western Sydney free-kick over her bar five minutes later.

Pritchard put the Phoenix ahead in the 74th minute when she got on the end of an inch-perfect pass from Knott and beat Wanderers ‘keeper Sarah Langman with a great first-time strike from outside the area.

Western Sydney threw everything at the Nix to try and find an equaliser, but they were unable to test Alfeld until stoppage time.

Brown had a chance to score Wellington’s third in the 89th minute after being put through on goal by Jale, but she hit the Wanderers’ cross-bar.

Grace Jale made no mistake of her own goalscoring opportunity four minutes later when she pounced on an under-hit back pass and poked the ball past Langman.

In search of a fourth goal to overtake Western Sydney on the table, the Phoenix got a bit loose at the back and conceded a last minute corner, which Wanderers scored from to cut the final deficit to one.

The Wellington Phoenix will have a chance to move off the bottom of the table on Friday evening when they will bring down the curtain on their maiden season against Perth Glory at WIN Stadium in Wollongong.

Wellington Phoenix:
1. Lily ALFELD (gk) (c), 3. Kate TAYLOR, 4. Mackenzie BARRY, 6. Isabel GOMEZ (13. Te Reremoana WALKER 58th), 7. Chloe KNOTT, 9. Ava PRITCHARD (19. Charlotte LANCASTER
 82nd), 10. Grace JALE, 15. Zoe MCMEEKEN (2. Saskia VOSPER 73rd), 16. Hannah JONES, 17. Talitha KRAMER, 20. Alyssa WHINHAM (11. Kelli BROWN 73rd)
Unused substitutes: 12. Brianna EDWARDS (gk)

Western Sydney Wanderers:  1. Sarah LANGMAN (gk), 2. Caitlin COOPER, 5. Danika MATOS, 6. Olivia PRICE, 8. Erica HALLOWAY (c), 10. Elizabeth COPUS-BROWN, 11. Teigan COLLISTER (15. Rosie GALEA 69th), 13. Bianca GALIC, 18. Ashlie CROFTS (16. Malia STEINMETZ 80th), 21. Alexia APOSTOLAKIS, 23. Teigen ALLEN (24. Ella ABDUL MASSIH 46th)
Unused substitutes: 20 Shamiran KHAMIS (gk), 4. Elizabeth RALSTON

18. Ashlie CROFTS (Western Sydney Wanderers) – 2nd
3. Kate TAYLOR (Wellington Phoenix) – 37th
9. Ava PRITCHARD (Wellington Phoenix) – 74th
10. Grace JALE (Wellington Phoenix) – 90+3
17. Talitha KRAMER (Wellington Phoenix) – 90+5 own goal

17. Talitha KRAMER (Wellington Phoenix) – yellow – 48th
24. Ella ABDUL MASSIH (Western Sydney Wanderers) – yellow – 78th
2. Saskia VOSPER (Wellington Phoenix) – yellow – 89th
9. Ava PRITCHARD (Wellington Phoenix) – yellow – 89th