The Wellington Phoenix have bounced back from their disappointing defeat in South Australia to close in on top spot in the Liberty A-League.
The Phoenix have beaten Newcastle Jets 2-0 at Sky Stadium in Wellington, thanks to first-half goals from Mariana Speckmaier and Hope Breslin.
Speckmaier scored from the penalty spot before setting up Breslin for the Nix’s second.
The three points sees Wellington rise to third on the ladder, just one point behind joint leaders Perth Glory and Melbourne City.
Phoenix head coach Paul Temple told media it was a result they needed after dropping three points against Adelaide United last Saturday.
“It was a good performance,” Temple said post-match. “It’s nice to get a clean sheet. I thought we were very solid, especially in the second half…and it’s good to go into that festive period on the back of a win.”
He also praised Speckmaier for “being brave as a striker” to take the spot kick after the Venezuela international missed a couple of gilt-edged opportunities in the past couple of weeks.
“Off the back of a few misses that have obviously knocked her a little bit to stand up, take a big breath and … then smash it into the top corner shows where she’s at from a mentality point of view.
“Brave and strong to do that, and it was a good finish.
“Now she’s got one, she can hopefully go on a bit of a run.”
The Phoenix will have a three-day festive break before turning their attentions to Friday night’s match against defending champions Sydney FC.
“They deserve to have a few days off to spend a few days off with family, and my family will be happy that we won today as I’ll have a smile on my face for Christmas.
“When you have the chance to have a little break, I think it’s important to take it.
“Not all of them have got family in New Zealand obviously. There’s going to be a few Americans having a Kiwi Christmas which is going to be a bit different for them, but it’s nice for others to be able to spend even a few days with family.”
Two changes to starting line-up
Paul Temple made two changes to the XI which started last Saturday’s 2-1 defeat to Adelaide United, with Zoe McMeeken and Breslin replacing Emma Main and Manaia Elliott. Main wasn’t considered for the match due to illness, while Elliott was named amongst the substitutes, which included American forward Isabel Cox for the first time.
The Jets settled the quicker of the two sides. Lorena Baumann blazed a shot well off target in the second minute after Newcastle found some space down their left flank, and Jets captain Cassidy Davis forced a good save from Rylee Foster half a dozen minutes later.
The Phoenix had their first goalscoring opportunity shortly after when Annalie Longo earned a corner. Breslin headed the resulting set piece to the top right corner of the Newcastle goal, but it was well tipped over by Jets ‘keeper Isobel Nino.
Longo made another good run into the opposition box in the 18th minute, but once again Newcastle did well to deal with her cutback.
Moments later Michaela Foster came close to opening the scoring direct from a corner. To Nino’s relief Foster’s corner landed on the crossbar and bounced away.
The Nix should have taken the lead in the 28th minute when Macey Fraser, who started the game as a false nine, burst into the Jets’ box and produced a well-placed cutback that somehow evaded by Speckmaier and Foster.
Speckmaier made amends shortly after when Breslin earned Wellington a penalty. The Venezuela international confidently stepped up to the spot and smashed her penalty into the top left-hand side of Newcastle’s net to put the Phoenix 1-0 up.
She set up the Nix’s second a handful of minutes later when she made a great run into the Jets’ box, drew in Nino and found Breslin, who swept a first-time shot into an empty net.
Main photo: Mariana Speckmaier (left) and Hope Breslin celebrate the second goal.
Speckmaier had a chance to make it 3-0 at halftime when she went one-on-one with the ‘keeper in time added on, but this time, Isobel Nino was able to deny her, making a sharp point-blank save.
There were few goalscoring opportunities for either side early in the second half. The closest Wellington came to adding a third was from a dangerous right-wing corner from Foster, which Nino tipped over the bar in the 59th minute.
Cox was introduced soon after, making her Phoenix debut in place of Breslin, and she looked to announce her arrival with a goal.
She curled a shot high and wide after being given some space on the edge of the box in the 66th minute and called Isobel Nino into action five minutes later when she cut into the box and shot.
Nino’s opposite, Rylee Foster, was required to make a sharp save moments later to parry away a header from Jets midfielder Elizabeth Copus-Brown.
Foster was otherwise untested with Mackenzie Barry and Rebecca Lake comfortably dealing with the threat posed by Wanderers striker Sarina Bolden.
There was little goalmouth action for the remainder of the match although the Nix were unlucky not to be awarded a second penalty in the 90th minute when substitute Alyssa Whinham was brought down in the box.
The penalty claim was waved away by the referee and it remained 2-0 when she blew her final whistle.
The Wellington Phoenix return to training on Wednesday and will travel to Sydney on Thursday afternoon.
Coach Paul Temple’s post-match interview
Game played on Saturday December 23, 2023
Wellington Phoenix 2 (Mariana Speckmaier 34′ pen, Hope Breslin 39′)
Newcastle Jets 0
1. Rylee FOSTER, 2. Zoe MCMEEKEN (14 Michaela ROBERTSON 90+6), 3. Kate TAYLOR, 4. Mackenzie BARRY, 6. Macey FRASER (21. Manaia ELLIOTT 90+6), 11. Hope BRESLIN (7. Isabel COX 56th), 13. Michaela FOSTER, 16. Annalie LONGO (c), 17. Mariana SPECKMAIER (10. Alyssa WHINHAM 82nd), 18. Hailey DAVIDSON, 23. Rebecca LAKE.
Unused substitutes: 12. Brianna EDWARDS (gk).
1. Isobel NINO (gk), 2. Josephine WILSON (23. Zoe KARIPIDIS 46th), 3. Claudia CICCO, 4. Natasha PRIOR, 6. Cassidy DAVIS (c), 9. Melindaj BARBIERI (28. Emma DUNDAS 46th), 10. Elizabeth COPUS-BROWN (24. Milan HAMMOND 79th), 11. Sarina BOLDEN, 13. Lauren ALLEN, 18. Sophie HOBAN, 22. Lorena BAUMANN.
Unused substitutes: 21. Kiara ROCHAIX (gk), 15. Alexandra HUYNH.
11. Hope BRESLIN (Wellington Phoenix) – yellow – 25′
18. Sophie HOBAN (Newcastle Jets) – yellow – 62′
24. Milan HAMMOND (Newcastle Jets) – yellow – 86′