Missed chances prove costly as Phoenix lose to women’s A-League champions

posted in: A-League (Women), News

Head coach Paul Temple believes his Wellington Phoenix side did enough for a point — or even a win — as they lost to champions Sydney FC in their final women’s A-League game of 2023.

The Phoenix were beaten 1-0 by Sydney FC at Allianz Stadium in Sydney, despite more than matching the reigning champions for large periods of the contest.

The Sky Blues scored the match-winner in the 78th minute largely against the run of play, with the Nix creating more goalscoring opportunities in the second half.

“It stings a little bit because I felt we were well worth, at the minimum, a point out of the game, perhaps on the second half deserved all three,” Phoenix head coach Paul Temple said post-match.

“It’s frustrating because we probably could have prevented the goal we conceded and then we created some really good chances, especially in that last 10 minutes there, and I’m frustrated we weren’t able to put at least one of them away.”

Main photo: Mariana Speckmaier rues her missed chance late in the game.

Mariana Speckmaier had Wellington’s best chance in the 89th minute, but she was unable to head home from five metres.

Temple: ‘We’re just not clinical enough’

“It’s a goal that we should be scoring and there’s no hiding that,” Temple said.

“It’s a big chance that we missed and it’s a shame because the overall play and particularly that piece of individual play from Isabel [Cox] deserved more.

“At the moment we’re just not clinical enough in the final third.”

Cox was introduced into the game at halftime and was central to the Phoenix’s second-half performance.

“I was really happy with her contribution to the team and how she helped us change the game really.

“I think she’s put out a little bit of a message there. There won’t be many defenders in the competition looking to play against her with her size and pace and power.

“The second half is much more of what we want to be about as a team and I think we can really proud of ourselves that we really stepped it up, we went toe-to-toe with Sydney and we were the better team in the second half.

“We need to tidy up a few things in the attacking third and we probably score a few goals there and come away with a lot more than we got today.

“We’re not quite there yet, but really, really encouraging performance in the second half and we’ll take a lot of confidence from that.”

Two changes to starting line-up

Paul Temple made two changes to the XI which started last Saturday’s 2-0 win over Newcastle Jets, one of which was enforced. Brianna Edwards started in goal in place of Rylee Foster, who suffered a head knock last week. Emma Main returned from illness in place of Zoe McMeeken, who was named amongst the substitutes alongside young ‘keeper Aimee Danieli.

Edwards, playing just her second match of the season, had little to do in the first half, with her back four limiting Sydney’s opportunities.

She was sharp when called upon, coming off her line quickly to snuff out an opportunity for the speedy Matilda Cortnee Vine a quarter of an hour into the match.

The Sky Blues outshot the Nix 13-3 before halftime, but only one of the 13 were on target. That came in the 20th minute when Michaela Foster produced a great goal-line clearance to deny Sydney striker Aideen Keane as she looked to curl a shot into the far corner.

Otherwise, Foster and fellow Wellington defenders Rebecca Lake, Mackenzie Barry and Hailey Davidson were able to get their bodies in front of the Sky Blues’ chances, blocking seven shots.

Macey Fraser … created her side’s best opportunities in the first half.

Macey Fraser registered both of the Phoenix’s shots on target in the first half, with two efforts from outside the box, but both were comfortably saved by Sydney ‘keeper Jada Whyman.

Temple made his first substitution at halftime with Cox replacing fellow American Hope Breslin and the University of North Carolina forward made an immediate impact. Mere seconds into the second half she slipped into the box and attempted to thread a pass through for Kate Taylor, but it deflected safely into Whyman’s hands.

Cox got in behind the Sydney defence a second time just five minutes later, but she was unable to find Mariana Speckmaier with her attempted cut-back and perhaps should have taken the shot instead.

Wellington’s positive start to the second half was halted by a nasty head clash little over an hour into the match which left Davidson with a bloody nose. The right back was replaced by McMeeken soon after.

At the other end of the pitch, the reigning champions rarely troubled the Nix. Vine was kept relatively quiet until the 77th minute when she used her pace to get through on goal, but Edwards forced the Matilda wide and she was only able to find the side netting.

Substitute Jynaya Dos Santos (right) is congratulated by teammate Princess Ibini after scoring.

Moments later the Sky Blues had the lead out of nothing. Substitute Jynaya Dos Santos rose between Lake and McMeeken and nodded a right-wing cross into the top left corner of the Phoenix goal.

Cox led Wellington’s response. She forced a good save from Whyman after unleashing a shot from the top of the box in the 80th minute and looked to have created the equaliser in the 89th minute. She burst into the box and delivered a pinpoint cross to Speckmaier, who headed over the bar from just five yards out.

McMeeken and Fraser had speculative long-range efforts that were unable to test Sydney’s ‘keeper in stoppage time, while Cox blazed a snap shot of her own narrowly off target.

Ultimately they were unable to find an equaliser and slumped to their third straight defeat on the road.

The Wellington Phoenix will have a couple of days over the New Year before returning to training on Tuesday to prepare for next Sunday’s match against the Roar in Brisbane.

Match highlights


Game played on Friday December 29, 2023

Sydney 1 (Jynaya Dos Santos 78′)
Wellington Phoenix 0


Table at 9pm (NZT) on Friday December 29.


Sydney FC

1. Jada WHYMAN (gk), 3. Charlotte MCLEAN, 4. Tori TUMETH, 5. Kirsty FENTON, 11. Cortnee VINE (22. Indiana DOS SANTOS 90+3), 13. Aideen KEANE (17. Jynaya DOS SANTOS 72nd), 15. Mackenzie HAWKESBY, 16. Jordan THOMPSON, 19. Zara KRUGER (18. Taylor RAY 55th), Princess IBINI (c), 21. Shay HOLLMAN.

Unused substitutes: 30. Tahlia FRANCO (gk), 2. Margaux CHAUVET.

Wellington Phoenix

12. Brianna EDWARDS (gk), 3. Kate TAYLOR, 4. Mackenzie BARRY, 6. Macey FRASER, 11. Hope BRESLIN (7. Isabel COX 46th), 13. Michaela FOSTER, 16. Annalie LONGO (c), 17. Mariana SPECKMAIER (82nd), 18. Hailey DAVIDSON (2. Zoe MCMEEKEN 67th), 20. Emma MAIN (21. Manaia ELLIOTT 62nd), 23. Rebecca LAKE (10. Alyssa WHINHAM 88th).

Unused substitutes: 22. Aimee DANIELI (gk).


16. Jordan THOMPSON (Sydney FC) – yellow – 22′
Ante Juric (Sydney FC) – yellow – 36′
20. Emma MAIN (Wellington Phoenix) – yellow – 52′
5. Kirsty FENTON (Sydney FC) – yellow – 56′
4. Tori TUMETH (Sydney FC) – yellow – 90+3′
21. Manaia ELLIOTT (Wellington Phoenix) – yellow – 90+6′


This story is published with the help of the Wellington Phoenix.

Visit the Phoenix Kit Hub

Here’s where you can buy your Wellington Phoenix apparel:

More football stories