Away form continues to sap the Phoenix as women lose 2-1 to league leaders

posted in: A-League (Women), News

The next home game can’t come soon enough for the Wellington Phoenix after their 2-1 loss to women’s A-League leaders Melbourne City.

The loss was the side’s third straight 2-1 defeat to start 2024, and the fourth from their past six matches.

Head coach Paul Temple is looking forward to playing at home next week after a “very, very tough” four weeks on the road.

“It feels like more than four weeks, I’ll tell you that,” Temple said after the Liberty A-League match at City Football Academy Field.

Main photo: Melbourne City go 2-0 up in the second half.

“It feels like an eternity. It was last year that we were playing at home!

“This run has been testing. It’s very physically and emotionally draining to come away from home every week.

“This is a time of year that most Kiwis are with their families and having time off.”

Paul Temple … ‘very, very tough’ four weeks.

Despite the familiar result, Temple was happy with his side’s performance, especially keeping City scoreless for the first half.

“We had a really good response which is what I wanted to see, and I was proud of them.

“It was very hot in the first half, and this is the team that’s top of the league. We had to put in a huge effort, and they did.

“We were a collective, we stuck together, there was fight out there, and there was spirit. You could see it in the performance.

“The second half the plan was always to find the time to go after them. Unfortunately, we conceded a goal in the first five or six minutes of the second half and then we decided to go to plan B a little bit quicker than what we would have liked.

“The response was really good. We got after them and created some good chances. Mariana scored a good goal…and we looked the most likely team to score later on in the game.”

Three changes to starting line-up

Paul Temple made three changes to the XI which started last week’s 2-1 defeat to Central Coast Mariners with Americans Isabel Cox, Hope Breslin and Hailey Davidson returning to the starting line-up in place of Alyssa Whinham, Macey Fraser and Zoe McMeeken.

Whinham and McMeeken were named amongst the substitutes, while Fraser was rested. New Zealand age-group international Helena Errington was included in a matchday squad for the first time.

Goalscoring opportunities were few and far between in the first half.

City dominated possession (76-24%) but had little to show for it with the Phoenix comfortably sitting back in their half.

Most of the competition leaders’ attack came down the left flank and fullback Julia Grosso created their first chance in the ninth minute. Fortunately for the Phoenix Grosso’s cutback deflected safely into the arms of Wellington ‘keeper Rylee Foster.

Emina Ekic and then Kaitlyn Torpey also threatened down the hosts’ left-hand side but every time they looked like testing the Nix defence Mackenzie Barry was on hand to make an important covering tackle or block.

Barry also kept Football Ferns teammate Hannah Wilkinson quiet, with the striker barely having a touch before halftime.

The Phoenix’s best attacking moment of the first half came in the 21st minute from a well-worked short free-kick with Michaela Foster delivering a teasing ball into the City box that just eluded Breslin’s head.

Grosso had the competition leaders’ best opening six minutes out from halftime when she burst into the Wellington penalty area, but she scuffed her shot straight at Rylee Foster.

The only other notable moment of the first half came soon after when Ekic and Mariana Speckmaier were given yellow cards for a coming together in the 42nd minute.

Emma Main registered the Nix’s first shot two minutes into the second half, forcing a sharp save from City ‘keeper Lysianne Proulx when Main fired from the edge of the area after bursting down the right wing.

But shortly after the Phoenix found themselves a goal down, with Rhianna Pollicina picking out the far corner after turning and shooting in one motion as the ball fell to her in the Wellington penalty area.

Melbourne City celebrate their opening goal.

Breslin had a half chance to equalise a handful of minutes later but she skied her left-footed volley well off target.

Wilkinson had a couple of opportunities shortly after the hour mark to double City’s lead but she was unable to trouble Rylee Foster.

Her opposite Proulx made a great save in the 70th minute to deny Michaela Foster, who unleashed a powerful left-footed shot from the edge of the box. Kate Taylor headed a cross over the bar following the resulting corner.

Temple then made a triple change, bringing on McMeeken, Whinham and Tiana Jaber in place of Main, Foster and Breslin.

McMeeken made an immediate impact. She won the ball high up the pitch and found Cox at the top of the penalty area, but the American forward shot straight at Proulx in the hosts’ goal.

City scored their second from a clinical counter-attack moments later. Ekic cut back on to her right foot and slotted a shot past Rylee Foster.

Emina Ekic … thumbs up after scoring.

Barry was forced off in the 77th minute with Errington coming on in her place to make her A-League debut.

Moments later Speckmaier pulled a goal back for the Nix following another strong run from McMeeken down the left flank, with the Venezuela international smashing her shot past Proulx from the right side of the box.

Mariana Speckmaier smashes her shot into the roof of the Melbourne City net.

The Phoenix continued to push numbers forward and soon found themselves playing against 10 when Ekic was sent off after a second yellow card offence, but the Nix were unable to test Lysianne Proulx again before the fulltime whistle.

Their best chance fell to Taylor at the top of the box in the second minute of time added on. She struck her shot well, but it sailed over the City goal as the competition leaders hung on to consign Wellington to their fourth straight defeat.

The Wellington Phoenix will turn their attentions to their first home match in five weeks against Canberra United at Porirua Park next Sunday (January 27).

Match highlights


Game played on Saturday January 20, 2024

Melbourne City 2 (Rhianna Pollicina 51′, Emina Ekic 74′)
Wellington Phoenix 1 (Mariana Speckmaier 78′)


Table at 9pm (NZT) Saturday January 20


Melbourne City

44. Lysianne PROULX (gk), 5. Taylor OTTO, 7. Julia GROSSO, 8. Kaitlyn TORPEY, 10. Rhianna POLLICINA (18. Leah DAVIDSON 89th), 11. Emina EKIC, 13. Rebekah STOTT (c), 14. Laura HUGHES, 16. Karly ROSETBAKKEN (22. Bryleeh HENRY 71st), 17. Hannah WILKINSON, 24. Daniela GALIC (6. Leticia MCKENNA 82nd).

Unused substitutes: 23. Melissa BARBIERI (gk), 3. Naomi THOMAS-CHINNAMA.

Wellington Phoenix

1. Rylee FOSTER (gk), 3. Kate TAYLOR, 4. Mackenzie BARRY (27. Helena ERRINGTON 77th), 7. Isabel COX, 11. Hope BRESLIN (10. Alyssa WHINHAM 72nd), 13. Michaela FOSTER (26. Tiana JABER 72nd), 16. Annalie LONGO (c), 17. Mariana SPECKMAIER, 18. Hailey DAVIDSON, 20. Emma MAIN (2. Zoe MCMEEKEN 72nd), 23. Rebecca LAKE.

Unused substitutes: 12. Brianna EDWARDS (gk).


17. Mariana SPECKMAIER (Wellington Phoenix) – yellow – 42′
11. Emina EKIC (Melbourne City) – yellow – 42′
11. Hope BRESLIN (Wellington Phoenix) – yellow – 45+2′
16. Annalie LONGO (Wellington Phoenix) – yellow – 61’t
11. Emina EKIC (Melbourne City) – yellow/red – 86′


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

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