Despite being down to 10 players for a third of the game, the Wellington Phoenix have ground out a gutsy 2-0 win against Canberra United in the women’s A-League.
The Phoenix overcame Canberra United in front of a raucous home crowd at Porirua Park, despite being a player short after goalkeeper Rylee Foster was controversially sent off.
Striker Mariana Speckmaier scored a goal either side of halftime and replacement ‘keeper Brianna Edwards made an incredible penalty save to secure the Nix their first Liberty A-League win of 2024.
Main photo: Two-goal Mariana Speckmaier … leads the Phoenix goalscoring this season.
Phoenix head coach Paul Temple was “delighted with the performance” before and after the red card.
“I thought we played some really, really good football, played some great one and two touch stuff around the edge of their box, scored a good goal … and we were flying,” Temple told media post-match.
“And then we had to show how we can defend, and how we can be strong and resolute and fight, and we showed so much spirit.
“It was just the perfect performance on the ball and without the ball so I was really, really pleased. We deserved to win.”
Temple was unable to make sense of the sending off, but it “created an amazing moment for Brianna.”
“I’m delighted for her. She came on and stepped up and that gave everyone the energy for the last 25.
“If that had gone in the energy would have been sucked out and it would have been tough, but that penalty save really helped us get through to the end.”
The result saw the Phoenix jump from 10th to sixth, at least momentarily.
“When you go through a dip and you’re in the pit a little bit it’s very hard to see out…but all the way through we’ve never stopped believing we’re a good team.
“And I actually think is going to do us good in the long-run because we’ve come out of this a better group and we’re more united.”
Three changes to starting line-up
Paul Temple made three changes to the XI which started last weekend’s 2-1 defeat to Melbourne City with Tiana Jaber, Zoe McMeeken and Macey Fraser coming into the side in place of the injured Mackenzie Barry and Michaela Foster, and the ill Emma Main. It was Jaber’s first start for the Phoenix after two previous appearances off the bench.
McMeeken almost got the Nix off to a dream start in the second minute when she burst into the Canberra box, but she dragged her shot wide of goal.
Wellington came within inches of scoring the opener three minutes later when the visitors’ ‘keeper Chloe Lincoln spilled a shot from Speckmaier. However Lincoln was able to regather the ball before Isabel Cox could poke the ball over the line.
After a slow start Canberra grew into the game and Phoenix centre back Rebecca Lake came up with two vital interventions to deny the visitors’ top scorers.
Lake made a crucial one-on-one tackle to thwart Vesna Milivojevic in the 10th minute before she produced a key interception to beat Michelle Heyman to the ball in the Wellington box.
Canberra’s Deven Jackson and Mary Stanic-Floody blazed over the bar from distance midway through the first half with Nix ‘keeper Rylee Foster not called upon to make a save.
The Phoenix had the ball in the back of the net from a Macey Fraser corner in the 27th minute but the goal was controversially disallowed as Kate Taylor was deemed to have committed a foul on Lincoln.
It energised the vocal Porirua Park crowd, and the Nix began to take back control of the match with some trademark short passing troubling the visitors.
Speckmaier broke the deadlock two minutes out from halftime when she got on the end of an inch-perfect through ball from Cox and clinically finished with her left foot.
Hope Breslin attempted a speculative effort from outside the box at the end of the first half but it was well held by Lincoln in Canberra’s goal.
Wellington continued where they left off in the second half with Cox blazing a shot over the bar seconds after halftime before Annalie Longo forced Lincoln to make a sharp save at her near post.
Their second goal followed soon after when Speckmaier headed home a dangerous Breslin corner at the back post.
Breslin had to be replaced moments later having sustained a nasty blow to her face, with Manaia Elliott making her return off the bench.
The game’s big flashpoint came in the 66th when Foster was shown a straight red card for making minimal contact with Canberra forward Deven Jackson in the Phoenix box.
On came Edwards in goal, with Fraser having to make way. Edwards guessed right and spectacularly saved Maria Rojas’ spot kick high to her right, energising the crowd and her teammates.
Canberra dominated possession for the remaining 20 minutes and time added on but their goal scoring opportunities were few and far between and Brianna Edwards wasn’t forced to make any other saves of note.
Midfielder Daisy Brazendale and defender Ella McMillan were brought on for their A-League debuts in stoppage time and they helped the Nix close out the match and secure a valuable three points.
The Wellington Phoenix will now have a spring in their collective step when they return across the Tasman for next Sunday’s match against the Newcastle Jets in Newcastle.
Game played on Sunday January 28, 2024
Wellington Phoenix 2 (Mariana Speckmaier 43′, 52′)
Canberra United 0
1. Rylee FOSTER (gk), 2. Zoe MCMEEKEN, 3. Kate TAYLOR, 6. Macey FRASER (12. Brianna EDWARDS (gk) 69th), 7. Isabel COX (15. Daisy BRAZENDALE 90+3), 11. Hope BRESLIN (21. Manaia ELLIOTT 58th), 16. Annalie LONGO (c), 17. Mariana SPECKMAIER, 18. Hailey DAVIDSON (24. Ella MCMILLAN 90+3), 23. Rebecca LAKE, 26. Tiana JABER.
Unused substitutes: 10. Alyssa WHINHAM.
1. Chloe LINCOLN (gk), 3. Sarah CLARK, 4. Holly MURRAY (13. Sofia CHRISTOPHERSON. 46th), 8. Sasha GROVE, 10. Mary STANIC-FLOODY, 11. Deven JACKSON, 16. Madelyn WHITTALL (7. Maria ROJAS 54th), 17. Vesna MILIVOJEVIC, 22. Cannon CLOUGH, 23. Michelle HEYMAN (c), 28. Tegan BERTOLISSIO (9. Ruby NATHAN 78th).
Unused substitutes: 18. Coco MAJSTROROVIC (gk), 6. Ava PIAZZA.
1. Rylee FOSTER (Wellington Phoenix) – red – 66′