Phoenix fall flat and lose 1-0 to lowly Canberra United in women’s A-League

posted in: A-League (Women), News

Canberra United have handed the Wellington Phoenix their ninth one-goal defeat of their women’s A-League season.

United have beaten the Phoenix 1-0 in their penultimate round 2023-24 Liberty A-League match at McKellar Park in Canberra.

Golden boot leader Michelle Heyman was ultimately the difference between the two sides, with the Matilda scoring her 15th goal of the season with 12 minutes remaining.

Main photo: Michelle Heyman raises her arms in jubilation after scoring the match-winning goal.

Paul Temple … ‘it’s pretty gutting.’

Phoenix head coach Paul Temple says it was a tired performance from his side.

“It’s been a massive few weeks for us going back to leading into the Perth game,” Temple said post-match.

“[Being] in these must-win scenarios takes a lot of mental energy, a lot of physical energy this week with three games in a week, and travel as well. It took its toll.

“After finding out our [finals] fate last night, I think it sucked the life out of us a little bit and we weren’t able to respond in the way we all wanted to, which is a real shame.”

Wellington’s finals hopes were extinguished on Saturday night when Western Sydney Wanderers beat Western United 3-1 to put the top six out of the Phoenix’s reach.

“Everyone is disappointed and gutted with how it’s finished for us in terms of making the playoffs. I think that’s a hard thing to come to terms with and so quickly have to turn around and play.

“We talked about how we wanted to respond. We wanted to come out and be on fire, we wanted to come out and show what we can do, [and] we wanted to win these last two games of the season and put ourselves in the best finish possible.

“All the intentions were good, and the energy of the group was good this morning and I think we were all on the same page.

“But it was a very hot day, and the game became too much for us.

“We didn’t finish off the chances we were creating in the first half or the first 20 minutes of the second half and ultimately the difference in the whole game was a top-quality finish from a top-quality player, who’s obviously been a star in this league consistently.

“It’s a shame. We obviously were wanting to finish in the best way possible and it’s pretty gutting not to be able to do that.”

Two changes to starting line-up

Paul Temple made two changes to the XI which started Wednesday’s 4-0 home win over Adelaide United, with Hope Breslin and Daisy Brazendale coming into the side for Alyssa Whinham and Kate Taylor respectively. Academy graduate Liv Ingham was named amongst the substitutes for the first time, having been out of football for a year with an ACL injury.

Phoenix had the better of the possession and chances in the first half but were unable to test Chloe Lincoln in Canberra’s goal.

The Nix should have at least called the Canberra ‘keeper into action in the 13th minute, when Michaela Foster delivered a threatening right-wing free-kick. Unfortunately for Wellington Emma Main was unable to make a proper connection from six yards out and her attempted header went wide of goal.

Emma Main … a constant threat.

Main was a constant menace down the hosts’ left-hand side, and she created another gilt-edged chance for the Phoenix 10 minutes later. This time Mariana Speckmaier nodded the winger’s pinpoint cross wide of goal, again from six yards out.

Brazendale registered Wellington’s first shot on target soon after when she had a go from the edge of the box, but it was straight at Lincoln, who comfortably held on to the attempt on goal.

Canberra only had one shot of note in the first half an hour and that was partially blocked by the Nix defence.

Foster’s delivery again caused the hosts problems in the 33rd minute, this time from a right-wing corner. Canberra allowed the ball to bounce in their box but ultimately managed to clear the danger.

They had three of the final four shots of the first half, but none of them called Phoenix goalkeeper Rylee Foster into action.

Main was also off target when she unleashed an audacious effort from distance five minutes from halftime, after again beating her defender one-on-one.

There was little goalmouth action to start the second half and Temple responded by making a triple-change in the 57th minute, bringing on Alyssa Whinham, Michaela Robertson and Zoe McMeeken in place of Brazendale, Speckmaier and Tiana Jaber.

Robertson’s first touch was a shot. Unfortunately, she mishit her attempt on goal after some good lead-up play from Isabel Cox.

The game really opened up after the substitutions and became a more end-to-end contest. Main delivered a great cross moments after Robertson’s effort, but it just eluded Cox’s head and was grabbed by Chloe Lincoln in Canberra’s goal.

The Phoenix forwards looked to combine again in the 64th minute when Main slipped a well-weighted pass through for Cox. The American managed to toe it goalward, but Lincoln was able to just get a hand to the shot and push it around the post.

The hosts too had their chances after Wellington’s changes, but Rylee Foster wasn’t required to make any saves of note.

Liv Ingham makes her A-League debut off the subs’ bench.

Temple made his final change with 20 minutes remaining, bringing on Liv Ingham to make her long-awaited A-League debut, with the impressive Emma Main making way.

Canberra captain Michelle Heyman broke the deadlock in the 78th minute, clinically heading a left-wing cross from Nickoletta Flannery past a sprawling Foster and into the far corner.

The opportunities started drying up for the Nix, with their third match in eight days catching up with them.

Canberra closed out the game to secure just their fourth win of the season and hand the Phoenix their 10th road defeat.

The Wellington Phoenix will return home on Monday before quickly turning their attentions to their final round match against Western Sydney Wanderers at Porirua Park on Saturday.

Watch the highlights


Game played on Sunday March 24, 2024

Canberra United 1 (Michelle Heyman 78′)
Wellington Phoenix 0


Table at 10pm (NZT) on Sunday March 24.


Canberra United

1. Chloe LINCOLN (gk), 3. Sarah CLARK, 5. Emma ILIJOSKI (4. Holly MURRAY 67th), 8. Sasha GROVE, 9. Ruby NATHAN, 13. Sofia CHRISTOPHERSON, 17. Vesna MILIVOJEVIC, 19. Nickoletta FLANNERY (11. Deven JACKSON 83rd), 22. Cannon CLOUGH, 23. Michelle HEYMAN (c) (2. Alex MCKENZIE 90+2), 28. Tegan BERTOLISSIO (16. Madelyn WHITTALL 67th).

Unused substitutes: 18. Coco MAJSTOROVIC (gk).

Wellington Phoenix

: 1. Rylee FOSTER (gk), 4. Mackenzie BARRY, 6. Macey FRASER, 7. Isabel COX, 11. Hope BRESLIN, 13. Michaela FOSTER (c), 15. Daisy BRAZENDALE (10. Alyssa WHINHAM 57th), 17. Mariana SPECKMAIER (14. Michaela ROBERTSON 57th), 18. Hailey DAVIDSON, 20. Emma MAIN (19. Liv INGHAM 70th), 26. Tiana JABER (2. Zoe MCMEEKEN 57th).

Unused substitutes: 22. Aimee DANIELI (gk).


18. Hailey DAVIDSON (Wellington Phoenix) – yellow – 66′
11. Hope BRESLIN (Wellington Phoenix) – yellow – 72′


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

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